If there’s a place that you ought to see when travelling in Europe, without a doubt, Germany would come out on top of the must-see European countries. Why, you ask? Well, as a historically influential nation, you’d think that Germans must be doing things differently to position them at the pinnacle of world power at a time, right? In this guide, that’s what we’ll uncover.
They say you wouldn’t know what a place is like unless you visit it yourself. And Germany is not any different. But with some information on what the country is like, as viewed by other travellers, we can hope to get a better understanding of what life is like in a country such as Germany. Also, by getting some tips and a look at the common things related to life in this country, such as its culture and the people’s social etiquette, we can hope to better prepare for our visit, whether for work, travel, or whatnot. If this is something you’re interested in, then make sure to read it until the end.
Culture and Social Etiquette in Germany: What You Need to Know
Germany prides itself on its rich culture and people with varying lifestyles, interests, and ethnic backgrounds. This in effect, has created a society with a wide worldview and an accepting attitude towards other people. Despite the changes society has gone through in these modern times, the family remains at the core of its social structure, which Germans strongly identify with and take pride in.
As in most parts of the world, good life in this country is typically based on one’s level of educational attainment, lifestyle, and the freedom to override challenges and transitions in a positive way.
That said, the Germans have high regard for perfection, the finer things in life, as well as in conducting one’s business, and even in their personal matters. The reason for this is that those who work the hardest in this country, often, are those who succeed the most in society.
So, if you find this merit-based society ideal for your lifestyle, then you might just find a new home in Germany and earn a good name for yourself in this country should you choose to work and live here. As for travels, making German friends isn’t too hard to do since you can already identify with their characteristics, and share in their common approach to life.
Germans put a premium in their time, privacy, and order, whether personally or in society.
It is common to shake hands with the people you meet in Germany. This is especially true if it’s your first time to meet a person in this country. Do not, however, shake hands with only one hand and the other in your pocket as this is seen as quite disrespectful. Even when talking with others, avoid putting your hands in your pockets. You can be a bit more expressive with yourself using your hands and keep them within the other person’s view, for safe measure.
Arrive early (if not on time) for meetings.
Germans, as do most people in the west, highly value their time. That said, if you plan on making a good impression to a German you’re meeting for the first time, then do not fail to arrive early or right on time. This is especially important at social gatherings and business meetings. When you come in earlier or on time for a meeting with a colleague, this is a sign of respect that they’ll very much appreciate.
Also, when visiting a German at their home for the first time, whether for coffee or dinner, it is customary to bring a small gift you can offer them as a sign of gratitude for hosting you. Typically, any small gifts such as flowers, candies, or a bottle of wine would be enough as a small token to show your appreciation to your host/s.
How Women are viewed in German society
It has been a long time since World War II, when Germany was known for anything but its influential power during this dark period. However, the times have changed, so now, women are equally recognized in all aspects of society. This is due to the fact that there has also been a lack of men after most had gone in the service to fight for the country.
Since then, women have worked hard to earn their positions in the workplace. Most pursued higher education and have risen up in positions, whether at work, the government, or in culture. They achieved all these, while also raising their own families.
Addressing People in Germany
Though they might come across as strong, perhaps because of their features, most Germans, in fact, are shy and seem unfriendly at the first instance you meet them. One good way to connect with them is by using titles and addressing them correctly. Academic titles are essential in addition to using herr and frau (Mr. and Ms., respectively). A doctor can either be a medical doctor or someone who has a PhD degree. Meanwhile, the term fraulein (miss) is rarely used. Rather, frau is more preferred because it is impartial and does not allude to a woman’s marital status.
There is a formal and informal form of address in the German language.
It is typical of Germans to use the formal ‘Sie’ in conjunction with a person’s surname. Meanwhile, ‘Du’ (you) is a common expression used by younger people and among friends, as well as among children. The latter is typically used in conjunction with the first name.
To be safe, it is best to listen attentively to the form of address used by the person whom you are talking to, and to conveniently, use this form, as well.
Recycling is a way of life.
Germans are eco-conscious people and are actively contributing to society and the world by adopting recycling processes, and has had great success in addressing pollution and minimizing trash in their country.
Germans typically segregate their trash, whether at home or in public. That said, there is a proper disposal bin for glass, paper, and packaging material. You might also notice that private residences can use separate bins for agricultural waste, including coffee grounds and leftover food.
So that’s the general picture of what life in Germany is like. But as you know, there’s more to people than what you can see from the outside. So to further understand how people live in this beautiful country, here are the top 8 weird and wonderful German customs that you should know:
German Custom #8: No business on Sundays and other holidays.
While Germans are big fans of shopping, especially new gadgets and equipment, they do not shop on Sundays and on holidays. Some of them forego attending church, but not going outside with friends or relatives. That said, this weekend and holidays are planned ahead of time for the main purpose to unwind.
German Custom #7: Found a misplaced object? Hand in on a tree so that the owner can find it.
Funny fact: the best place to look for missing things is not on the ground, but up in the trees – at least in Germany. An unassuming sign post could also be a good spot for misplaced items. You can bet that when you return to the spot you think you lost something, chances are, if people find them for you, you can look them up at either trees or signposts in the area. This just shows how Germans look out for other people and respect other people’s possessions.
German Custom #6: It’s common to greet strangers in the holding room and thank them when they leave.
When you enter the doctors’ waiting room in Germany, it’s no different from other countries. You will find people reading magazines to themselves, enjoying games on their phones, reading a book, but do not speak to each other. When someone new comes into the room and puts up their coat, everyone else greets them with a friendly ‘guten tag’ or hello. Do not be surprised to get greeted with a cascade of auf wiedersehen when you leave the doctor’s room and pick up your jacket or coat from the rack.
German Custom #5: There’s no need to queue as long as you know when it’s your turn.
It’s common for people to just show up at shops, such as the bakery or butcher, without getting any number or having to wait patiently in a queue. Just take a good look at the people around you and remember who came before and after you. If you don’t know where you stand in the crowd, don’t worry – the others will you know! And in the rare chance that someone tries to get ahead of you, simply say hallo and wave your hand in front of your face. When others take notice of this, they would unapprovingly look at the perpetrator, shaming them back into waiting for their turn.
German Custom #4: Asking the right questions will give you the right answers.
Asking the right questions will be key to successful communication in Germany. Remember, the people in this country are obsessed with accuracy. So, the more specific you can get, the better they’ll appreciate your asking. Thus, do not ask closed-ended questions, such as: “Does this lead to the train station?” This is completely useless. Instead, ask: “How do I get to the train station from _?” You will be provided with an aptly sufficient response with detailed directions/instructions.
German Custom #3: It’s common to do light maintenance after using the toilet.
You might get surprised to find toilet brushes placed next to all toilets in Germany. They are there to encourage you to do some light cleaning after your use – now you know. The simple gesture will be appreciated by the next person who’ll use the toilet after (who wouldn’t, right?). In fact, this even extends to public toilets. There are signs in English (not German) that note: ‘Clean up after yourself… this includes the toilet.’ Don’t miss out on these and embarrass yourself during your stay in this country.
German Custom #2: The joy of hiking comes with the food you’ll eat when you get there.
Many people hike for different reasons. Some do it to see a view, reach a peak, or perhaps get some exercise. However, Germans enjoy hiking to enjoy a meal. Of course, all the hard work you’ve poured out to come through the treacherous woods, the sloping hills, and the physical agony of climbing to the top – will be all worth it once you find a quaint, cosy hut to grab your fill of schnitzel and beer.
German Custom #1: Beer is offered in almost all places because it’s cheaper than water!
This might be a good thing for you – or not. But in most European countries, beer or wine is pretty much the standard drink since water is more expensive than other drinks. So, maybe a visit to this country will be worth the while after all, depending on how much you love drinking your beer! But if you’re concerned about how to remain properly hydrated, then you need to have extra euros on you to get your water. This might well be both an advantage and a disadvantage for different people.
There you have it! There are lots of fun and peculiar things you’ll learn about people when you get to spend time in person. But if you want to get an overview of how the Germans live day-by-day, this article is an excellent place to start. You can even verify it with your German friends and other expats when you get the chance to visit Germany soon once things get better for travel. That said, make sure to keep a copy of this guide so you’ll get a head start when you decide to work in or visit Germany anytime soon. A little knowledge of the culture and how you must deal with other people in this country will ensure that you enjoy a fun and memorable experience!
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