Traveling to Germany is a wonderful experience. The chance to meet new people and experience a completely foreign land is a once in a lifetime opportunity. If you’re planning on traveling there, educate yourself about the cultures, customs and language. Know in advance which types of behaviors are acceptable and what to expect for your tourist dollar.
If your upcoming trip to Germany is within the next few weeks, learn how to speak the basics of German in one weekend with this Udemy course.
Keep coins with you at all times. You must pay every time you use a public toilet in Germany. Debit cards aren’t accepted in public restrooms. ATM machines don’t dispense euro coins either.
Be prepared to pay more for just about everything, including dining out, hotel rooms, travel by train, clothes, etc. Prices are even higher in airports, where a small glass bottle of Coke will cost you up to 5 Euros. Ouch!
If you want discount travel, you’re going to have to start looking early. Very few discounts are available to travelers in Germany. Exploit any connections you have within the country to enjoy insider discounts.
If you’re going to Munich for Oktoberfest, bring plenty of cash and expect to spend almost all day waiting in lines.
Behavior, Manners, Customs and Laws
Germans are more reserved and less friendly than Americans. They aren’t this way to be offensive, it’s just a cultural norm there. Don’t take offense if strangers don’t want to chit-chat or joke with you while waiting in lines.
Bring your kids if you want to! Germany is very clean and safe. There is a lot for little ones to do too. The people there are more friendly to children than adults.
Like most small towns in America, all offices and stores close on Sundays. Get your shopping done early on Saturday, because many shops close early. Germans like to have their weekends off with their families.
Women shake hands as often as men there, so don’t neglect the women. You might offend them. Never give a German woman you’ve just met a single red rose, as that is reserved for lovers only.
Bring a present if you go visiting friends or long-lost relatives. Germans love wine.
Don’t throw around the words Nazi, Hitler or any other negative WWII reference. The Germans are highly sensitive to this.
Keep your bodily functions to yourself. They won’t be impressed with your Oktoberfest beer belching routine.
Use your table manners. Forks are held in the left hand and knives on the right, put your napkin in your lap and remember that spoons are used for liquid foods, not for eating vegetables or spreading butter. When you’re finished eating, lay your silverware back on the plate perpendicular to each other and resting at a 45 degree angle. Don’t leave the table until everyone is finished.
Germans are private people. If you’re visiting family or friends, don’t walk into their bedrooms unless invited. Ask before using their restrooms and close the door when you’re finished. Don’t touch their nick-knacks or personal belongings. This is considered invasive and rude.
The country of Germany is pristine and they’d like to keep it that way. Expect harsher punishments for littering. Avoid trouble by cleaning up after yourself, which falls in line with general good manners.
Always keep your passport with you. Do not keep it in your hotel and do not use it as collateral at car rental agencies. You will have to show your passport over and over again, so keep it in a safe, convenient location on your person.
Germans have bicycle lanes that they actually use. Don’t walk in them unless you see a blue sign specifically giving you permission to do so. It’s illegal and dangerous.
The Autobahn Highway has strictly enforced speed limits, with only a few unrestricted speed areas. Pay close attention to speed limit signs and don’t break the law.
German nudity laws are very flexible, and that is reflected on the beaches. Don’t point or stare at topless sunbathers. It’s perfectly legal and normal there.
Germans like to discuss philosophy and politics. Avoid boring small talk and discuss things that really matter to them.
Speak concisely and precisely. The German’s usually speak English exceptionally well. You don’t have to “dumb it down” to speak with them.
Learn a few common phrases in German so that you can show an effort to fully immerse yourself in the German experience. Udemy offers several German language classes like this one to help you learn the language.
If you need to make phone calls, do so after 10pm and before 9am only with expressed permission. Germans sometimes rest between the hours of 1pm and 3pm.
Everyone pays for their own bills while dining in groups. Don’t depend on German friends or family members to foot the bill for you. That would be very uncommon. Servers usually get a 10% gratuity rather than 15-20% that we give in America.
If shopping in tourist districts, your bank card will be fine. However, if going to a restaurant or venturing off the beaten path, bring cash. Most small shops in little towns won’t accept debit or credit cards. Download ATM locator apps to your phone or tablet and bring it with you if it’s convenient.
Germany is home to many beautiful parks. The people there use their recreational areas often. If you want to spend some down time outside getting to know the Germans, go to the park.
The quality of beef in Germany is slightly lower than that in America. The steaks are great, but you can get a better one back home. Other cuts of meat are just about identical to ours.
- Spatzle, or wheat and egg based homemade noodles, are one of the most famous dishes in Germany. Kasepatzle is spatzle with cheese, and is a specialty of Southern German cuisine. It’s basically a more wholesome version of American mac n’ cheese.
- Brezel, or white soft pretzels, are made with a yeast dough and sprinkled with salt or seeds. Brezel vendors are set up in every bakery and street card across the country. They’re a great munchie to eat while sightseeing. Don’t forget to wash it down with some fabulous German specialty beer.
- Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte is one of the most beautiful cakes you’ll ever see and is almost unavoidable to the German dining experience. Made with fresh, tart cherries and black forest chocolate, this cake is topped with whipped cream, maraschino cherries and shaved chocolate. One bite of this cake and you’ll want to make it home. Learn how to make delicious cakes and other foods with a cooking class through Udemy.
- Apfelstrudel, or apple strudel, is another German specialty dish that’s almost criminal not to eat. The Germans are the originators of this delectable dessert, and their recipes are even better than grandma’s.
- Schnitzel is a boneless cut of meat that’s breaded, fried and served with lemon. Wiener Schnitzel is veal and schnitzel wiener is pork. Schnitzel is a German food most Americans like, as it closely resembles chicken fried meats.
- Wurst is another word for sausage, of which there are 1500 types in Germany. You’ll never be able to try them all while on vacation, but it’s worth a shot! The best selling German sausages include bratwurst, Viennese wieners, currywurst, weisswurst, sauerkraut and rostbratwurst.
Traveling Within the Country
Public transportation is expensive in comparison to the states, but there are almost no areas that are “off the grid” so to speak. It doesn’t matter whether you need to travel to a small town or to the border with France, there is a train or bus that can get you there.
Speak enough German to be able to ask for directions, find a restroom or order a meal with a German for Travelers course through Udemy.
The Germans travel in style. Their trains and buses are comfortable, so leave your travel pillow behind if you want more room in your bag for souvenirs.
Don’t neglect checking weather forecasts and be prepared. If you’re traveling there between the months of October and April, know that the weather is very cold and snowy. Do bring ear muffs, gloves, thick socks, long johns, scarves, an umbrella and appropriate outerwear for winter travel.
You will probably be doing a lot of walking while you’re sightseeing. Bring comfortable shoes.
Begin preparing for your trip to Germany as soon as you know you’re going. Learn about famous landmarks you’ll visit, view fair and events schedules and learn about the history of some of the German festivals.
Learn about the history of German classical music with a class like this one through Udemy. Visit the homes or concert venues of several famous composers while sightseeing. Most of all have fun!
Germany has a lot of mom and pop stores. Many times the store owners live above their family businesses. The culture is very family oriented, so earn extra points by shopping at local small businesses.
Germans start their nights of partying later than Americans. Bars in Germany start hopping at 11pm at the earliest. If attending a German party, don’t plan on getting back to your room until about 7am.
There is plenty of live music at clubs, bars and discos. Wherever there is live music, there is dancing. Where there is dancing, there are sure to be plenty of Germans ready to show you a good time in their homeland.
In Germany, late night munchies are very spicey and often cheesy. However, after a night out on the town Germans eat fried eggs, buttered toast and sausages, donuts or other breads.
Learn how to speak with the Germans at the club when you take a foreign language class through Udemy.
Unless you’re staying at an expensive hotel, you’re going to want to do your laundry at a public laundromat. Doing laundry in Germany is a little different from doing it in the US. Over there, you must adjust the settings on the washing machine for every load’s color. Water is heated by the washer rather than a water heater.
In the US, you can’t pack your top loading washing machines full and expect the clothes to get clean. German washers are front loaders, and can be packed fuller because the friction helps clean the clothes. Surprisingly, German washing machines get clothes cleaner more efficiently.
Dryers are very expensive to purchase and operate in Europe, so most younger people don’t have them. Line drying clothes is normal there.
Our dryers’ low heat setting is about the same temperature as their high heat setting. Be prepared to put your sightseeing on hold for at least 2 hours per load of laundry.
The Best Places to Visit
- Berlin is a cultural hotspot and the hipster center of Germany. If you want to have a social experience and learn about modern Germans, this is a great place to visit.
- Dresden is packed full of architectural hotspots. Ancient palaces, castles and the original township survived the worst of the WWII bombings, and most of the old city is preserved. This is a wonderful place to learn about art history. If art is your passion, take an art history class like this one through Udemy.
- Marburg is a college town that is somewhat isolated in a densely wooded mountain range. The food is absolutely fantastic and there is a castle on the hill open for tours.
- Hamburg is the birthplace of the hamburger, one of America’s favorite foods. The cuisine is out of this world! The city is dotted with small lakes and forests and there are several museums and historical sites to visit. Even though this is a port city, it is extremely clean. Be sure to check out the harbor for breathtaking views.
A vacation is so much better when you can understand the language, culture and customs. Before you take your trip, read up on a little German history, read a few newspapers and get in touch with the local beat and take a class like this one through Udemy to learn enough of a foreign language to get by on vacation. Don’t forget to eat well, see as much as you can and make memories to last a lifetime.