Germany Travel Tips
The following etiquette tips are a general guide to assist you in blending in with the locals and preventing social faux pas when visiting Germany.
Learn some German
The following words are a great start: 'bitte' (please and welcome), danke (thank you), auf wiedersehen (goodbye), and guten abend (good evening).
Punctuality is very important in Germany and showing up a few minutes late may be considered offensive. If you are going to be late, ensure that you call first to explain you are running late.
Shaking hands is an important part of German culture
When you are meeting someone for the first time, ensure you give them a quick and firm handshake. When entering a room it’s a good idea to shake hands with everyone – including children.
Use your cutlery
Typically Germans avoid eating with their hands, even using a knife and fork when eating fries or pizza. Bread may be broken with your hand but try and use cutlery at all times.
Avoid Nazi or Hitler conversations
Never shout the Nazi salute or imitate the Hitler greeting by raising your hand. This is considered highly offensive in Germany and has legal ramifications, not to mention being culturally insensitive.
Enjoy your yeast
You should definitely try bread in Germany as they have around 300 different types of bread in which they are famous for. Also the country produces a very large amount of beer and is one of the cheapest places in Europe to buy beer. Now if you indulge in a little too much beer, be aware that public drunkenness is frowned upon.
Don’t bring your host a German wine
If you are invited to a German person’s home don’t bring them a local wine because it suggests that you think they might not give you a decent German wine. Try bringing a French or Italian wine, or even better – wine from your home country.
Don’t try doing a large amount of shopping on a Sunday
In Germany Sunday is designated as a day for rest. A lot of retail stores are closed whilst a few select shops like bakeries and petrol stations may be open.
If you are giving flowers as a gift…
Do not give carnations as they are a symbol of mourning and only give red roses if you are after the symbol of love. Yellow or white chrysanthemums and calla lilies are given for funerals only. Give an uneven number of flowers, just don’t give 13.
Many stores don’t accept credit cards
So check with the store before you fill a shopping basket with goods if you need to take out cash first.
Jaywalking may cost you a small fine
Whilst it’s not overly enforced in Germany, keep in mind that crossing the street when the light is red you might be fined for doing so. Also avoid walking in a bicycle lane – this is prohibited and you don’t want to be hit by a cyclist!
Yes, there are beaches in Germany
A sign that reads "freikörper" or "fkk" indicates that a beach allows nude sunbathing. Also don’t be surprised if you visit a sauna or steam bath in Germany if they ask you to remove all clothing. It’s always best to research these destinations before you visit to avoid awkwardness.
Germans like their space
This is common sense when first meeting new people – stand an arm length’s away and don’t ask personal questions such as how much they earn or how old they are.
Sharing tables in Germany is common
If you walk into a restaurant and can’t find a vacant table – you are able to join other diners on a separate table. Of course you should ask their permission first, and if they say yes – join the table. However do not initiate further conversation with them or intrude on their personal space. However always bid them farewell.
There might me a surcharge on bottled water
This is so you don’t throw your water bottle in the bin – return the empty bottle to the store so you get the surcharge money back. Germans are very environmentally conscious. If you try ordering tap water at a restaurant they may think you’re stingy and prefer you to order bottled or sparkling mineral water.
Shoes are not to be worn inside
Many Germans may ask you to remove your shoes before you enter their home.