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German Culture for Not-So-Dummies

Last updated on 26 Dec 2017

photo-1493640378351-ab2b3f1cd024.jpeg Photo by Daniel von Appen on Unsplash

By Rebecca Isjwara

Planning to enjoy your bratwurst and schnitzel properly like a local in Germany? What’s the wurst that could happen? Studying abroad in Germany might seem easy at first due to the convenience of the country and the technological advancements, but blending and immersing yourself into the German lifestyle is easier said than done. We at ehef.id have done our research to bring you some tips into living your best life in Germany by gathering a few pointers that will hopefully make your life easier.

1. Be punctual

One of the best qualities of Germans is that they are on time for everything. The German precision you’ve commonly heard of isn’t all that mystical, as they will start classes, lectures, or gatherings on the dot. Although it’s pretty counterintuitive compared to our habits of starting everything much later than the stated time, Germans do not have that embedded in their culture. All activities will resume when the second hand strikes twelve, with or without you.

2. Befriend the public transport

Germans’ punctual quality fortunately also translates into their public transport, making for a reliable system to get from one place to another. Buses, trams, and trains leave on the dot, even though they see you running from the other side of the road. You could be there tapping the button that opens your cart door and the tram will still make its move (this one is cough unfortunately based on personal experience cough). The good side of the reliable public transport is that most navigation applications (such as Google Maps or Citymapper) would display the schedules correctly so you can plan your day accordingly and precisely.

3. Step into your nice shoes

An instinctual course of action to take when knowing you have to walk a lot in the city is to wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers or flip flops, but that thought process will have you sticking out like a sore thumb in Germany. Looking around, you’d notice that most people would wear loafers or presentable flats. They tend to dress up in a more tidy manner instead of our usual casual, and this habit translates to their footwear as well.

4. Don’t throw away your bottles!

Be it plastic bottles or beer bottles, Germany has a sophisticated recycling system that will take in your trash and return a few coins in exchange for your doing your part for the environment. Recycling machines can be found all over the country, but are most commonly located in supermarkets. All you have to do is bring the bottles, pop them into a machine, and it will then scan the bottle’s barcode and return your change accordingly. Recycling is a huge part of consumption, and be sure to contribute by disposing your bottles properly instead of just chucking them down the bin.

5. Small talk isn’t appreciated

While doing small talk over here in Indonesia can be seen as a way to maintain conversation with a friend or a neighbour, it is viewed as an insincere act in Germany. There’s a reason why all their sentences sound sharp—it’s because they cut to the chase when having conversations. Pleasantries isn’t something that will improve your relationship, because the actual content of the conversation that’s based on your genuine concerns and wishes will do that instead.