What the German Term “nachvollziehbar” means in a Business Conversation

Collecting ideas and material for my book, I thought it would be nice to also include some “outsiders’” perspectives and stories. To find out what others find typical (or exceptional) about Germany, I asked people in my network—that is, mostly international business people or Germans who travel frequently or have been working abroad for at least sometime—questions like “How can you make a German happy?” or “What do you struggle with when it comes to what Germans think is normal?”

The answers were overall very much in line with what I had expected (e.g., hinting at certain cultural dimensions or cultural standards that have been discussed extensively in other works); however, some aspects of (mainstream) Germans’ “code of conduct” for me now appear in new, or at least clearer, light.

How to explain the the untranslatable German word “nachvollziehen.”

[However, one of the challenges I was faced with was the question of how to “translate” certain terms (or concepts). Like, much-traveled consultant] Alexander Wurz recommended that I should, when talking about presentations, also mention the relevance of the untranslatable German word “nachvollziehen.”

The term means a lot more than just “understanding” (what you are saying). Your (German) audience should always be able to “nachvollziehen” your line of thought, that is, comprehend where you are coming from and how you reached your conclusion(s)—what data you are relating to, what thoughts you had, maybe what pros and cons you weighed, which sources you used, what the (possible) consequences are (e.g., of implementing a solution)—so that the listeners can integrate/bring your idea in line with what they already know / their world view / their specific challenges. Be prepared to be asked how you reached your conclusion/solution, and don’t respond to the question with a “Why are you bothered? Just be happy it works!” attitude.

How may I help you?

You want to develop your business in Germany? Then you may also face some very common pitfalls; the good news is that they can be quite easily avoided! You should hire me if you want to gain a better understanding of your opportunities, and you value a local’s help in finding buyers and potential business partners. Learn more about some past projects and what I can do for you: You’ll make it in Germany!

You are (only) interested in learning more about Germany?

The focus of the book is to help readers understand how certain concepts and values influence the way Germans like to do business.
Doing Business in Germany: A Concise Guide to Understanding Germans and Their Business Practices

Above are snippets from my new book. You want to learn more about Germany? Then try to grab a copy of Doing Business in Germany : A Concise Guide to Understanding Germans and Their Business Practices. Either ask your bookseller to order a copy for you (might take a few days, though), or look out for it on amazon.