Planning a visit to Germany at some point? Then let’s talk about some things you might want to know before you go! It is always good to know a couple of habits or norms beforehand so they don’t take you by surprise.
Some of these are good others not so much! Like closed stores on Sundays when it’s the day where most people are off work and actually would have time to do groceries? Anyway, you better form your own opinion! Here are 30 things you should know before travelling to Germany.
1. When you order water at a restaurant you will always get carbonated (sparkling) water. If you’d like still water instead, just ask for “Stilles Wasser.”
2. Usually you will not get ice in your drink. So if you do want ice in your drink you have to ask for it.
3. Speaking of water, you will have to pay for it. It’s not common to ask for tab water or get free water anywhere, so people will probably look at you weirdly if you do ask. Most Germans don’t drink tab water in general, even though it is perfectly drinkable.
4. Other than water, another thing that you will most likely have to pay for is using the toilet in public places, such as train station. This can be up to 1€.
5. Not being on time is considered rude. If you have an appointment at 4pm then you should be there a at around 3:55pm. (Don’t take my word on that but it’s always good to have a five minute buffer if you get lost, can’t find the room or need to finish some paperwork etc.)
6. Tipping is not mandatory but usually a little tip is expected. However, there is no rule on what percentage to tip, in most cases people just round up the bill. So if you are at restaurant and your bill is 9.10€ just round if up to 10€ for example. If your bill is 23.20€ then round it up to 25€.
7. Another thing that you should know before travelling to Germany is the fact that stores are always closed on Sundays. So make sure to do your groceries by Saturday night. However, restaurants and bars will usually be open.
8. Credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany, so make sure to always have cash on hand.
Update: Since the Pandemic times actually you can now pay by card in most places as contactless payment is preferred.
9. Even if they do accept cards, it can be considered rude if you want to pay by card when it is just a small amount of money that you will have to pay. But that is also getting better now and mostly you won’t have these problems anymore.
10. You are allowed to drink alcohol on the streets and it is totally normal. It is only cool though to have pre-drinks on the streets if you are too young to go to the bars or to have your own apartment (just my personal opinion though).
11. The main Christmas day in Germany is the 24th of December rather than the 25th. People usually get their presents after dinner on Christmas Eve. Stores will be open until about midday on that day. The 25th and 26th of December are holidays and stores are closed.
12. Wishing someone a Happy Birthday before their actual birthday is considered bad luck. The same goes for celebrating ones’ birthday before their actual birthday.
13. Taxis have set prices. If you take a Taxi you will pay a set price for using the Taxi and then a standardised fee for each kilometre + waiting time. Overall, Taxis are super pricey though!
14. If you buy plastic bottles you will have to pay a deposit for the bottle as well which is called Pfand. (There are just a few bottles that are Pfand-free like most juices). That is 0.25€ for a bottle that is used once and cans and 0.15€ for reusable bottles. Once empty you have to return the bottles to any grocery store and get your deposit back. So if a bottle of Coca Cola will say 1€, you will always have to add those 0.15€/0.25€.
But: While this of course is more environmentally friendly than throwing plastic in the trash (there is a separate plastic trash of course), there is still way too much plastic and some smaller supermarkets struggle with storing/recycling all those plastic bottles. So at least for water it is best to just drink tab water or if you like your carbonated water invest in a SodaStream (best decision I have made). And that’s for every country where the tab water is drinkable, let’s not produce more plastic waste than necessary!
Coming to Germany during Christmas time? 10 Things to Eat at a German Christmas Market!
15. A lot of people actually don’t speak English. Of course Berlin is a little more international and people will speak English in most of the tourist destinations. But in smaller cities you will need to speak some German if you want to communicate.
Especially with older generations. Now I know lots of people say that people in Germany speak good English but if you compare that with the Netherlands or Scandinavia then that is not really the case.
But if you are heading to some of the tourist and more international destinations or just want to spend one day in Munich, then you should not have any issues communicating.
If you still want to learn a bit of German beforehand then Italki is a great resource to practise a language with some native speakers.
16. Trains are really expensive so you if you want to travel a little cheaper travel by bus. Flixbus has a lot of connections to most places in Germany. However, you can get cheaper train options if you book trains early enough and choose the “Sparangebote” section.
17. Most Germans don’t jaywalk. People will stand at a red traffic light even if there is no car in sight. If you do it and there are parents with children or older people around they will often give you mean looks. You can also get fined when crossing a red light (5€).
18. Germany is home to the second largest theme park in Europe which is the Europa Park in Rust. The park is located in the South of Germany and called Europa park because the different areas are divided into different European countries.
19. Fun fact! I always see lots of non German travel bloggers visiting this place called Rothenburg ob der Tauber and recommending it to their audiences. I have never ever heard of this place before! (But that doesn’t mean anything, I prefer travelling abroad rather than travelling in Germany).
Update: I looked it up online it does seem like a nice place.
Update (11th of July 2020): I actually went there and it turns out it is pretty cool! Really clean and colourful and feels really un-German-like.
20. German beer is only allowed to consist of four ingredients: water, yeast, hops and malt. Which is why all German beers pretty much taste similar. Also most beers will have around a 5% alcohol-by-volume. If you are looking for more fruity or sour beers then Germany is not the place to be.
21. The drinking age in Germany is 16 years old for beer and wine and 18 years old for spirits. There are also some clubs where you can go to at 16 but you will have to leave at midnight.
22. Groceries in general are quite cheap. Lots of people say that Germany is really expensive but groceries are quite cheap if you stick to Lidl, Aldi or other discounters. I have been paying a lot more money for groceries when living in Bratislava in Eastern Europe than in Germany.
23. If you write out numbers, periods and commas are switched. So if you pay 9.50€ somewhere it will be written as 9,50€. The point on the other hand is used for separating thousands (E.g. 1.000.000)
24. Germans often wear helmets while biking. I guess it’s safer but if you for example see someone biking with a helmet in the Netherlands then the chances are 1:100 that they are German.
25. Some Germans like to mix Cola with Fanta which they call ‘Spezi‘ and you can also already purchase pre mixed drinks at the supermarket such as MezzoMix.
26. There are some words in German that do not exist in the English language. Most of them are not too important to know but a word you should know is ‘Ohrwurm’ which literally translates to ‘Ear worm’. If you say you have an ear worm it means that you have a song stuck in your head.
27. Tea in Germany is not drunk with milk and it also includes more flavours than basic green or black tea. A huge section in the supermarket is dedicated to all kinds of tea such as pomegranate, raspberry, mango or pineapple. Anything fruity!
28. Sunday is rest day. Other than the closed stores you also need to be more quiet on Sundays. Like don’t bring your glass trash to the glass containers on Sunday or don’t turn on the music too loudly and annoy your neighbours.
29. I feel like this one is like saying don’t walk on the street which is obvious but don’t walk on the bike lane. Bike lanes are for bikes! Usually the red area will be for bikes and the white one for pedestrians. (In Slovakia it was the other way around which was hella confusing).
Lately there have been these new bike streets where there will be a red area on the standard streets. In that case bikes will have priority so if you are going by car keep that in mind.
30. People do not have air conditioning in their houses. You might find it in offices or restaurants but usually not in private households.
And these were 30 things you should know before travelling to Germany. Some you might not find surprising as they might be similar to your country e.g. not walking on the bike lane (speaking to you Dutch people) or not putting ice in drinks. Others might be specific to just Germany (Like the German theme park ..DUH).
I have read a few of these types of posts before putting this together and most points I agree with but some points not so much. Like that you don’t have to tip.
You don’t have to and there is such a thing as minimum wage but if you go to a proper restaurant it is kind of rude not to tip for example. Also we don’t eat Sauerkraut with every meal. I maybe eat it once every two years max and not many people I know would voluntarily eat Sauerkraut with their meals to be honest.
Anyway, let me know which one’s of these you have experienced yourself.
Talk to you later x
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