Cultural Differences Everyone Should Know About Before Going to Germany
Updated: Apr 18
Like many other countries, Germany doesn’t really do tipping. In America, tipping is a necessary part of a waiter's/waitress’s wage. In Germany, they get paid well enough that tip is not a necessity. However, you can tip your waiter/waitress if you feel like he/she deserves it. Now, this doesn’t mean to give them a 2-3 euro tip. Giving a large tip is frowned upon. So, I’d say give them a few cents to (maybe) a euro tip.
German food is not all brats and schnitzel
The stereotype of German food is meat, cabbage, and potatoes, however this is not the majority of their food. This is their traditional cuisine that they usually don’t consume on a daily basis. And actually, my friend told me that only half of the German population likes cabbage and sauerkraut. I personally like the traditional German cuisine, but there is so much more than that! It’s like saying that all America food has to offer is hamburgers, hot dogs, and apple pie (which of course is not true).
Big no no in Germany. They have crossing lights for a reason! Germans are big on following the rules and a very important one is crossing when you are told to. Jaywalking is not only majorly frowned upon, but you can also be fined $$$$ for doing it! So, be careful and follow the rules.
Paying for bathrooms
This one is really difficult and frustrating for me. For most of the public bathrooms, you have to pay for (either 10 cents or as high as a euro). If you perhaps do not have change on you.. you might be in trouble. The payment is for the people who constantly clean the bathrooms (which are extremely clean, even in train stations). There usually is a person in the bathroom that you tip (again possibly 10 cents), or bathrooms have machines that you have to pay before getting into. So, make sure you always have spare change. However.. there is a way around it, which brings me to my next point
Peeing in public is legal!
So maybe you are walking down the street and you see someone relieving themselves just out in the open. Well they are allowed. Now, it’s not like a peeing party and there is pee everywhere. German streets are very clean. But at night or during Karneval when everyone is drunk is when it is more appropriate. Don’t go crazy though, have some common curtesy.
Another frustrating culture difference for most Americans is the limited store hours in Germany. Germans usually close stores earlier than 8pm on weekdays and even earlier on Saturdays (around 2pm). They also close shops on Sundays so that Germans have time to spend with their families. Honestly, I think that Americans need to take a lesson from Germany because stores can stay open as late as 12am and people work long shifts to support their families, but barley have time to spend with them. If you really need something, most of the time train station stores/convenient stores are open on Sundays just in case.
Use of English
I prefer that everyone learn some German before going there. It is respectful to show that you are trying to speak their language in any country you visit. I think even learning “Sprechen sie Englisch” (do you speak English?) is more appropriate than just spewing off in a different language. But, Germans do speak English quite well so if you are struggling, you can ask them to speak English. When I was over there and trying to learn German, I would order my food in German of course. However, once they noticed I was struggling to understand them or they heard a spot of my accent, they would start speaking in English. If you are determined to learn German, just be persistent and continue speaking in German.
Deposit on bottles/glasses
One time I went to a nice bar in Heidelberg and asked for a Hefeweizen (a great beer) and they gave me a yellow coin. I was very confused at first and asked my friend what it was. What happens is that most of the bars/restaurants tax you on the bottle/glass you are using (especially if you take it away from the bar). Once you have finished the drink, you can return the glass and get your money back. This is not only to prevent waste, but to also incentivize people NOT to just throw their glass on the floor. Good idea for drunks.
Beer in public
You can drink beer in public. Yes, your dream has come true. You can walk with it, take it on the train, maybe go to the bathroom with your beer; hey wherever you want to go. It is honestly a very freeing feeling because America is so strict with alcohol. We can’t even take wine on a picnic out in the park with us. So, when you go there, go to your local store, grab some beers and take a scenic train ride. It will feel so good.