Whether you’re traveling from America or elsewhere, the country of Germany can make us feel like a fish out of water, and it isn’t because their citizens aren’t accommodating. On the contrary, Germany is famously welcoming of foreigners, but their customs may feel strange to us.
What to Know Before Traveling to Germany
As one of the most sought-after vacation sites on the planet, Germany is an incredible place to see with your own eyes. To fit in with local citizens, be sure to keep the following tips in mind.
1. Not Everyone Can Speak English
It’s estimated that 56% of the German population can speak English with varying levels of fluency, which is quite high considering English isn’t their official language. However, most fluent speakers live in cities and typically hold office jobs, people you may not communicate with.
Taking German language classes online will make it easier for you to navigate Germany as a whole, not just the rural communities. Learning phrases like “was kostet das?” (how much is that?), “ja/nein” (yes/no), and “danke” (thank you) will help you experience more of Germany.
2. Most Shops are Closed Sundays
About 60-70% of the German population is Christian, meaning most shops, restaurants, and grocery stores will be closed on Sundays. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do anything on Sundays, but you’ll need to plan your trip around this possible but minor inconvenience.
Museums, parks, and brunch establishments are still open on Sundays, and there are a few markets that cater to their non-religious portions of the population. We recommend going for a hike, exploring some caves, visiting an art gallery, or spending the day at a theme park.
3. You’ll be Traveling by Train or Bike
Germany has one of the best transportation systems in the world and offers a range of facilities, from bus and tram to suburban commuter rails and underground subways. If you don’t want to or can’t drive in Germany, you won’t have to worry about having to stay in one place.
To use Germany’s transportation system effectively, you’ll need to understand fare zones in each city (A, B, and C in Berlin, for example). Germany is also a bike-friendly country, so if you prefer to cycle to your next destination, you can easily rent a two-wheeler during your trip.
4. Recycling and Cash-Based System
There are two small cultural differences Americans will definitely notice when traveling to Germany: Germans love to use cash and love recycling. Cash is king in Germany. Most shops, stores, bars, and restaurants don’t have card machines, which may come as a shock.
Not only will you have to get more acquainted with ATMs, but you’ll also have to get behind the German love of recycling. Most grocery stores have a recycling depot, where you can drop your bottles in and receive an instant refund of up to 25 cents. It’s a shame America doesn’t do this!
5. Organization, Order, and Punctuality
It’s never nice or fair to stereotype an entire culture of people, so we’re not saying that all Germans are fuddy-duddies because they love rules. We’re not even saying that preferring order over chaos is a bad thing, but a lot of Germans tend to prefer organization and stability.
Germany is well-known for having stricter laws and sub-laws than other countries. The amount of over-regulation isn’t just in the law itself, but it’s also in its citizens, who pride themselves on being hard workers who are always on time, so it’s important that you’re punctual as well.