20 things to keep in mind when visiting Germany

1. We know beer – you don’t.
I don’t know who labeled your dishwater “beer”, but it’s misleading. When you order a beer in Germany – don’t expect it to be ice cold. And yes, the foam is intended to be there.

2. The Autobahn
This much is true: On the autobahn no speed limit sign actually means no speed limit.

3. Soccer is not for chicks. Well, not only.
In Germany most women don’t care about soccer. Men do. Combine the American fondness for football, basketball and baseball, and you have an idea what soccer means to us.

4. When you want to see people wearing “Lederhosen” – go to Bavaria.
Bavaria is the German Texas. People speak in a funny way, wear strange things and the rest of the country makes fun of them. The Bavarian “Lederhosen” are like the Texan cowboy hats.

5. Sundays are for relaxation, not for shopping. The same goes for holidays – and we’ve got lots of them.
Yes, Germans like rules and this is one most foreigners don’t understand. Shopping of all kind is done weekdays from 8 am to 9 pm (every shop has different times, but most open in this timeframe). The only exception: Gas stations. That’s why some of them look like small grocery stores.

6. Don’t expect us to smile. We’re not at Wal-Mart.
In the 90s Wal-Mart spent billions to become a big shot in Germany’s retail market. Greeting customers, smiling, being friendly,suppressing unions – the whole package. In 2006 they sold their stores and left. We’re not big at smiling for no reason.

7. Don’t speak German? Try English.
Most Germans, age 40 and below, speak English. Maybe their English is not perfect, but you should get by. Oh, and should you feel the urge to laugh about their accent – Try to speak German. We like a good laugh now and then, too.

8. When you hear “Volksmusik” – RUN!
It’s like an endless polka of hell. Although I don’t have scientific proof, I am sure that Volksmusik can melt your brain.

9. Yes, we have a public transportation system.
With the exception of tiny villages you can go nearly everywhere without a car. If you don’t understand why this is important to us, fill up your gas tank at a German gas station and look at your bill. And we tend to be environmentalists.

10. You don’t like to see two men kissing? Look the other way (And don’t go to Cologne).
Like I said in another post – unless we want to be involved, we don’t care about other people’s sexuality. Oh, and Cologne is like the gay capital of Germany.

11. I don’t care what you have heard about European liberality when it comes to sex and drugs – This is not Holland!
No coffee shops, no legal drug supply. When it comes to drugs, Germany is not much different from the US.

12. If you don’t want to see nipples, don’t turn on the tv.
I’m serious. Especially the program of the private stations at night can be a series of phone sex commercials.

13. It’s not pessimism when you know that everything is bad.
One day god told the people: “The world is going to end.” The Germans were pissed and went home. Then he continued: “It will take a couple of billion years.” The Americans were happy. Okay, I can’t proof it, but I guess that’s how it happened.

14. Should you travel with kids age 16 or older: Watch them.
They are legally allowed to drink beer and wine. No hard liquor, though.

15. No math needed. Our stated prices include taxes.
I never understood why you put price tags on products, that don’t state what you have to pay.

16. Don’t wait to be seated.
Look, there is an empty nice table. Have a seat. Easy concept.

17. Tips are nice, but not mandatory.
In Germany a waiter’s salary is enough to get by. It’s not much, but makes a tip not mandatory. In Germany it is a pure sign of gratitude for a good service.

18. We use 220/230 V instead of 110 V. Buy an adapter.
Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how many tourists come here unprepared.

19. The nazi-times are long gone.
But that doesn’t mean that there are not some leftovers. If someone looks like a Skinhead, shouts like a skinhead and smells like a skinhead – trust your judgement and try to avoid him. Especially in Eastern Germany.

20. Don’t believe everything you read on the web. Not even this list.
It’s a generalization. Most people you meet in a German city are not that much different than the ones at home. We can be friendly and funny and very hospitably.

18 replies on “20 things to keep in mind when visiting Germany”

Good reading , might I also point you and others to Spiegel’s Guide to Surviving Germany full of great details such as bluntness not being rudeness , gummy bears , stats , and ill health for the health obsessed chain smoking German.

A few more points.
Its normal to spend time in queues here, or wait for appointments. When I first got to Germany, I would see long queues at the supermarket, and only 1 or 2 checkouts operating, so I thought the registers must have been down, or staff must have been sick, and went away to come back later, only to find the queues are still there. Its normal to have most of the checkouts closed, and to have to wait a while. Same when you have to register where you live at the local government offices. I went in and was told to wait, so I thought, ok I will come back later when they arent busy, but even if you do you still have to wait. Oh and most government offices are only open in the mornings around 4 days per week.
There are a lot of holidays in Germany, but its not actually that you get to use them for yourself. Because of the restrictive opening times, you actually have to take most of these holidays just to take care of your appointments, like at the finance amt, foreigner amt, etc etc. Sometimes you need to take a day off just to take care of the shopping if you have normal office hours and need something thats not on your way home. For most Germans its not a problem. Young people tend to stay at home till they get married, and so there mothers can do the errands, and in married couples the wife usually doesnt work or only works part time. In reality, the amount of holidays you actually get to use for your own time, are comparable to other countries.
A lot more traditional regarding womens roles, especially in “mens jobs”. I once asked a professor of engineering who taught at both a normal and a military university, what the ratio of women in his classes was. He said there were no women at all, and I said, oh ok, what about the normal university, and he said, oh I meant the normal university, of course theres no women in my military uni classes either! Very uncommen to see women in the military in germany.
Compulsory military service for all young males, and if they claim to be contientious objectors they can wipe old peoples bums as part of civil service instead. Hard to believe that a modern democratic country still basically enslaves their young men for one of the most important periods in their lives.
Constitution and free speech. In Germany there is the grund-gesetz which is often translated as constitution, but its not a constitution. Its simply another layer of law that the government uses to specify the peoples rights, rather than the other way around which would normally be expected from a constitution.
Also, no free speech in Germany! Be very careful what movies you watch, books you read, or political opinions you have, there are huge lists of whats ok and not ok. There is even a list of permissable names you have to choose from when naming your children.
Tax in Germany is extremly opressive, including compulsory insurances, it can exceed 65%. Seperation of church and state is also not a feature of german society, the government even collects tax on behalf of the churchs, and if you dont pay it, you cant get married in a church, nor can you have a funeral.
TVs and radio have to be licensed! Somehow, its ok for a private company, not even a government department, to charge you for each tv and radio you own. I think its something like 5 euros per month for radios and 15 for tvs. If you dont pay they will look in your window, take photos and if you have a tv or something you will get fined 1000 euros.
Turkish guest workers. If your parents came to germany in the 50s or 60s as a “guest worker” and you are born in germany, never even been to turkey, might not even speak turkish, you cant get german citizenship. To the govt you are not considered german, and have little political rights.
Also, if you are jewish, be prepared for a lot of guilt puss. Hell we pretended to be jewish just to be guaraunteed to be able to sleep with all the hot german girls. Second most likey group of people to get to sleep with german women are blacks. They cant get enough.

hehehe, that is funny
NO.we know beer – you don’t!
I don’t know who labeled your german dishwater “beer”, but it’s misleading. When you order a beer in Belgium – don’t expect it to be a half liter yellow water bottle tasting like well… water. And yes, the foam is definitely intended to be there.
just so we are clear on that.

@ Kurt: I agree with most of your statements. A couple of objections though:
– By holiday I didn’t mean vacation, but official and religious holidays. You’re absolutely right about vacation days.
– No free speech? Come on. As long as your not flat out abusive, you are free to talk. And you can’t buy indexed (for lack of a better term) movies or books, so watch what you want.
– Social and health insurance are no taxes. And what do you think happens to non-church members when they are dead? They don’T rot in open air.
– Of course a Turkish citizen can become a German citizen. Most of the young Turks I know just wait to avoid military service. Can you blame them?

Most Americans (myself included, sometimes!) think that verbally abusing people is an important part of “free speech” 🙂
The word you’re looking for, i think, is “censored”. (Although i don’t really know the process, so maybe that’s inaccurate.)
I have to agree on the “taxes” front. Especially now that i don’t have any insurance and don’t have any prospect of getting insurance from a job for at least another year or two… Unless i drop out of college, of course. That’s looking REALLY GOOD right about now…

@ Donderwolk: Okay, got me *g*. That line was directed at the US-readers. If I remember my beer-drinking days right, Belgium beer really is good :-).

Oh yeah, and police dont need search warrants in germany either, prividing you are within 100ks of a border, train station, or autobahn, which covers the whole country. Normally its no problem for white people, but if you are african or middle eastern, be prepared for long delays while you get searched by the police especially when going anywhere in a car or on the train.

Ja, und auch in Californien gibt es viel gut Bier. Sorry, my German’s not what it used to be (and it was never that good), but I think everything you said is true.

With respect to point 20: A few years ago I worked in Germany for a couple of months. As a New Zealander working for a British company I was asked by several Germans of my first impressions of the Germans. They didn’t seem too impressed when I said I was surprised to find the Germans almost identical to the Brits but with far nicer leather jackets.
In Britain the Germans have a bad reputation. Two claims are taken as gospel: That Germans don’t know how to queue and that Germans are rude, arrogant and aloof. Don’t know where that legend about the queing comes from, I certainly didn’t notice it. I also found the Germans to be some of the friendliest and most helpful people I’ve come across. Stand on any street corner in (Western) Germany and open a map and you’ll see what I mean: Within 30 seconds someone will come up and ask (in English) if they can help you.

mmm…no drugs in germany…you obviously arnt into techno, but then that only originated in detroit.
american person: and like isnt that full off black people? oh if its black people! real americams are wholesome god fearin folk, who think south korea is austrailia.
american perception of other countries in appaling, but what do you expect when you all live in shopping malls.

“We know beer – you don’t.”
Actually beers are stronger in Asia ;-p