https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pada.online

Dos and Donts of Germany

I just stepped over an interesting video which describes the cultural specialties of Germany:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXtqRYWHNWg

Hope that helps, if you should ever decide to visit Germany!

BTW: The statement about smalltalk is not true. Everybody uses smalltalk in order to prevent an embarrassing silence ;)

Do:

  • have some warm clothes with you
  • be punctual on appointments, neither early nor late
  • shake hands when meeting someone in person
  • have some money in cash available in your pocket, credit card only for larger amount
  • bring a bunch of flowers when visiting a woman
  • be prepared to discuss philosophy or politics
  • say "Guten Appetit. / Danke, gleichfalls." before starting to eat
  • call doctors with "Doktor" in front of their last name

Don't:

  • leave the table before everyone has finished eating
  • walk on the bicycle lane
  • cross the street while the red light is on
  • take books out of the bookshelf without asking
  • walk in the bedroom without permission
  • belch loudly
  • call people in advance of their birthday
  • call any German after ten o'clock in the evening
  • call families before ten o'clock in the morning
  • try to talk to your host in a drunk state
October 18, 2014

64 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

about punctuality, do go late to parties. When people invite you for a party at 9 pm, actually nobody shows up at 9 pm, and you have to wait alone for hours :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FrankySka

not true! That is something that divides Germans 50/50. When I invite people I expect them to be on time, and I am on time too --this works well with most people I know. But I (and my friends) have definitely also showed up at a 9pm party, at 9:00pm, and the host was not there yet…. So this one is to be taken with a grain of salt, and varies a lot amongst Germans.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

that might be the case for you, but statistically speaking I have to tell if there is a house party a big percentage of people will show up much later than the time of invitation :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/FrankySka

Fair enough. I guess it also depends a lot on how big the party is and how well you know people. If you do not know them very well you would probably come later to make sure you are not the first one there. But for close friends I def expect them to be on time. But yeah, this is one where people are certainly varying in thinking what degree of 'punctuality' is required :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

Depends on the party. If it’s a house party with students and booze, then nobody expects you to be punctual.

However, if it’s the birthday party of the lady in the house shown in the video, then it’s better to do it like the guy did. Otherwise the hosts may wonder: “Wo bleibt er denn?”

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

yes, that's for sure. My comment is for students, or the ones who stay like a student forever (like myself:P)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

Yes, that seems to be about the correct criterion. When I lived in Spain, the first time I was invited to a student party I thought it would be like in Germany. Turns out they got seriously worried when a German, of all people, was half an hour late. This actually became a running gag not just with parties. As usual, individual variations are more significant than national averages.

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/raans
  • 2140

Statistically speaking, if the sample size is big enough, I would even expect people to show up normally distributed (in terms of delay/being 'late') ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/landsend

Yes, but the question is: Around what time? If the party is to begin at 9 and the non written codex is to appear at 11 then I would expect the distribution around 11.

That said, coming late is only valid for student parties, and even there only for a subgroup that, in my experience, is in reality quite small but loud and talkative about their party experiences and thus appears bigger. If you don't know in advance that you will visit this kind of people than you should be there in time.

Of course bigger, organized "parties" (like clubs, dorms, student organisations) are something completely different. If you appear on time there you probably could still help with the arrangements.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

Regarding belching, one should not forget what Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) is supposed to have said at table: "Was rülpset und furzet ihr nicht, hat es euch nicht geschmacket?"

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/S0R0USH

I want the don'ts everwhere in the world and I am not even German xD

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jenna_swiss

I can vouch for not walking in the bike lane. Then again, in areas where a bike lane is not necessarily marked, be prepared to share the road anyway!

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sentinemodo

I can vouch for not riding on a bike over pedestrian only area - got myself hunted by a pair of cops and a large dog loosen from a leash after me for that (that and a fine of course when I frozen in place seeing the dog's teeth) - wasn't funny by then :)

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wataya

Well, if you run away from the police they naturally tend to develop an interest for you…

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sentinemodo

I haven't been running away from them :) I was a kid by then, and just rode without noticing a sign it's pedestrian area only. (that was a large paved square that seemed ideal to ride on). Actually I didn't even understood that they were after me, until few lowlifes sitting idly by the church begun to cheer me for having police run after me. (they were both rather fat) and a dog sprinting in my direction. :D

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wataya

Sure, just wanted to make clear that it probably wasn't the severeness of your "crime" that led to the dog action :)

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

Sounds like seriously inappropriate behaviour by the police that could have got them into trouble.

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Grumpycat1

well, it is hard not to belch when you need to.......or are you a trained yogi who is able to supress reflexes? :-) ........to make it clear: it is NOT right to LOUDLY or PURPOSELY belch in the whole Central Europe, if you belch, you should apologise to people around, but, since young people already know that it is just a need, they usually just laugh and do not need to hear any apology........in Czech it is even more liberal, they have a saying: who belches and farts, makes his health hard (the rhyme is better in Czech and Slovak).

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

Dont: be shocked and react when they blow their nose super loud in any place, including an elegant restaurant, or a lecture hall:)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

Do: look directly into the other drinker's eyes when saying prost/zum wohl

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/raans
  • 2140

...unless you want to pay for the next round ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

hmm I have never heard of this :) but they will start screaming at you, because it will bring bad luck, especially about a special "thing" :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sebas

That "Sechs Jahre schlechte Zähne." thing. The "Mann/Frau von Welt" responds with "Danke gleichfalls." :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/raans
  • 2140

Yes, I've [edit:] heard this from someone else, actually. Haven't seen any empirical proof, though ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OnurTONGUL

Every nation has its own ethics and rules but toleration shouldbe considered also

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Apahegy

Don't get drunk in Germany.

Okay, I'll just leave the country in Octobers.

October 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pada.online

I think this means, don't try to talk to your guest family or wife in a drunk state. If you're staying alone in the hotel, probably nobody will care, as long as you pay your bills ;)

October 18, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pont

I took it as "don't get so drunk that you embarrass yourself". Necessary advice, since there are a lot of countries (or, more precisely, sizeable social groups within those countries) where the goal of drinking is usually to dissolve your inhibitions so that you can act like an idiot.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/akkatracker

Are you hinting at bogans ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sebas

I need to talk to my host but he is always in a drunk state. What should I do? :)

Seriously, is open-mouth belching, bed-room breaching, and drunk-talking to sober people more offensive in Germany than in other countries?

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

I don't think customs in this respect are different from other western countries. However, consider that the video is directed not only to westerners.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

My impression was that among most of the population it's pretty much accepted or at least tolerated behaviour in the UK. It never ceased to shock me - both at university parties in Cambridge and in front of discotheques elsewhere. You see a lot less of that in public in Germany, and definitely not at official university parties.

I believe that's a general difference between North European countries and the rest of Europe. Or perhaps more generally between regions traditionally dominated by beer-drinking and those that also have a significant wine tradition.

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

There is nothing special about October in Germany, unless you happen to live in Munich.

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DeeRamm

Looked like good advice.

One question for anyone that knows. The video suggested a 10% tip with meals. A long time ago I had been told that a service charge was included in the bill and that only spare change or "Kleingeld" was typically left. Has this changed?

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pada.online

For fast-food and drive-by shops usually the exact amount is paid, but in stationary restaurants a tip of 10% is considered polite if you were satisfied with the quality of food and service. If you're very low on money, you will not be punished for not paying the 10% tip though ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wataya

I'd say 10% is rather on the upper end of what is common.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Hohenems

A common complaint made by waiters/waitresses at every restaurant I've worked in (over 20-ish years) is that most Europeans are unaware that in Canada (and I am pretty sure the USA too) servers are often paid peanuts (often less than minimum wage). A tip of 15% (+/-) is expected. So a meal that costs $100 ends up being $130 after adding tax and tip.

I'm pretty sure that my Canadian behaviour will follow me if I ever get to Austria and the missus and I will be tipping left right and center.

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wataya

Yes, that's why North American waiters absolutely love German guests. A German can feel very generous when giving 5% For a typical German giving more than 10% is really, really painful :) (A trick that works: you have to add the tip to the prices on the menu before you order your meal. Afterwards it's pretty much hopeless)

October 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

This is of course because we tend to feel cheated when additional costs are added after the purchase of the meal has been settled. In Germany and some other European countries that's actually illegal. As a German in North America, you have to first know about the difference, and then actually accept it. Apparently some people fail at one of the two stages.

(German restaurants have other traps, though. What may appear to be complimentary bread rolls, salt sticks etc. put on the table in a basket is actually an offer to purchase some of these objects for a price that you should find on the menu. It's not a very common practice, so it also catches some Germans by surprise.)

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ebrill_April

The service charge is included in the bill, so you shouldn't feel pressured to tip. It is, however, common for people to round the bill up and give the waiter the change. :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/raans
  • 2140

Technically true, but it's an unwritten rule to tip "reasonably" (not an exact science ;)).

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

Spare change is the rule for France, and as far as I can tell it still applies there. Apparently they are paid enough there. In Germany it's somewhere between the French situation (with rounding up rather than spare change) and the American one. A 10% tip for a meal is definitely always enough, and in a fast food restaurant it may be unexpected. Giving nothing or rounding up to the next Euro is OK for fast food that you pick up yourself (even if you stay there to eat), and it's OK everywhere if you have a reason such as being unhappy (not necessarily outraged) with the service or making sure you have enough money left for a metro ticket. You needn't explain that reason.

A good strategy for typical situations in normal restaurants is to round up so that a tip of about 5%-12% results. Just pick your own limits or better yet determine the appropriate amount instinctively; the trick is to make the amount of the tip appear to be determined by convenience and the sum of the bill rather than a percentage.

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

It's actually common to round up the bill, not to strictly give 10%. Sometimes you give less, sometimes more. Not giving a tip, however, indicates that the waiter, food or restaurant was bad. In places without waiter you normally don't tip. Some of these places now have a tip jar next to the counter, but I guess that's an imported custom, possibly from the US.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

and the "nightmare" about tipping in Germany is that you have to directly tell the waiter how much they should get. This is really unusual in most other countries, and therefore difficult to get used to. They tell you how much your bill is, you have to directly calculate how much tip you want to give and tell them, what a stress! :) Although most people just round up, it is still usually around 10%. if you have a 14,50 euro bill, I think it is rude and unusual to give just 15.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/wataya

I don't think it is rude. You're probably eating out a lot with academics who tend to be more generous than the general population. I think a lot of working class people would totally go for the 15 even if they are really satisfied with the meal. (Not telling you to adjust downwards, though :))

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Selcen_Ozturk

interesting, I will keep in mind :)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/raans
  • 2140

Hmm, I think it's a matter of respect in a way (and like and dislike of the waiting staff). If I can afford to eat at a restaurant, I'll tip "appropriately". It may also depend on the actual place. As I mentioned somewhere, not an exact science. ;)

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

I agree with Wataya. Giving 15 euros in this situation is perfectly fine as it's such a logical round sum. Next time at the same restaurant you may pay the same for a 13,50 bill, or pay 20 euros for a 17,50 bill. If you want to be rude, you will have to work harder!

October 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El_Lutzo

Tipping in Germany is mostly about avoiding small coins. So, 15 Euro is perfect. :)

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/johaquila

I don't think it's really about avoiding small coins. But pretending that it is makes it a lot less awkward for both sides.

October 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/InPxgX6K

and the "nightmare" about tipping in Germany is that you have to directly tell the waiter how much they should get. This is really unusual in most other countries, and therefore difficult to get used to.

I cannot agree with that. In fact I find throwing coins on the table, as is done in Southern Europe, terribly rude.

Speaking about Southern Europe: if you are going to tip in Italy ask first, politely, if it is OK. Some Italians take offence at being tipped. Others will accept the odd tip as the token of appreciation that it's meant to be, but will return the courtesy to you at a latter time, usually by offering you coffee or desserts.

One last thing: I do not know about Germany, but in Austria you do want to tip, and it should not be just rounding up to the nearest Euro or two. If for whatever reason you cannot, better to tell the service, apologise, and pay the exact amount. Likewise if you're unhappy: you are expected to tell people why you are not tipping.

August 20, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/pont

Very informative, thanks! Here's a book I enjoyed (available in English and German) on a similar theme: http://adam-fletcher.co.uk/howtobegerman/ .

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tnel1

vielen dank.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

To "Guten Appetit" I am used to reply with "Guten Appetit", i.e. the same.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KalinaZ

I always say "Mahlzeit!"

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

Also an option, though I mainly know it as a greeting at lunchtime among factory workers ("Grub time."): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChOHnSL7ZCg#t=240

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KalinaZ

really? Interesting, first time i hear that... I suppose you're a native speaker, right?

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

Yes, I'm a native speaker, and I've worked in factories/companies in Karlsruhe and in Berlin. Of course you can also say "Mahlzeit" at table instead of "Guten Appetit", though I'm more used to the latter.

Keep in mind that, as with many customs, there could be regional differences.

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/biertopf

Munich here; Mahlzeit is a greeting.

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KalinaZ

OK, vielen Dank!

October 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/El_Lutzo

"Mahlzeit!" is used at lunch time as a greeting (in companies after "Guten Morgen!" and before "Schönen Feierabend!") .

October 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kay-mika

you should always be a little to early for appointments and dates

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/feklee

Well, depends. If you're invited to someone's home, it's better not to show up before the actual time. Your host may feel stressed, still being busy with preparation. Also keep in mind that people are different: These rules obviously are a generalization.

For professional appointments, however, better arrive a little earlier.

October 19, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ACastle_10

So helpful, thank you so much!

October 22, 2014
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