Germans are very controversial people. Foreigners fall in love with their driving culture and admire their love for animals and their loyal attitude toward children’s pranks. But the bureaucracy, a lack of hospitality, and a disrespectful attitude toward others in lines and on vacation, drives many people crazy. To put it simply, the German way of life won’t leave anyone indifferent.
The Elite Indian plunged headfirst into the study of life in Germany and the customs of its residents. And we’d like to adopt many of their habits no matter how weird they may seem at first glance.
1. Traffic on the roads is completely regulated by traffic signs. Sometimes this leads to unpleasant consequences.
There’s not a single place on a roadway in Germany that isn’t regulated by traffic signs. But you shouldn’t completely rely on them. A Pikabu user shared a situation that he once witnessed: “There are a lot of traffic signs on the roads in Germany. A little while ago, traffic lights near our university were replaced with new ones and construction workers removed the sign “No road” for just a couple of days. Shortly afterward, I saw this:
Before this sign was removed, I didn’t really understand why it was even there. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a pedestrian zone. There is even a construction site and a curb! But my German friend told me: “Well, maybe it’s obvious, but not for Germans. We need a sign.”
2. Germans fight for clean air at the governmental level using only “clean” cars.
Special commissions assign each car with a number. Number “6” means that the car is ecologically-friendly. A couple of years ago, number “4” was the highest possible score, but criteria are constantly changing because of technological developments.
You can find these numbers on the windshield of every car. If there’s no number, the car gets the lowest score by default. These cars don’t have the right to drive in the central areas of many cities.
3. Germans are very patient, especially when they’re driving.
No matter how heavy the traffic jam is, no one will try to change their driving lane, even if the vehicles are moving a little bit faster in another lane. But if you make an attempt to do so, other drivers will let you do it, and won’t use the horn to show their irritation. This type of behavior isn’t welcomed there because people understand that they’ll have to spend more time stuck in a traffic jam if they all start to drive like maniacs.
This is very surprising for foreigners: “We were waiting for more than 2 hours. People had started to leave their cars: dog owners were walking their pets, children were running and playing, and a man was cleaning his trunk. When we started to move, no one tried to change their driving lane. The driving order remained the same as it was before the stop.”
4. Respect for animals, their needs, their health, and even their happiness is a social norm.
Germany became the first country where animal rights have been constitutionally protected since 2002. Germans try to treat animals like humans. In modern Germany, people prohibit their children from making noises at the zoo when the lion is asleep, cosmetic products and household chemicals aren’t tested on animals, and they can’t be a part of a circus.
5. As for pets, their owners can take them to local shops and shopping malls. Dogs just have to be on a leash.
A waiter will bring your dog a bowl full of water at any cafe or restaurant. Some employers even allow their employees to bring their pets to work. And sometimes children can take their animals to kindergarten with them. By the way, even some hospitals allow dogs to visit their patients.
6. Dogs are polite there.
“Dog parking lot”
Almost all dogs behave very politely and don’t pay any attention to strangers on the street. If the dogs are too active, haven’t learned how to behave properly in society, and haven’t acquired the famous German stolidity, their owners always feel a bit embarrassed and say sorry for their dogs’ manners.
Dog owners have to pay a tax on their dogs that is about € 24–100 per year. Many people see it as a fee to the city for cleaning up the excrement of their pets. But unfortunately, this isn’t the responsibility of public utilities, which is very upsetting for people who don’t have dogs.
7. It’s not common to have only one pet at home.
Germans believe that we have to have “2 of each kind” and that one pet gets bored at home, so it needs a friend. Germans usually have several cats, dogs, or bunnies at home. A Russian immigrant shared in her blog: “If I tell people that I have only one cat, they think I’m a monster. They’re like, “Hey, how can you deprive an animal of company?”
8. Many modern German women aren’t inclined to focus on their house or kids.
Many women fully dedicate themselves to work. And although parents can be on paid parental leave until their kid is 3 years old, parents often enroll their kids in kindergartens at the age of 6 months old.
There’s also another opportunity: “We use the services of ‘mom for the day.’ This is a babysitter who babysits up to 5 kids at the same time. Our nanny redesigned her own house and turned her garden into a playground. Our child sees her as a relative. She also learns about different child-rearing methods and incorporates them into her work. Once, we had ‘a month without toys’: children played with ordinary things like laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, or clothespins. And kids do different exercises that improve their motor skills, and they grow plants and cook together.”
9. If you’re paying a visit to your German friends, it’s better to eat at home first.
Germans may serve pasta with potato salad or beer with chips for a birthday celebration. In Germany, you may also be invited to the so-called Abrissparty, which is the party that people throw when they’re moving into a new apartment. People invite guests a month prior to the event, but when you get there, you’re likely to find a lot of alcohol and almost no food.
10. Reserving sun loungers on vacation is almost considered a national sport.
There’s an opinion that German tourists were the first ones to come up with the idea of reserving sun loungers with a towel in the morning, so other people would have to find another place to sunbathe. But these tourists often go to have breakfast, go on a walk, or go to the shopping mall, and completely forget about the place they claimed.
A woman shared a story about this German habit on her blog: “No other nation in the world reserves sun loungers with their things at night or early in the morning when other people are asleep. And there are even the signs near the pool that say: “Please, don’t occupy the loungers!”
11. An average person wastes about 531 Ibs of paper every year, which makes Germany one of the largest consumers of this material.
Locals are sure that it’s better to have a printed copy of every document. There are no online services that could make bureaucracy more bearable, so people have to go to the special governmental organizations to get the documents they need.
Even if you want to buy a SIM-card for your phone, you’ll have to make a video call to the provider, provide them with your personal information, show your ID, and answer their questions. And you won’t be able to make phone calls until a couple of hours after that. It’ll take several hours to transfer money from one bank card to another. And if you want to do it on a Sunday, the transfer will take up to 24 hours.
12. It’s not common to invite friends, colleagues, or strangers into your home.
Long conversations at home over a cup of tea rarely happen in Germany. Nobody would ever think about having a meeting at home, because Germans don’t see a point in going through so much trouble, if you can just meet up at a cafe or restaurant. Germans perceive their house as a private territory and they don’t like to let other people in.
13. There are rules on how to behave in a supermarket line.
If you’re in a line with a shopping cart full of products and a person with 1-2 items stands behind you, it’s polite to let them go first. Usually, you have to also do the same for the bunch of people standing behind that person, so they don’t have to wait until you pay for all your things.
14. Children wear dirty clothes when they go to kindergarten.
If you notice a well-dressed kid playing among other kids in kindergarten, you can be sure that they aren’t German. A Russian woman shared a story on this topic: “My daughter-in-law found a children’s shirt at a thrift store but it had a stain on it. So she refused to buy it. A German saleswoman was surprised and said: “But you’re buying it to go to kindergarten? Why does it matter if in the evening your child looks like a piggy anyway?”
15. Children in Germany don’t always look neat.
There’s no uniform in schools and kindergartens, so all children wear jeans and T-shirts. Girls don’t comb their hair often: you rarely see a girl even wearing a ponytail. This is connected to the fact that children are taught to be independent from an early age, so they should be able to get dressed and clean themselves up. Parents don’t pick their kids up after school, if the school is close to their home. Even students who go to elementary school get home by themselves.
16. You will encounter many male nursery school teachers.
Male nursery school teachers work in almost every kindergarten. Germans are sure that they can handle a child’s upbringing just as well as their female colleagues and believe that a male influence is essential for children who are brought up by single mothers.
A Picabu user shared his experience of visiting a kindergarten in Germany: “In our group, we have a male nursery teacher who is very muscular, wears a beard, and loves heavy metal. Children adore him. And there’s another guy who plays guitar for the kids and slides down the hill with them.”
17. Insurance programs may be different, but everyone has one.
The reason why everyone has insurance is the high cost of medical help. It is especially important for pregnant women because insurance covers preparation for childbirth, courses for young parents, breastfeeding courses, giving birth itself, subsequent procedures, and home visits from the midwife.
Travel insurance can even affect how you spend your time on vacation: “My mother-in-law lives in Germany. Once my husband and I went to visit her. One evening we wanted to go play volleyball with our new friends, but my husband’s mother did not let us go because we wouldn’t receive compensation for hospital expenses in the event of an injury.”
18. People don’t have to wear any clothes in public saunas. And the vast majority of Germans don’t.
People may cover themselves with a towel in a sauna, but the locals prefer to not do so for hygienic reasons. Germans believe that it’s better to sweat without clothes, than wear them. This habit may come as a shock to unexperienced tourists, taking into consideration that there are no special saunas for men and women only. There’s another rule: all customers must sit on towels or bedsheets so their naked body doesn’t touch the bench. Otherwise, they get a warning from others.
19. It’s easy to get sick leave and skip work, even if you’re not really ill.
To get sick leave, it’s enough to just go to the doctor and pretend to have a couple of flu symptoms. Doctors are often quite loyal to these patients and even ask how many days a patient needs to recover. But employers have their own way of dealing with this practice: they can hire an independent doctor to confirm the diagnosis. This happens when a problem escalates and turns into an open confrontation. Parties may even ask lawyers to help them resolve the conflict.
An owner of a consulting company, Lasse Rheingans, knew about this habit of his employees so he launched an interesting experiment. He implemented a 5-hour workday instead of an 8-hour one. Salaries stayed the same but employees couldn’t use their smartphones, check social media, or have non-work-related conversations during the workday. So the work of the firm became more efficient and employees became happier. Now they only had to work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. but they kept their salaries and had a full day ahead, after they finished work.
20. Germans can buy work time for money.
In Germany, employers keep track of the time their employees spend at the office. Employees can “save” the hours of overtime and even buy them from a company for real money. For example, the annual bonus is usually 3-4 monthly salaries. Many people don’t take the entire bonus in the form of money, but “buy” some time for €2,000 — €5,000. In the future, this will help them retire earlier.
A Pikabu user explained how this system works: “If I work 2 extra hours every week, I’ll get about 90 extra hours by the end of the year. Then I get my bonus and buy 100 more hours for €2,800. As a result, I get 190 extra hours every year that I can deposit on my personal long-term account. So if I keep going like that for 20 years, I’ll save 3,800 extra hours and will be able to take a fully paid 22-month-long vacation before I retire. And If I leave the company before I retire, I can either exchange this time for money or transfer it to the fund of my new employer.
20. Graffiti helps fight against obscene words on transformer substations.
The government allowed street artists to color transformer substations and distribution switchboards. The main condition is that the painting should be connected with the utilities (water, energy, light), look good in the surrounding environment, and not be vulgar or offensive. Here’s what they look like:
21. Dinner is called “Abendbrot” which means “evening bread.”
Children begin to have sandwiches for supper at one year old. Doctors ask young mothers if they’ve already put the child on a general diet and given them… sandwiches.
A woman who moved to Germany shared her story on this topic: “My husband asked me what we were going to have for dinner. I said: “I don’t know. A sandwich will probably be enough.” When he heard this, he came closer to me, put his arms on my shoulders, looked right into my eyes with love, and said: “Congratulations, now you’ve turned into a real German.”
22. People try not to flush the toilet too often in Germany.
Germans are very practical and rational in all aspects of their life, so they follow the rule: if there’s something that can cause bacteria to multiply or smells bad, you should flush. But if it’s just a napkin, some rubbish from the floor or a fly, then you can leave it until your next “serious” visit to the bathroom.
23. If a German doesn’t play sports, they at least follow sports in the news.
Because of the good climate and the variety of free sports grounds, stadiums, and bike paths, not playing sports in Germany feels like a crime. People who are too busy or lazy prefer to just watch football, tennis, ski jumping, or the Tour de France. Not knowing about current sporting events, both in the country and around the world, is a sign of bad taste.
24. In Germany, there’s an unwritten rule: no noise is allowed on Sunday.
Those who decide to redecorate their apartment, do the vacuuming, or mow their lawn on Sunday will certainly get a warning from their neighbors. And no one cares that, for many people, Sunday is the only day when they can get their household chores done. There are also established quiet hours on the other days: depending on the city, people have to keep quiet between 13 p.m. — 15 p.m. and 22 p.m. — 7 a.m.
Bonus: This is how sakura blooms in Germany.
Have you ever communicated with Germans? Or maybe you’ve heard about the travel experience of other people who’ve been to Germany?
Preview photo credit SOLARPIX.COM / East News