13 Cultural Faux Pas to Avoid in Germany

Germany is a fascinating country with a distinct culture and traditions. While it offers a warm and welcoming environment, visitors should be aware of specific customs and etiquette rules to avoid any unintentional faux pas. Understanding these cultural nuances will help you blend in and show respect for the local customs.

From proper dining etiquette to respecting quiet hours, here are some key points to remember while enjoying your time in Germany.

Go Easy on the Drinking

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While you are in Germany, you cannot miss out on the beer. They are best known for their beers and how much they love to party. However, you absolutely cannot mean you can drink beyond your limits.

You cannot afford to be publicly intoxicated while you are in Germany. If you are publicly drunk, you will be looked down upon by German locals. On top of it, being too drunk can get you arrested.

Asking for Tap Water is A Huge No

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If you are from the United States, drinking tap water might be a common practice. However, in Germany, it is a huge no. Remember that tap water is synonymous with plumbing water in Germany. Whether at a host’s place or a restaurant, you cannot ask for tap water to drink.

Do Not Wish ‘Happy Birthday’ Before the Actual Day

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Keep in mind that in Germany, you must never wish someone a birthday before the actual date. In Germany, people celebrate their birthdays on the exact day and not a minute before. Thus, if you say “Happy birthday” to someone before their birth date, it will lead to angry stares. This is because this is seen as bad luck for most Germans.

Respect the Quiet Hours

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In Germany, you will come across the term “Ruhezeit,” which refers to designated quiet hours. These hours are from 10 pm to 6 or 7 am on weekdays and the whole day on Sundays.

Germans are pretty strict about their rules. During Ruhezeit, any sound outside your apartment or car is considered annoying.

Always Stick to Knife and Fork During Eating

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In Germany, eating with hands is a huge no. Whether eating pizza or french fries, Germans always use a knife and fork. You need to do the same. Never use your hands while eating unless it is to break a piece of bread.

Lastly, when you are done eating, place your knife and fork side by side to denote that you have finished. Never keep them crossed.

Do Not Jaywalk and Obey The Traffic Laws

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You must always adhere to the traffic laws here. Jaywalking is a no-go. You must always use the crosswalk while crossing the road, instead of darting off whenever you want to. Germans are extremely strict about their rules. Thus committing stuff like jaywalking can lead to some angry stares and mumbles from fellow German passers-by.

Always Be Punctual

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Germans are extremely punctual. Being late to social gatherings even by five minutes is seen as rude to the host. So, if you are late, do call ahead and apologize.

Separating Trash Properly Is Crucial

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Germans take recycling very seriously. If you put your trash into bins, make sure each goes into its separate category. There are different categories, such as paper, plastic, and organic waste. When you are going to dispose of waste, make sure you do so in the bins meant for it. If you do not, your neighbors will scorn you.

Respect Personal Space and Privacy

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Always respect personal space and privacy in Germany. Unless you are extremely close to someone, you cannot greet them with a hug. Always stay at arm’s length from a person while conversing with them.

During the conversation, never ask them to give a tour of their homes. Do not bring up their families or private lives unless necessary. This can be seen as a breach of privacy and boundaries in Germany.

Stick to The Proper Colors for Flowers

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Remember that, unlike in the United States, the colors of flowers have different meanings in Germany. Red flowers, especially red roses, may only be given to someone you are romantically interested in.

On the other hand, white flowers are associated with funerals. So, if you need help with gifting flowers, do ask a florist for help.

Keep the Conversational Nuances in Mind

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Germans are extremely polite people. Always use “bitte” (please) and “danke” (thank you) whenever appropriate.

Never be loud in public. Germans value their silence in public places, and being loud can cause unnecessary commotion.

Avoid small talk. Instead of sticking to general “hi” and “how are you?”, get straight to the point. Germans enjoy long conversations minus the unnecessary small talk.

Remove Your Shoes Before Going Indoors

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Remember that it is customary in German households to remove shoes before indoors. Not doing so may be seen as impolite to the host of the household.

If you are unsure, ask around or look for cues from your host. This would avoid causing unnecessary scenes, and you would not stick out like a sore thumb.

Avoid Joking On Sensitive Topics

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Always avoid bringing up sensitive topics such as Hitler and Nazis. German reputation has already been scarred because of its history. There is no need to add to it by bringing it up during conversations. It is best to avoid making jokes on topics such as these and the Holocaust so that you do not offend anyone or hit any sore spots.

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