Planning to go to Germany? Germany is a big country with some special social rules and differences to the USA or Britain. You should know these essential tips before starting your adventure into this new fantasy-like world.
1. Cash Money is King
Germany is the source of high end technology end machinery isn’t really on that credit card hype.
I know it’s seems weird, but some of the smaller shops won’t accept credit card as payment.
So, if you plan to travel Germany for a while, make sure you have plenty of cash on you or a map of the nearest ATM.
BONUS TIP: Carry some Coins with you at all times, especially if you have a weak bladder because…
2. Good luck if you wanna find free restrooms
Germany is really like a fantasy world with all it’s castles and stuff, but sadly the reality shock comes when you find out that you pay to urinate.
You really can’t find free restrooms in Germany. Most of the restroom have a fee of 50 cents or more for the cleaning Lady. McDonalds and Burger King are an
exception to this.
Note: Often you get a nice little coupon after going to a paid washroom to use on future purchases, so if you need to go, head to the restroom first before buying a coffee
Even restaurants and clubs aren’t immune to this, so that’s why I say you should bring change with you at all times.
3. Sundays will be your worst enemy while traveling in Germany
So I’m not saying that Germany becomes the Hunger Games on Sundays…. but Germany kinda becomes the Hunger Games on Sundays.
In many parts of Germany, Sundays are a day of rest, which means that most shops (supermarkets, retail stores, malls, etc.) will be closed. Many restaurants will still be open, but if you’re hoping to run any errands or do any shopping, plan around the Sunday closures……. or you know, starve. It’s cool.
In whole Germany, Sundays are a day of rest by law, which means that almost all shops (supermarkets, stores, etc.) will be closed. Some restaurants -especial kebab shops and fast food chains- will still be open, but if you’re hoping to do any shopping plan around the Sunday closures.
4. German punctuality is not a joke, except public transportation
Germans are crazy punctual except their public transportation. This means your trains won’t arrive on time, either to early or to late
This means you should always get to your bus, tram and train and few minutes early, otherwise you won’t catch it.
But when making plans with a German person, don’t expect to get the whole 30 minutes buffer time you get in the U.S, where you both message “on my way! almost there!” back and forth until one of you dies. No, a German will be on time. Maybe even a bit too early.
STAY ON TIME
5. I hope you like staring contests especially with Germans
We Germans seem to really like staring.
Sometimes I like to pretend it’s because I’m a radiant goddess, but then the sensible part of me realizes it’s just a cultural thing.
Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a warrior and my stare battles are epic battles of the century.
If you think you’re being judged by that grumpy grandma sneering at you from two seats away, let’s be honest: you probably are.
One time, an old woman stopped a friend of mine and yelled at him because she didn’t like his lederhosen. It’s just a way of life. Learn to laugh at it and move on. On that note…
6. Keep your voice down or be judged
Germans don’t tend to speak very loudly (unless they’re shrieking folk songs after a few beers).
In fact, public transit is often quiet, and if you don’t keep it down, your English voice will surely pierce through the calm and tear through the entire fabric of German social propriety.
7. You might see some naked Germans
Ironically, Germans who hate small talk and being loud on public transit, are weirdly down with being nude.
Like, you wanna go to the park in the summer time? You will likely see a naked German.
Anyway, nudity can be common – just prepare yourself.
PS: In many places like saunas, wellness spas, etc., nudity is not only expected, but mandatory.
8. When you travel in Germany get Group Discounts
If you decide to travel Germany by train, make sure you take advantage of all the amazing discounts!
Germans LOVE rewarding you for having friends, so group tickets will often save you ludicrous amounts of money.
Likewise, look into special regional tickets for trains which get cheaper the more friends you bring.
9. Water will cost you, and it’ll probably be fizzy
One of the biggest shocks for Americans who travel to Germany is that in restaurants, a) water isn’t free and b) fizzy, carbonated water is usually what you get by default.
This thrills me because I would literally carbonate everything if I could, but I know a lot of folks hate fizzy water.
So, be sure to clarify whether you want still or sparkling. Sadly, there’s not much you can do about paying for it though.
PS: Buying bottled water at the shop will become the most confusing thing in the world (and a significant source of anxiety).
Every brand has their own color code/name for which water has gas or not.
Some consider “natural” to be with gas, some without, some use blue for fizzy water, others use green…. They even categorize by how fizzy it is (e.g. Medium), and I just about lost it when once, I saw a teal bottle that said “EXTRA STILL” on it. What even is extra still water? How could still water possibly get any still-er? Turns out, it’s a cryptic German code for mildly fizzy water. Nothing is safe, folks. Enjoy your Russian roulette of hydration. [Sorry for the rant, I am just weirdly passionate about this topic]
10. Most people speak English, except where it counts
I always joke with friends that I could stop anyone on the street here in Germany and they would probably speak fluent English, yet as soon as my english friends step into any bureaucratic environment the Germans lose the ability to speak English.
Fair enough though – after all, remember that you’re in a foreign country so you shouldn’t expect people to automatically speak your language. That’s why it’s helpful to brush up on some basic German phrases, although you shouldn’t worry too much because there usually at least some fluent English speakers lurking around, especially in big cities like Munich and Berlin.
11. Avoid the bike lane or risk certain death
Biking culture is pretty big here. Trust me when I say that you have not gotten a real taste of travel in Germany until you’ve stared death in the face while accidentally prancing down a bike lane.
There’s not often a clear division between the path for bikes/for people, and they tend to exist side by side to really shake things up and get you that sweet adrenaline rush. Here’s your best survival tip: check whether or not you’re on the red/orange bike lane!
12. Jaywalking is a serious crime
So sure, maybe I’m exaggerating but you will meet a whole nation so collectively and vocally against jaywalking.
I once saw a girl in the suburbs who still waited for the light to change before crossing, despite not a single car or witness in sight .
Especially when there are kids around, parents get super angry at you for setting a bad example.
There are few things more terrifying than being yelled at by an old German woman from across the street. Well, apart from trying to select the right water at the grocery store that is.
13. Travelling to Germany is a lot of Pfand
This is a very lame pun that won’t make sense unless you speak German, but Germans are really into recycling and the term “Pfand” essentially refers to a refundable deposit that you pay on things like cans, bottles and even glasses/mugs at beer gardens and Christmas markets.
If you return a bottle you get easy peasy money back. So, in the case of cans/bottles, it encourages recycling and in the case of glasses/mugs, it prevents you from pocketing them as fun souvenirs.
This is a really important word to know, because often items will be more expensive than the listed price at the store because of the pfand. So that 1 euro can of Coke might become 1.25 at checkout. Similarly, let’s say you’re at a German Christmas Market for the first time and want to get yourself a nice mulled wine for 3 euros. You might end up paying 8 euros at first, because of the 5 euro pfand on the mug.
14. Small talk and pleasantries are not a thing
We Germans literally do not understand the point of small talk. Often, if you try it, we will be confused at why you are wasting their time and getting all up in their personal space.
15. Expect customer service to be frostier than the snow queen
There are of course exceptions to this, but generally speaking, customer service is not very friendly or warm in Germany. This goes for restaurants, retail shops and yes, official places like banks.
But hey, if you play your cards right and smile sweetly, you might get a vague acknowledgement of your presence in return
Yay, little wins.
So, the next time your waiter ghosts you and doesn’t return for like, 10 years, don’t take it personally – it’s not you!
On that note, tipping isn’t as expected as in the U.S.
16. Good luck at the Grocery Store AKA the freaking Olympic Games
The cashiers scan items so absurdly quickly here that it’s like a duel every single time. Like, dude – I just wanted some bananas, why are you rushing like your wife has gone into labour?
So, be prepared if you choose to visit the grocery store (which you should, because it helps you save loads of money!).
Another important thing is to bring your own non plastic bag – most people do. There are paper bags you can buy at the checkout, but remember to pick one up and put it at the front of your item haul, otherwise you’ll be left with a million items from the Usain Bolt of groceries and nowhere to put them.
I hope you enjoyed this roundup of must-knows for those who plan to travel in Germany!
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