Visiting any foreign country requires you to automatically expect a variety of different social traditions, business practices, and laws than what you are accustomed. However, actually enjoying your visit in a foreign country requires you to take an additional step and brush up on that country’s seeming peculiarities. At best, not doing so can be embarrassing. At worst, not doing so can be downright miserable. Ines Klein, travel agent at Urlaub, shares her tips to make your trip to Germany stress-free and safe.
1. Small amounts of cash
For the best overall experience, you should carry credit cards as well as a small amount of cash. Although not all businesses take credit credits, many businesses do, so you will not need a large surplus of cash for shopping. However, you will need change to use public restrooms.
Additionally, the shops that do take cards might only take regional, German cards. In these instances, cash will save you from having to put back that sandwich or souvenir.
2. Sense of visual personal space
Respecting someone’s personal space generally consists of not standing in or invading the space immediately around that person. Similarly, respecting someone’s visual personal space involves not staring. You should know well ahead of time — Germans have no real sense of visual personal space. They stare.
Even after you become uncomfortable, they continue to stare. However, this is nothing to worry about. It is part of their culture, often attributed to World War II where many people acquired a wariness for outsiders. Although it might seem strange, old habits created under harsh circumstances die hard. Consequently, you should be prepared for staring.
Although Germans will stare at you, they will do so quietly. They like everyone to be hushed — almost as if there is some public secret being told. Combined with the staring, the level of soft quietness can be unnerving for visitors. Like staring, this sense of quiet is a holdover from World War II when it was a very tense, uncomfortable society, and modern-day Germans have never really gotten over it. The younger generations are beginning to become noisier, but most people in public remain hushed.
4. Bike Lanes
This is perhaps one of the best features of German society — bicyclists are not synonymous with vehicles. This clear delineation between vehicle and non-vehicle saves lives and commuter frustration.
However, for visitors, it will come as a quick surprise to have the sidewalk suddenly shared with a fast-moving stream of bicycles. That is correct–the bicycle lane is on the sidewalk, and pedestrians should not walk in it. That said, it is easy to stay safe. The bike lane is colored and very clearly marked. In contrast, the pedestrian lane is gray.
5. Train tickets
In Germany, you will inevitably ride a train. That said, you will find no security gate or ticket checker. This seeming lack of security should not encourage you to simply hop on a train because the ticket checkers ride undercover on the trains. If you do not have a ticket, you will get a fine. Additionally, if your ticket is not validated — you will receive a fine.
Simply put — businesses are closed on Sundays. This closure of businesses is to observe various religious beliefs and provide the entire country with a day to be with family and friends. Consequently, you should purchase all you need for the weekend on Saturdays, including the following essentials:
- pet supplies and food
Recycling bins are large, red bins, and you are advised to recycle. Not recycling is frowned upon in Germany. In fact, not recycling will result in some not-so-quiet grumbling as someone takes the opportunity to remove from the garbage your plastic bottle and deposits it into the appropriate recycling bin.
8. Speak German
While you are in Germany, actually speaking German is the only real way to have a communicative, productive day. Germans can often speak English. However, they choose not to. Instead, they speak German. You will find yourself well received if you speak their native language.
Unlike other countries that pay service workers low wages and force them to rely on the financial gratitude of others, Germany considers the service industry an actual profession, and the people in the service industry take pride in their work.
As such, service workers are paid a livable wage that includes benefits. People doing this type of work consider it their privilege to serve, and they do so in grand order. Since they are well paid and enjoy what they are doing, there is no need to tip anyone.