Welcome to Germany!
Germany is a great country, famous for the cars, beer and remarkable history, best known as the land of thinkers and poets, although there are many clichés about the Germans’ punctuality, thoroughness, reserve and lack of humor. Travelling to a foreign country is always an experience. The Germans are known for their culture and etiquette, there are customs and behaviors that differ from those common at home. Do be prepared for culture shock, but by bearing in mind the following Germany travel tips, do’s and don’t, you will be better prepared for your trip to Germany. To avoid troubles, then check in advance.
Using the signs of “Nazi salute”, shout “Heil Hitler”, or show swastikas or other symbols of the Third Reich is a criminal offense and punishable up to five years imprisonment.
Making a circular motion using the index finger while pointing to the side of one’s head is a rude gesture indicating that someone is crazy or deranged.
Germany Travel Donts
- Do not be late. Germans attach great importance to punctuality. You will win their favor if you keep your appointment on time!
- Do not wait to be seated at a German restaurant. It is common to share tables with a stranger.
- Do not ever, under any circumstances, show the “Nazi salute”, shout “Heil Hitler”, or show swastikas or other symbols of the Third Reich, which is a criminal offense.
- Do not get drunk. Public drunkenness is frowned upon.
- Do not put your elbows on the table when eating. Put only your hands on the table.
- Do not jaywalk. Nobody else does, and you might get fined.
- Do not eat with your fingers.
- Do not ever ask for tap water at a restaurant, which will be equated with stinginess.
Germany Travel Dos
- Do be on time. Germans are extremely punctual, so be on time for your appointment.
- Do shake hands with everyone including children, say “Guten Tag” (good day), “not how are you!” and keep eye contact when greet somebody. Shaking hands is the established form of greeting in Germany.
- Do use title and last name to address people. Say Herr (Mr) or Frau (Mrs.) and use the formal pronoun “du” when talking to elderly people.
- Do be formal. Dress formally for business functions. No shorts and extremely casual wear. Ladies do not wear flashy jewellery and accessories.
- Do learn a few common German before you travel to Germany. Germans
- Do have proper medical insurance when visiting Germany. Medical care is expensive, get health insurance especially when you stay longer.
- Do remove your shoes before enter a German house, and present the hostess with a bunch of flowers, but do not give carnations (symbolize mourning) or lilies or chrysanthemums (used at funerals). Yellow or tea roses are always well received.
- Do say ‘Guten Appetit’ (good appetite) before eating, and say ‘Prost’ (cheers) before you sip your beer. Keep your hands but not your elbows on the table.
- Do feel free to have serious discussions on politics and philosophy. They do not like idle chit-chat.
- Do have cash with you. Cash is king in Germany, and many restaurants don’t take credit cards.
- Do tip. It is customary to leave a tip of 5-10% at a restaurant or pub if the service was good, and leave a larger tip around Christmastime.
- Do be aware that some women may bathe topless or even full nudity at the beach. The nude beaches are labelled with “FKK” for “Freikörperkultur” which means free body culture.
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Hi, I am German.
About every second “Dos and Donts” website just do copy and paste and adopts the wrong information.
“Do use title and last name to address people. Say Herr (Mr) or Frau (Mrs.) and use the formal pronoun “du” when talking to elderly people.”
That is not true.
The formal pronoun is “Sie”. If someone is older than you or in general appears to be grown up you will say “Sie”.
If you get to know someone better or someone offers you the “Du”, feel free to say “Du”. But if you never met the person before you should say “Sie” to stay polite. If the person you talk to is a child you say “Du” (in any case). But the child should say “Sie” to grown-ups it doesn’t know.
I have seen this mistake on many sites of this kind.
You should correct this. 😉
In addition to that some parts of this list aren’t actually true.
It is NOT really common to share a table with a stranger in a restaurant. It can happen if the restaurant is really full. But most of the Germans would rather go to another restaurant than take a seat on a stranger’s table (at least not in the part of Germany where I live and raised). Usually you also can reserve a table in advance.
But the majority is correct.
Specially the part with the punctuality is right. Arriving too late always means stealing time from someone. And time is very important in Germany.
If you ever will be about to arrive too late give the person you are about to meet a note. Give him/her a call or a textmessage.
But arrving too late for no important reason without any note can be interpreted as an insult.
Sorry for any mistake I might have produced in this text. But I guess you get the point. 😉
Greetings from Berlin and you all are very welcome here!
– If addressing older/elderly people, the correct formal pronoun is “Sie”, not “Du”.
– Politics/philosophy as conversation topics are quite alright, but come on, everybody likes smalltalk. And for most of the younger folks (-30), political topics can kill conversations in a heartbeat.
– You don’t have to say “Prost” whenever you raise your glass, once (to start off an evening in a bar) is sufficient.
– Public drunkenness is not frowned upon per se (we have the biggest beer orgy in the world). It’s a matter of finding the right time – while being wasted in the middle of the day might not be okay, it’s totally reasonable if you’re drunk after a night in the club.
– Eating fingerfood/Pizza/Chicken/Fries/Burgers/etc. with your fingers is absolutely allowed, Pasta is another thing, ‘though.
Actually, “Du” is the informal way to address a person, and especially conservative elders might find that offensive. “Sie” is the proper formal way to address just about any adult in German.
– The public display of nazi symbols includes not only swastikas but also ss runes and certain standing terms. If you have any of that tattooed in a visible space, cover it up or go to jail.
– There is also mo free speech in Germany, so keep in mind that insults can be judged as a criminal offense and bring you to court.
– Being seated in a restaurant is unusual but may occasionally happen, especially in the East where it was the custom under communist rule. Show them that you dislike this wannabe tradition and just don’t go there.
– They have their own currencies in Europe, so do not even attempt to pay in Dollars, it is seen as an insult.
– In most German households you do not have to remove your shoes before entering. This is a foreign (mostly oriental) custom. If in doubt, just ask the host.
Your are joking, arent you? “no free speach” and all the other stuff. Have you ever been in Germany.
Overall, Germans are much more laid back as dos-and-dons are telling you. As a Britain or US citizen you do not have to change you behaivior at all to suit fine to the german culture (ok, perhabs some of the US eating manners 😉 ithe rest is just fine.
Come over and enjoy. Be prepared to eat more potatoes and bread and to drink more beer, that is it.
Greetings from Germany, Lars
We do have free speech over here! What are you talking about?
Most german households will indeed wish for you to remove your shoes before you enter their home. The only difference between native germans and immigrants from the east in germany regarding that topic is that immigrants might request you to leave your shoes outside, because they are considered unclean. Simply asking or taking a look at your hosts feet will dissolve that problem quickly.
Do not remove your shoes before entering a german house.
It ist unusual.
Do use the formal pronoun “Sie” when talking to older persons.
– While the german punctuality may be more than just a cliché, there’s something known as “polite 15 minutes”. This means that it is indeed polite to arrive 15 minutes AFTER the appointed time if someone invites you to their home (but only then! If you meet somewhere in the city be sure to arrive on time, or call if you are late). The reason for this is that it gives the host enough time to prepare the house.
– Of course there is ‘free speech’ in Germany, however insults are NOT covered by ‘free speech’!
– About wearing shoes: ALWAYS ask if you can enter the home while wearing shoes. Most people won’t mind, but you sure don’t want to offend those that do.
– As a pedestrian: Cross the street using pedestrian lights or zebra crossings.
– While driving a car, ALWAYS stop at a zebra crossing if you see someone that wants to cross the street!
– Also, while driving a car, be sure to follow all the rules! No reckless driving, no speeding.
– Definitly DO NOT cross a traffic light that shows red for you. NOT EVEN AS A PEDESTRIAN!!
– Because (almost) all road users follow the rules it is very safe to drive or to explore a city while walking/riding a bike.
– May come across as “common sense” but: Just be polite. If you are polite to others, they will be polite to you.
– If you need help, just ask. Most germans can speak english on a basic level and they are happy to help. You just have to ask them!
– Eat german bread and drink german beer. Germans are VERY proud of their beer and bread, and they are for a good reason! Also, each region has it’s special beer, there will be one among it that you will like.
– The letter ‘ß’ IS NOT a “special kind ob b”, it is a special kind of ‘s’! It is pronounced as an unvoiced ‘s’ (like in “supper”) and it can never appear at the beginning of a word.
Thank you for all the cultural and political information about Germany. I hope to visit/retire there, but I am unsure which area would be best. I think maybe the north western area. I’m still studying the language and culture. This blog is a great help. Thanks, Chris
Being German, teaching students from all over the world German and writing books for learning German I found these DOs and dONTs listed informative for me and my work. Sometimes I had to smile content, sometimes a quiet smile.
And some more advice:
Please forget that you should take of your shoes when you come to your guest´s house. This is no German custom at all. But it is changing. When there are babies or young children in that family, then you can ask, if you should take your shoes off.
Being punctual … being invited for a meal at about 8, you should not ring the door bell before 8 and not at 8:15. You are on the safe side ringing at 8:05.
About drinking: There are a lot of festivals in summer, where we love drinking wine or beer. And we get a little bit drunk. But you should know your temper. If you tend to get aggressive, forget drinking.
And one important thing you have to know when driving on an autobahn: Quite a lot of peple love driving fast whenever it is possible. That can be quite stressing. If you want to drive and enjoy your ride and the scenery always use the lane on the right. When you want to pass a car, change to the second lane or the third, when passing a car on the second lane.But keep in mind: You mustn´t stay on the middle lane after passing, go back to the one on the right (when 3 lanes), if you do, you might get a lot of angry looks.
And a last DONT: If you want to practise the German you´ve studies so hard for: Never use your English!! As soon as you do so, you can forget about practising, we love to speak English. (It is not a DONT when you ask: Can we speak German? And now …. enjoy your stay in Germany.
even though many remarks I can agree with, I have to say that taking of your shoes (or offering to do so, by just doing it) is considered to show your concern and respect for the host’s house. If you came to my house and made me make a remark because you are walking with your shoes through my house, I would be really mad at you. At least offer to take of your shoes. Be polite and considerate!
Shake hands! Even if you don’t like it and even if you think it doesn’t make sense. It is very polite and leaves a good impression.
HAVE FUN in GERMANY