After living in Germany now for almost 4 years, I thought it was time to compile some helpful hints and clarify some things for any future expats out there looking to move to Germany or for people in general hoping to travel here. There is a huge misconception about how Germans are viewed. Most have an image in their head of a lederhosen wearing, sausage eating, beer guzzlers who shout loudly. Well have no fear, I’m here to clear the air!
Lederhosen is ONLY for Bavaria
Lederhosen were traditionally worn as durable working clothes, but then became more fashionable for the wedding celebration in Munich which became known as Oktoberfest. Unfortunately, this new trend was only found in Bavaria. Lederhosen and Dirndl are considered to be a form of traditional Tracht worn mostly for special occasions. Sorry, they don’t walk around every day wearing them! Although some do! However, the rest of Germany also has their own form of Tracht, just not lederhosen! Below are some of the many different styles of Tracht from around Germany. Bavarian lederhosen are on the left!
Beer is no laughing matter
Germans proudly boast about how great their beer is and love to talk about the Reinheitsgebot (Beer Purity Law) which was established in 1516 and designated what could and couldn’t go in the beer, therefore preserving the best, quality taste in beer. However, there are mainly only about 60 different types of beer that can be found in Germany, ranging from light to dark. You won’t find those fruity flavors beers that can be found in the US or UK such as Pumpkin Pale Ale etc.
They aren’t prudes when it comes to drinking in public
In the US, there is no grabbing a beer and walking down the street drinking in the open unless you want to be given a ticket for public intoxication. Here in Germany? Go right ahead! Drink a beer on the train! Walk around the city with a beer in your hand! But sometimes, some Germans take this a little too seriously and are always drunk. In fact, if you are so drunk in public, the police/ambulance will come and check on you and take you to the hospital.
Make a reservation at a restaurant
Restaurants work differently here in Germany than in the US or the UK. Generally, we tend to just show up at a restaurant and expect to be seated between 5-10 minutes. Here in Germany, they prefer you to reserve a table ahead of time. Walk ins can find a table, but you might look around confused when the tables are empty and they tell you there are no tables available, or that you must finish eating before 7pm when it’s only 5 o’clock!
Too many Germans smoke!
After coming from California where everyone is such a health freak and smoking in prohibited in doors and within 20 feet of public buildings, it was one of the first things I noticed about Germans. They love to smoke, everywhere all the time! According to the CDC, about 14% of adults over the age of 18 smoke in California while here in Germany 24.5% of the population aged 15 and up smoke. Don’t even bother asking for a non-smoking section outside at a restaurant!
Recycling is a MUST here!
Germans really love to recycling….everything …in its own trash can! It’s completely possible to find a trash can for everything but many stick with the basics – glass & plastic bottles, paper and decomposable products. Germans are very green people and bike everywhere and the German government is trying to close all of their nuclear plants and replace them with renewable energy, so don’t be surprised when you drive past fields of solar panel fields.
Not all Germans speak English!
Technically, I rarely need to actually speak German with people. And when I do, they know right off the bat, I’m an English speaker. Most of the time, they want to speak English with me so they can use their English…but I WANT to use MY German too! However, I find that not all Germans speak English! Especially if they start to reach their 40s+. But don’t be afraid to come here just because they don’t speak English! They certainly understand enough to get by!
They love the outdoors
Be prepared to spend a lot of your free time outside – riding bikes, having picnics, grilling, sunbathing at the local pool, hiking, boating. You name it, they love it. If there is a sunny day, they take advantage of every minute! After all, cold weather season around here starts at the end of September and goes until end of May!
Making an appointment is tricky
I only say this because most office buildings which include doctors and government buildings are so difficult to make an appointment for during your lunch hour. It is typical in the US to go to the doctor’s office during your lunch but here…ya right! Most offices in Germany open from 8-12 and then sometimes they open again from 4-6pm..on certain days. Good luck making an appointment that isn’t more than a couple of weeks out!
EVERYTHING is closed on public holidays!
In the US, just because it’s a public holiday doesn’t mean everything is closed. In fact, that means everything except office buildings and banks are open having massive blow out holiday sales! Here in Germany? Nope, they take that holiday seriously and everything except restaurants and bars are closed! Even the grocery stores are closed! So make damn sure you go grocery shopping BEFORE the holiday otherwise its a mad apocalyptic rush for the entire country!
Germans don’t beat around the bush
They are direct and to.the.point! They might come off as harsh and blunt people, but they are still nice people on the inside. They just don’t see a point in making small talk and beating around the bush before coming to the point. This is definitely one stereotype that is true. This can also be applied to making and keeping an appointment. If you are late for whatever reason, and don’t give a heads up they will think you have died or are not coming to the appointment. For the love of god, keep your appointment!
Germans are faithful to one brand of car
They certainly love their cars, especially fast cars! But once a German has fallen in love with one brand of car, they generally stick only with this car (Audi, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz or VW). If you talk to a German who loves Audi about BMW, they will certainly cringe and then rave about why their Audi car is much better.
Germans are NOT Nazis
This is certainly a topic in Germany which is still a bit of a taboo. But don’t you EVER call a German a Nazi! They are ashamed of their past and have carried that burden long enough and have tried to portray a better image for themselves, move on and learn from the past. But, there are still some “Nazis” in Germany. I know, I was surprised too when I learned this! There is still a Nazi party, but their numbers are so low they never win any seats. Today, they are known more commonly by a new name that is making a lot of headlines at the moment – Pegida.
Germans are know-it-alls!
They are a clever bunch, aren’t they Mr. Grinch? 86% of Germans have completed their secondary education and many have even gone further to get their Masters, which is considerably higher than many other developed countries! In fact, German children perform at better levels in reading, math, science and language than the average child, especially here in Bavaria!
They live by the rule book
All Germans are given a book called Grundgesetz with all the German laws which they are to read during their school career. This is one reason why all Germans are so knowledgeable about the laws in Germany and are so stubborn about breaking a rule, for example, they won’t even cross a street at a red light! In fact, you could loose your driver’s license if you are caught walking across a street on a red light!