German culture Faux pas to avoid while travelling

Germany is a beautiful country with a lot of history to offer, especially if you are the type interested in History, Art and Architecture. However, before visiting the country it is essential to know what not to do there, as a tourist, to be well-perceived!

1. Go easy on public drinking

Germans are balanced people who know how to enjoy life, without making a mockery out of themselves and staying in limits , and when they are out, they are on their best public behavior. So it is natural to expect the same from tourists. You can't help gulping gallons of their delicious Beer (which is cheaper than water by the way), but nevertheless, one has to stay in control, as Germans can hold their liquor very well, and this may not be the case with you. Getting sloshed publicly can lead to embarassing situations, arrests and unwanted attention. So enjoy and be calm.

2. Never ask for tap water

It may be common in most places to ask for tap water, but not in Germany.

The German word  for tap water is “Leitungswasser,” which means plumbing water. Obviously, one wouldn't want plumbing water washed down their food. Moreover, it is illegal for a restaurant to serve tap water. So you would have to buy water.


3. Don’t step out of line

When in Germany, be on your best behavior. Germans are extremely punctual and well-mannered. Showing up late, losing your cool, or raising your voice are all considered rude and thoughtless.

If you step out of line, don’t be surprised or offended if someone corrects your behavior, as this is very common in the German culture.


4. Get used to using a fork

You better think twice before picking up that piece of pizza or pretzel with your hands. Germans never eat with their hands with the exception of breaking off a piece of bread. Even French fries are eaten with a fork!

When in doubt, use a fork when eating. Another tip, when you’re finished with your meal, place your knife and fork side by side (not crossed) to signal that you are done. 


5. No one cares that you’re American

If you’re from the U.S. and you plan on visiting Germany, please keep one thing in mind: No one cares that you’re American. 

Germans are a very well-traveled people high on general knowledge. They get a lot of vacation time, and they often spend it visiting other countries. Also, it’s typical for them to live a few years abroad for education and professional training, especially in the U.S. So it is really no big deal.

6. Skip the small talk

Contrary to popular belief, Germans are actually a quite talkative bunch—they just don’t like meaningless small talk. Germans are known for being very direct, which shouldn’t be mistaken for rudeness or coldness.

When having a conversation, speak clearly and precisely. If you say to someone, “Hey, how’s it going?” don’t be surprised if they go into a 10-minute spiel about how they are. Germans interpret this common English greeting very literally.


7. Don’t even think about jaywalking

Germans are world-renowned for their order rules and they certainly know how to follow them. One has to follow traffic rules and "quiet hours" very seriously.

Quiet hours occur all day Sunday and Monday through Saturday from 13:00 – 15:00 and after 22:00. During these hours, you cannot vacuum, mow the lawn, or play music too loud. If it can be heard outside your apartment or car, it is considered disturbing. This seems reasonable and for the most part it is – that is until your neighbor complains that you are talking too loudly on your balcony.


8. Know when to knock and when to applaud

Mostly people clap for a number of different reasons—and sometimes for no reason at all. In Germany, however, clapping is reserved for the theater or a concert.

In schools, it’s common for students to knock on their desks to applaud a lecture or presentation. In fact, applauding in this type of setting is considered negative. Knocking is also a common form of greeting used in German pubs.


9. Don’t wish someone an early birthday

Germans and most people celebrate birthdays in a similar fashion—but with one exception. Never wish a German a happy birthday or give them a card or present before their birthday. This is major no-no, as it’s considered bad luck.

Speaking of birthdays, it’s tradition to pour flour on top of someone’s head on their 16th birthday and crack eggs over the head of someone turning 18.


10. Respect a German’s privacy

Germans greatly value their privacy and personal space. Never ask someone to give you a tour of their home; don’t greet someone with a hug unless you are close friends; and stay at least an arm’s distance or more away when having a conversation with another individual.

Also, the topics of money and family are off limits, as Germans tend to be extremely private when it comes to their personal lives. Surprisingly, however, Germans enjoy talking about politics! But ofcourse, don't go quizzing them about Hitler and WW2, this is considered a bad topic which is highly sensitive, to discuss.

Most Germans will understand if you make an innocent mistake. Chances are they’ve made one or two mistake while traveling to a foreign country themselves. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to brush up on the German culture and the language before traveling aboard.

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