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I know there are quite some questions about business cards, but as far as I can see they are all about professors, PhDs, and so forth. I have finished my Bachelor's degree in Germany and I am currently taking my Master's (computer science).

Although there is a certrain trend in Germany (especially in STEM-related fields, even more in Startup culture) towards a more casual way of dealing with each other, there are still some things that are considered rather negative. I guess compared to other countries we are still kind of strict in our behavior, even in defiance of globalization.

One such thing is business cards for students. Albeit scientific degrees enjoy a very good reputation in a CV in Germany, students are often seen like non-professionals. It would be an exaggeration to say "school-kids"...but sometimes even in this direction.

Hence, many (business) professionals would not recommend business cards for students. Some even consider students with business cards as self-exposers and would disrespect them.

However, I am mostly talking to people in Academia (or sometimes human resources people). Since I have written my first publications, people started asking for my contact information at conferences (and sometimes at exhibitions, like CeBIT for example). Even though many of them are German, there are also lots of international people.

In fact I will visit a big conference in my field in Japan this year.

So I am wondering what "etiquette" does exist in other countries for business cards (as a student)? Is it probably helpful to have some that you can hand out at events? Or is it considered rather negative (at least in business quarters), like in Germany?

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    "Albeit scientific degrees enjoy a very good reputation in a CV in Germany, students are often seen like non-professionals." - I do not see a contradiction here. Especially because scientific degrees enjoy a very good reputation, those who do not (yet) have them cannot claim the same reputation. With that said, people can have achieved something in a given field beside studying toward a degree in that field. But in that case, it is not clear to me whether they should primarily present themselves as "students" rather as (e.g.) "freelancer" or "founder" or whatever they have done so far. – O. R. Mapper May 13 '17 at 21:25
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    Did you see academia.stackexchange.com/questions/7624/… ? – Ben Voigt May 14 '17 at 3:36
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    Many people in East Asia apparently view business cards as culturally important. – Anonymous Physicist May 14 '17 at 4:30
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    Students (generally graduate students, who have a contact info valid at least for a couple of years) tend to have business card in Japan and South Korea, and it does definitely not make a bad impression if you have one. – Greg May 14 '17 at 9:08
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First of all you mentioned that you already finished your bachelors. In Germany this is normally considered a "berufsqualifizierender Abschluss" which means that with your B.Sc./B.Eng. (at least "on paper") you are considered a trained professional capable of doing a job related to your field of study. So nothing "pretentious" about that.

When I was in the same stage (B.Sc. finished, M.Sc. in progress, also in Germany) I also had no business card and in hindsight it was bad to not have any. I was very often asked for a card at conferences or after presenting our work to potential or current industry partners. One older guy at a conference in Germany even got a little "angry" at me when i couldn´t give him contact information in form of a card because he thought it was unprofessional for students not to have one.

As suggested in an other answer just keep it simple (just your name, kind of your bachelors, department and contact info). Maybe your university even has a template or guidelines for it. And if you worry to be seen as pretentious, just don´t spread them like flyers but wait for people to ask for them.

  • +1 for an answer that specifically relates to Germany :) – Flyto May 17 '17 at 6:29
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I can't comment on Germany, but from the perspective of somebody in the UK, my answer to this pretty much reflects my answer re postgrads over at Is a business card necessary for a graduate student?:

  • If there's any chance that you're going to be interacting with industry as an individiual, rather than as one of a class, you need business cards. It's part of that culture.

  • If you're going to be going to an event in Japan, you definitely need business cards for that - and, ideally, a briefing on the etiquette of giving and receiving them.

  • Within academia (and not in the far east), I wouldn't expect an undergrad to use them while studying at their institution, but if you find yourself going to any conferences or any jobhunting events, they might be useful. They can save time with scribbling details and a good card, offered appropriately, may make meeting you stand out in the fog of somebody's post-conference memory.

Summary: it's worth having some, but try to judge what is "normal" before pressing them on people, and don't make a big deal about it.

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Perhaps you could strike a happy balance between German expectations and international expectations. To avoid appearing pretentious among your German peers (I'm just going by your description here), you might be best off keeping it very simple and drab, with no graphics or fancy fonts or colors, and a minimalist approach to the content, e.g.:

Daniel Schmidt (or whatever)

Computer Science, University of (name)

(your email address)

(but centered.)

If a German peer gives you a hard time about it, perhaps you could say

Having my email address printed on a small card makes it easier to get in touch later with people whose work I'm interested in.

If you might be giving it to some people over 40, don't use a tiny font.

The alternative to the business card approach is to use a folded piece of paper or small notebook, kept in a pants pocket along with a small pencil.

To give your contact information to someone, in the case that you don't have any cards of your own, you can write your name and email address on the back of one of their cards.

(The only thing that would appear pretentious about a student having a business card in the U.S. would be if it had a fancy title under the name, such as "doctoral candidate." I did see this once in someone's email signature and I felt embarrassed for the person.)

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    A warning here, based on the OP saying they will be going to Japan: In Japan and Korea, and possibly other places in the far east, never write on the front or back of somebody else's business card. It's seen as very disrespectful. – Flyto May 16 '17 at 14:44
  • @SimonW: does that include writing on the back of your own business card? – tonysdg May 16 '17 at 15:20
  • @SimonW: I am not that far in the East and I find it annoying, too: So, I'm having one out of many conversations with a stranger, and I decide to give them one of my (depending on my many I brought, precious?) business cards - and then, all they do is, note down/photograph my contact info in some way and use the back side of my card to jot down their info? Well, thanks ... now what am I doing to do with that card? If they want a piece of paper to write something down, they should say so rather than using other people's business cards. – O. R. Mapper May 16 '17 at 15:43
  • @tonysdg I'm not sure. I've tended to avoid it in case. – Flyto May 16 '17 at 21:30
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    @O.R.Mapper well, the more usual scenario in which i'd write on somebody's card (if not in Japan) would be to note down something about the conversation we'd had, and then keep it. Yes, taking a card, defacing it and giving it back again just sounds generally rude 😉 – Flyto May 16 '17 at 21:32

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