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Other countries other customs

January 16, 2020
Life in Germany


Different countries, different customs:

The good "arrival" in the new home country sometimes presents challenges due to different cultural behaviours that put a few blunders on the table.

Without wanting to fall into stereotypes about specificbehaviour, certain country-specific peculiarities must be taken into account, which make life and cooperation easier or more pleasant for all parties.

In the following below a few useful tips, very directly and clearly formulated for a good togetherness in Germany are mentioned - read with a winking eye without alienation and implement them in the best case when the opportunity arises.

How punctual is punctual?

The time is being taken precisely in Germany. It is considered impolite to arrive late. Those who are invited or have an appointment are expected to be on time. The proverbial academic quarter is already overstretched when it comes to official obligations such as doctor or official appointments. It is advisable to arrive ahead of time. Apologies that traffic or public transport was late does not count.  Deadlines, appointments and timetables have the weight of solemn oaths in Germany. A delay is virtually synonymous with breach of contract.  If it is foreseeable that an appointment cannot be kept on time, you should let us know by telephone.  However, overpunctuality for private invitations can be rather inappropriate.


Making noise

A low noise level is appreciated in everyday German life.  In public, but also in your own four walls, the rule is: do not disturb your neighbours.  If you entertain the whole restaurant, let your children romp in the shopping centre or listen to opera arias at full volume at night, you are likely to get into quite a lot of trouble. In Germany, "rest hours" are regulated by law. During these hours there should be no loud music, no drilling and no vacuum cleaning. Even switching on a load of laundry during the "quiet hours" can lead to complaints from neighbours. Most rest periods are between 13.00 and 15.00 or between 22.00 and 7.00. This also applies especially all day on Sundays and public holidays.



A friendly "good day" is appropriate when you enter a (smaller) shop, a government office, a waiting room at the doctor's or a train compartment, for example; the same goes for saying goodbye with "Goodbye". To greet individuals or even a group of people, people inGermany formally shake hands. If you meet a group of several people, women are shaken hands first.


As a guest

The guest should rather not stand with empty hands in front of the host's door. It's considered rude. Gifts are a must for private invitations, which is a sign of appreciation for the host. Size and price are irrelevant - a small gift, such as a bottle of wine, chocolates or a bouquet of flowers is absolutely adequate. At larger events such as receptions, however, souvenirs are not common.  However, if you just drop by to see your friends, you might strain your hospitality. Standing unannounced in front of the door is a "no go". A short inquiry by phone or short message is therefore advisable. Good neighbourly relations are of course excluded from this rule.


Street shoes as guest

Most Germans take their shoes off at home. It is therefore polite to take your shoes off at the front door or ask your host if you can keep them on before entering. Often you are also offered guest house shoes.


At table

In other countries you may simply raise your glass and toast yourself. Not so in Germany. There you better look directly into the eyes of your counterpart while toasting, otherwise bad luck in love threatens. Crosstoasting is also considered a bad omen. When eating, you should not put your elbows on the table, as this is considered bad manners. Only the hands should be on the table when eating.  The sauerkraut should not be shoveled into itself without having said "Bonappetit" beforehand. Crossing the knife and fork on the plate is a sign that the meal is not yet finished. Placing the knife and fork parallel on the right side of the plate is a signal to the waiter that the plate can be put away.

You or "Sie"?

Germans like the "you". So it can happen that team colleagues address each other as "you, Mr. or Mrs." even after years. When addressing Germans, it is better not to use their first name, unless this was explicitly offered. Normally you address a person with "Herr" or"Frau" and the last name. In German, a distinction is made between the formal form of address and the personal "Du". In case of doubt,you are on the safe side with the "you". The "Du" is reserved for friends and close acquaintances. When you first meet someone,whether privately or professionally, it is in any case not usual to address them on a familiar basis. Anyone who uses the first-name form of address to a saleswoman or a civil servant will quickly earn angry looks, if not deep contempt. Among young people, on the other hand, it is normal to be onfirst-name terms. By the way: the older person usually offers the"you" to his or her conversation partner. In the private sphere, the older person offers the informal "you" to the younger person. In the business world, it is always up to the higher-ranking person - regardless of age and sex - to suggest a change to "Du". A nice intermediate step is to address a colleague by his or her first name, using the formal"you".

Waste separation

Germans are very environmentally conscious and separatetheir rubbish to facilitate recycling. Most of them have multicoloured litterbins at home. These are divided into general waste, plastic, paper and organic waste. Multi-page regulations list which waste to put into which bin, sack or container. It's worth the effort: Germany is the world leader in recycling. Empty glass bottles are taken to public containers that are available in every neighbourhood. However, there are also bottles that are returned to the shop through the deposit system.  If water or drinks are bought in plastic bottles, a few extra cents per bottle must be paid. When these bottles are returned to the shops, the deposit is paid out.  The deposit bottles that are not in the trash cans - light bulbs, batteries, electronics and old furniture are also recycled separately.  Do not simply throw rubbish on the streets. There are dustbins everywhere where you can throw the rubbish in.

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