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German Attitudes & Culture

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German Culture and Traditions can often seem strange. But understanding Germans and fitting in can be very easy – if you know the unwritten rules of German culture.

The German Way – A Personal Perspective (source unknown)
Germans can be a little idiosyncratic. Ask any German. Of course, there is a danger in generalizing about anything or anyone but I speak from experience here. Germans are great people, fun-loving, great hosts, generally pretty well-educated and very open to dumb questions from people like me.

I love the German people. I get a kick out of elderly ladies that tell me not to cross at the red light or the businessman that tells me to keep my feet off the seats on the subway. I love the fact that a hotel proprietor in Germany threatened to call the Tourism Board and report me when I complained about service (I always thought it was the other way around). I love the fact that I got thrown out of a sex shop for giggling with my girl friends over the products and that my German friends are extremely observant of rules that are not even rules anymore.

OK, I almost get run down by mad cyclists at least once a day, I live in terror of not cleaning my plate, and I have been driven almost to tears by German directness. German rules are beyond me – you cannot grill meat if it bothers your neighbors, but you are free to visit a brothel or wander around nude in your apartment with all the drapes open. You cannot make noise after 10 pm but that is when the fireworks start so who is sleeping anyhow? You need to notify your neighbors in writing if you are going to have a party. The interesting thing is that if you do this, you can party till the cows come home.

I find the dog thing refreshing and the car thing a hella lotta fun and I love the openness of Germans. You, of course, will not need to deal with most of this, other than mad cyclists and occasional chiding from Germans. You will be welcomed, asked questions about your home. With luck, you can speed down the autobahn in a high performance auto. What’s not to like?

What Germans mean….

(picture source: German Business Etiquette)

German Ways – Understanding German Attitudes and Culture (source and author unknown)

1) Germans do not cross the street against the light.
Do not cross the street when the light is red, NO MATTER WHAT! Germans always wait for the light to turn green whether there is a car in sight or not. If you attempt to cross, you will probably be chided by at least one of the people in the queue and you will hear a general tsssk.

2) Germans are very direct and they are always right
Most Germans have no problem telling you how they feel about something, even if you are a complete stranger. Don’t try to argue with a German, it is a complete waste of time. Just remember they are always right, nod your head and don’t waste your breath.

3) German cyclists rule
When walking on the sidewalks in Germany, cyclists have the right of way. I am always pulling friends out of the way of bell-dinging cyclists that seem to have no hesitation in running down pedestrians. Never, ever walk on the part of the sidewalk that is designated as a bike path and when you cross the street make sure you stay in the pedestrian area and don’t stray over the line into the bike path.

4) Germans are not prudes
Public nudity is accepted in a lot of areas and Germans are not prudes. Saunas and pools are no exception, even in public parks, people bare their bodies to catch a few rays. Talking about sex is common and the nudity on television delighted my son when he was a teenager. Sex shops are a common occurence in most major cities and prostitution is legal so hang up your Puritan ways before heading to Germany.

5) Germans eat everything on their plate
If you fail to eat everything that is on your plate you are likely to be asked by the waiter or waitress or your hostess if everything was OK. You are also likely to be scolded for not eating enough. As someone that was taught that leaving a little on the plate was good manners, I am very conflicted over this.

6) Germans like their rules
In Germany, it seems there is a rule for everything. You have to abide by quiet times (generally between 1 pm and 3 pm weekdays and most of the day on Sundays) in residential neighborhoods. Walking across the grass in parks is frowned upon – you are supposed to stay on the paths. Never, ever question authority, it is simply not a good idea.

7) Germans love their autos and the autobahn
“Given the choice between giving up a wife and a car, the German will give up his wife.” I have heard this often from German men and know for a fact that the love affair with the auto is a fact. Cars are a status symbol – with a luxury car you can drive up to any hotel and get premium service. Not only that but the luxury cars in Germany are fast and when there is no traffic on the autobahn you can go up to 200 km an hour. I now, I did it in my Audi A8 and understand the love affair.

8.) Germans love their dogs
German dogs are the most well-behaved dogs I have ever seen. Whether in restaurants or on the streets, the dogs walk without leashes, keep their master in sight and don’t fight with other dogs. I don’t know if it is a law or not, but they must make these dogs go to school. I have never seen such well behaved dogs in my life. On the other hand, I have friends that actually have birthday parties for their dogs, inviting all the doggie friends over for bisquits and bones. Hey, dogs rule!

9) Germans are good guests, hosts and partyers
Germans always bring flowers, a gift or wine when they come for dinner. Tables are always set and food is plentiful when you visit and you are never asked to help wash the dishes or clear the table. What’s even better is Germans throw their own birthday parties – which absolves you of having to worry about organizing anything. Sit down at a table with a group of Germans at a festival and they will readily invite you into their conversation.

10) German Service is slow
German servers are not prompt. Eating and drinking are done in slow-motion here. Its just how it is in Germany. 99% of the time its not because they know you are a foreigner; you are just imagining that. Now you may sit down in a gasthaus and never get service, but that is for a reason. You can avoid unpleasantries by waiting to be seated. Biergartens are the exception – anything goes in a biergarten. But otherwise if you have to take a seat without a server guiding you to one, always-always sit at a table with tablecloth and utensils. The table without these is not to be used or its a table reserved for locals. That table is called a Stammtisch. Sitting at the Stammtisch will brand you as a dumb tourist and the server will not likely serve you.

11) Germans share tables
Its often the case in restaurants, but especially true in Biergartens, that all tables are occupied. Don’t panic. Just find a space that will accommodate your party and kindly ask those sitting at the table if the seats are free. (try to learn how to ask in German, it pays off!) This can be a great way to meet locals. Now your fellow German table-mates may or may not speak with you. This is all normal behavior.

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