Germany is a country that is simply mind-blowing. With fairytale villages next to beautiful and enchanting nature and big vibrant cities next to ancient historic buildings, it’s a near-perfect place.
Please keep in mind that Germany is very diverse. While one celebrates the Oktoberfest in the south and nature can trump with grandiose mountain lakes and waterfalls, in the north you have beaches and sea. In the middle of Germany you can see authentic cities and beautiful hiking trails next to fairytale castles.
Yes, I am German and I know that there are some hilarious but true things about us Germans! Don’t get me wrong, I know that not each and everyone of us is the same but it’s just like… there are a few things that apply to the majority of Germans or Germany as a country.
17 Things You Need To Know About Germany
1. Avoid the bike lane or risk certain death
Compared to other countries, except The Netherlands, biking culture is pretty big here in Germany; especially when you’re living in a big city or in a small city with forest areas.
Trust me when I say you that you have not gotten a real taste of Germany until you’ve stared death in face while accidentally walking down a bike lane. Usually, the bicyclist will also yell at you and tell you that it’s their part of the pavement.
There’s often not a very clear division between the footpath and the path for bikes. In Germany, it is often the case that a narrow white stripe is drawn between the respective paths or that they have a different color.
2. Jaywalking is worse than murder
So sure, I’m exaggerating, but jaywalking is pretty unpopular in Germany. Do you remember people saying that Germans always follow the rules? Yeah, that’s pretty true though.
I always see people waiting dutifully for the light to change before crossing, even though there isn’t a single car or even human in sight. So, especially when there are kids around, parents will get very angry with you for setting a bad example. There are few things that are more terrible than being yelled at by an angry German woman across the street.
Of course, this does not hold true for every city but depends on the average age. When visiting a student city, for example, you will see people jaywalking all the time.
3. Small talk is not a thing
When we first traveled outside of Germany, I was shocked that people actually start small talk when waiting in line. It’s not a thing in Germany. You can count yourself lucky if the other person replies to „Hello„.
Germans literally do not understand the point of small talk and if you try, they will be confused at why you are wasting their time or desperately try to remember if they know you from their childhood.
4. Expect customer service to be … non existent
There are, of course, exceptions to this, but generally speaking, customer service is non existent in Germany. And if it exists, it’s often very unfriendly and simply not warm. This goes for restaurants, retail shops and also official places like banks.
So, if you travel in Germany and your waiter ghosts you and doesn’t return for like, a decade, don’t take it personally! It’s just the common way of service here in good old Germany.
On that note, it happens on a regular basis that we get the wrong bottle of wine and wait like half an hour just to be served. When something like this happens, don’t be shy! Remember that tipping is still expected.
5. Grocery Store Olympic Games
Some people may say you need to do warm-up exercises before visiting the grocery store. Depending on the grocery store you attempt to go to, the cashiers may seem like they are training for the Olympic Games and you have to be quick to not get your stuff thrown in your shopping cart.
Another important thing is to bring your own bag – most people do. There are bags you can buy at the checkout, but most people simply bring their own since it’s better for the environment anyways.
6. It’s all about cash money
You might expect Germany to be on board with the whole credit card trend? No, it’s simply not the case. I know it’s weird when you’re from a foreign country, but you’ll find many places in Germany that simply don’t take credit cards.
So, if you plan to travel Germany for a while, make sure you have cash on you. Carry at least some change with you at all times.
7. Good luck if you wanna pee for free
Free public restrooms that you can find everywhere in London are quite rare in Germany. You’ll usually have to pay 50 cents or more to pee at train stations, bus stations, shopping malls, and sometimes even in restaurants (unless you’re a customer).
Washrooms in busy restaurants/club/malls will have an attendant there who keeps it clean. In these cases, a tip isn’t mandatory, but heavily expected.
8. Sunday is a day of rest
Other European countries have their stores open 24/7 or at least part-time on Sundays, but in Germany it’s really not the case. Most shops (supermarkets, retail stores, malls, etc.) will be closed. Many restaurants will be open though.
Usually, Sundays are used for family-time, biking, sports, gardening or simply any kind of activity that you normally do not have time for during the week.
9. German punctuality is not a joke
Germans are crazy punctual. Quite tough that I write this part whilst my fiancé is too late for his appointment, isn’t it? Well, normally when making plans with a German person, don’t expect to get the buffer time you may know from your home country. A German will usually be on time. Oftentimes even ten minutes early.
Apparently, this also holds true for our public transport (most of the times and depending on the city you’re using the public transport). You should always get to your bus, tram, and train a few minutes early. Otherwise, it will mercilessly leave without you.
10. Staring contests
Yes, Germans really like staring. If you think you’re being judged by that grumpy lady sneering at you from two seats away, let’s be honest: you probably are.
In Germany, it’s actually very common that your neighbours know way more of you than you yourself do. And they will happily talk about who got a new TV and who was on vacation last week. I hate it.
11. Germans are very quiet
There is just one rule in Germany: Be quiet. Especially when using public transportation. Otherwise you will definitely be stared at and I’m pretty much sure everyone will judge you then.
Germans don’t tend to speak very loudly an oftentimes it’s actually hard to get what they’re saying – even as a German.
The exception confirms the rule: Germans are very loud after a few beers.
12. Group discounts
If you decide to travel Germany by train/bus, make sure to take advantage of group or student discounts. Germans seem to love rewarding you for having friends, so group tickets will often save you ludicrous amounts of money.
13. Water is not free
That’s usually one of the biggest shocks for Americans who travel to Germany. It’s not a thing that solely holds true for Germany since you cannot expect water in pretty much any European country as well.
By the way, Germans love water and when you buy bottled water at a supermarket, have fun deciding on which one you want!
A little ‚insider guide‘: Normally, every brand has its own colorcoding system and even categorized by how fizzy the water is. ‚Medium‘ is less fizzy than ‚Classic‘ and ‚Natural‘ usually refers to still water.
14. The German Pfand
EVERYTHING in Germany has ‚Pfand‘ which refers to a refundable deposit you pay on things like water bottles or soft drinks, energy drinks, and even glasses or mugs at beer gardens and Christmas markets.
It functions as an incentive for you to actually return those items to get your money back. In case you want one of the Christmas mugs, just ask if you can buy one. This way you get a fresh and clean one for the price of a deposit.
Tip: At German Christmas Markets, you usually pay 3-5 euros deposit and when you bring your mug back, you get your money back. Extra picky places will even give you a token to return alongside your glassware to get your refund back. Don’t lose this token. Ever.
15. ‚Es geht ums Prinzip‘ – It’s about the principle
Imagine two Germans arguing about anything and one of them simply is running out of arguments. That’s when ‚das Prinzip‚ (the principle) comes into play.
In Germany, it’s very common to have ‚Es geht ums Prinzip‘ as THE master argument to win every argumentation. You cannot argue against the principle. You simply cannot.
16. Be ready to giggle at fun words like „Zebrastreifen“
Not only do words like ‚umfahren‘ and ‚umfahren‘ seam very equal, no they’re actually two words. The one means ‚drive around‘ whilst the other means ‚hit‘ and it’s simply a form of pronunciation that makes them different.
Moreover, Germans actually use Zebrastreifen (Zebra Stripes) as the official term for crosswalk.
17. Germans are crazy about their bread. And beer.
Last, but not least: Germans are crazy about their bread and their beer. There are more types of bread in Germany than in any other country and beer is only brewed according to the purity law. There is a rule for everything here – at least one.
I hope you liked this article! Here are some articles I think you’d also enjoy:
- A visit to romantic Monschau, a village in western Germany
- Christmas magic on the most beautiful Christmas markets in Cologne
- 22 pictures that will make you fall in love with Germany
- 5 reasons why you should visit Cologne
- How to spend one day in Munich
- Photo Spots in Düsseldorf