When visiting a foreign country, it’s important to know what cultural differences to be prepared for. While Germany has many similarities to America, there are some interesting cultural differences. Here are some common cultural differences to help prevent any misunderstandings.
• Many basic and surprising cultural differences occur at restaurants and pubs. Water isn’t automatically brought to the table; you’ll need to order it. Also, water comes either with or without “gas” (sparkling), tap water isn’t normally drank or served, and none of it comes with ice.
• If a restaurant or pub is busy, it’s common, and socially expected, for people to share their table with strangers.
• Germans almost never eat with their hands, only appetizers and BBQ is a safe rule. Even pizza is eaten with a fork and knife.
• It’s not common to say grace before eating, but it’s very common to say “Guten Appetit!”
• Many cultural differences also occur in communication and it’s important to know them to avoid offending anyone. In general, Germans are more formal than Americans. They expect to be addressed as “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Miss”, even by people they are in contact with every day (including co-workers). In addition, Germans expect to be addressed as “Dr.” if they have any doctoral degree.
• If you are going to attempt to speak German, make sure to double check the form of “you” you use. Sie is the formal version while the informal du could be insulting.
• Instead of saying “Cheers!” when toasting, say “Prost!” or “Zum Wohl”.
• While Americans easily call someone a friend, Germans reserve “Freund” for long close relationships. One of the biggest cultural differences that can cause problems is that Americans are insulted by what they consider standoff-ishness or Germans are made uncomfortable by Americans who are too close too fast.
Out and About
• Plan ahead, most businesses are closed on Sundays. Germans use Sunday to stay with family, but few Germans attend church.
• Keep change handy, you’ll need to pay to use almost all public restrooms.
• Cultural differences also occur at businesses. Most have separate offices, as opposed to the “open air” American offices. Also, most Germans keep their doors closed and expect people to knock.
These are just a few of the cultural differences. However, in general the German culture is reasonable and nice, if you’re not sure of something go ahead and ask!