Are you planning a trip to Europe anytime soon? Have you always wanted to visit Germany? With these tips, we’ll help make your life easier and ensure that your trip goes as well as it can. Consider these tips ein kleines Geschenk [a little gift] from us to you.
1. The German number system
If you think deciphering someone’s handwriting can be a difficult task — consider how difficult it could be to decipher handwriting in another language. One would think that writing numbers would be fairly straight forward, especially because most Indo-European languages use Arabic numerals. However, handwritten numbers in German have subtle differences that could cause confusion in a Mathematik [math] course.
For example, this is how the number sieben [seven] is generally written in Germany:
And this is what the number eins [one] usually looks like:
Mix them up when making a phone call, and you’ll end up dialing a very confused German.
In addition, throughout Europe (except for the U.K.), decimal points and commas are used opposite to how they are used in English. For example, to write 100,000, it would be written as 100.000. In the same way, to write 1.5, one would write 1,5 in Germany.
2. Water you drinking?
If you order Wasser [water] at a restaurant, you will more than likely be served a glass of sparkling water. If you don’t feel too bubbly at the idea of being served sparkling water, then this is an outcome you’d probably like to avoid. Just remember to clarify when you’re ordering by saying stilles Wasser [still water] or Wasser ohne Kohlensäure [water without carbonation]. Also, be aware that you will have to pay for your water at restaurants, so don’t be too surprised to see it on your bill.
3. Don't forget to Prost!
Bier [beer] is a staple of German culture. If you attend any kind of social gathering or meal, you’ll more than likely be offered a glass or two. Of course, it is totally acceptable to refuse the offer if you would rather not drink — your wishes should be respected. If you do choose to partake in this spirit, whatever you do, be sure to look the other person in the eye when making a toast. You’ll find that most Germans are very serious about this — it’s a sign of bad luck to divert your eyes!
4. Stock up for Sunday
Like the USA’s favorite chicken and waffle fries restaurant (Chick-Fil-A), don’t expect to find stores open on Sunday in Germany. Restaurants and gas stations are generally the only places with Sunday hours, so be sure to get all your shopping done on Saturday. You don’t want to run out of something vital (read: toilet paper) and have nowhere to go.
5. Yes, there are speed limits
Despite what you may have heard, speed limits Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzungen — there’s a fun word for you! — do exist in Germany. It’s true that many stretches of the Autobahn [freeway] are limitless, but over 50% have a posted speed limit, particularly within populated areas.
6. Don't mess with der Ampelmann
Jaywalking is never a good idea, but especially not in Germany. You’ll find that most Germans are pretty respectful of pedestrian laws, so have patience and wait for the Ampelmann or Ampelmännchen [traffic light man], that you’d see at most crosswalks. Fun fact: Der Ampelmann was originally created in East Berlin. Now, one can see these little guys on traffic lights throughout Berlin.
7. Don't keep your shoes on
When visiting a German household, don’t be surprised if you see your host switch from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes, commonly known as Hausschuhe [house shoes], the minute they walk through the door. In fact, they may even offer you your own pair of shoes to wear while visiting their home! Most German houses have tiled or wooded floors, so the shoes are used to provide comfort and warmth while walking around at home.
8. Carry some extra dough
Should you seek the comforts of home and stop at a German McDonalds, be warned: the condiments will cost you! Ketchup, mustard, and mayo are sold in packets, so you’ve got to decide how much you think you’ll need and pay accordingly. However, you may see some unique new options on the menu. For example, depending on where you are in Germany, there may be more vegetarian options, croissant sandwiches, and McFlurry’s featuring European candy. Hopefully it will make up for the incovenience of paying for a packet of Senf [mustard].
9. Breakfast at Oma's
Relax and enjoy your breakfast. In Germany, Frühstück [breakfast] is quite the production. At a traditional German breakfast, one can find baskets of bread rolls and pretzels, endless platters of meat and cheese, bowls of fruit and yogurt, even a serving of cake. In addition to the smorgasbord, a feeling of community and togetherness can be felt at these breakfasts. There’s no rush: sit for a couple of hours chatting and enjoying each other’s company. To be sure, this kind of thing isn’t a daily event for most Germans. Usually these longer breakfasts are enjoyed on the weekends with friends and family — but it’s a great thing to look forward to!
10. Boil your sausage!
This is mostly important in Bavaria, but still worth sharing: Weißwurst is boiled, never grilled — and always eaten before noon. After you’ve tasted this delicacy, you might cringe when you see a Weißwurst thrown on a grill here in the States. Also, be sure to peel off the casing before biting into one these juicy morsels.
We hope you enjoyed this little insight into German culture and we wish you eine schöne Reise [a beautiful journey]. For more cultural tidbits, be sure to check out Mango’s culture notes. Popping up several times a chapter, they guide you like a friend, providing fun facts about the culture and helping you to avoid faux pas. They also provide a great little ‘brain break’ from all the language learning you’re doing and keep you interested in the lesson!
Immerse yourself in the German language and culture to prepare for your next trip, family get-together, or simply for an enriching experience. If German’s not your thing, have your pick of over 70 other world language courses. Click below to start your Reise [journey] today.
Have you ever made a cultural faux-pas in Germany or a different country? Please share it with us in the comments below or shout us out on social media!