The funniest 5 mistakes foreigners make in Germany

Germany is a wonderful place to live and I thoroughly enjoyed my three years there: it’s an organised place, they have great beer and long summer nights, they are experts at Christmas, and so much more. However, one thing most foreigners soon realise is that there are quite a lot of rules in Germany, and not only that, but people actually follow the rules. All the time.

So much so that it’s almost effortless to write a post about the many mistakes foreigners make in Germany. (Edit: a year later, I’d collected enough mistakes for another post!) Being a foreigner in Germany isn’t simple, but once you learn from my mistakes, I’m sure you’ll find it a lot of fun!

5 mistakes foreigners make in Germany

I was inspired when I posted this great Matador article about what Americans learn when they move to Germany on the Not A Ballerina Facebook page and many of my readers piped up to say that the first point on accidentally breaking the law was something they’d all done. I had to sympathise as I’d done the same. So in case you are headed to Germany soon, whether for a short stay or (more risky in terms of mistake-making) a long stay, hopefully sharing these experiences will help you avoid some errors!

Oh, please remember: I love the Germans (I was married to one and therefore related to a tonne more) and I actually rather like their structured, rule-filled society: but it can be hard to get used to and hard to figure out all the rules, at first. And another disclaimer: some of these things definitely don’t apply to all Germans or all parts of Germany. But they do all ring true to my own experience of small-town Baden-Württemberg.

Don’t do anything on Sunday in Germany

I well remember my first weekend in Germany, sitting in a tiny hotel room alone, waiting to start work on Monday.

For some (disorganised) reason, I had run out of toothpaste. My entire task for that Sunday was simply to get some toothpaste. Back in Bratislava, where I had lived for the previous year, you could do anything on Sunday. Not so in Germany, or particularly small town Germany of a decade ago (I don’t think that part has changed much since). No supermarkets were open. I found a pharmacy nearby but that was closed too. It did, however, have a small sign indicating the single pharmacy in town that was open, and I trudged all the way there and finally bought my toothpaste. I soon learnt not to plan to actually achieve anything on a Sunday. (The good news is that toothpaste in Germany seemed just like at home – so that was one less difference, once I was able to buy it!)

Karla of Pink Carry On told me she mistakenly hung out her laundry on a Sunday. She learnt never to do that again! My friend Jen once hung laundry on her balcony on a Sunday (once only!) and washed the communal stairs in her building on a Sunday too – highly frowned upon.

Don’t wash the car in the car park: car washing in Germany

This one was me. On one of my first weekends in Germany (it may even have been on a Sunday, which would have made it even worse, obviously) I washed my new-to-me VW Golf in the car park of my block of flats. In retrospect I can see that this is not very environmentally sound (although I promise I didn’t use that much water) and I can appreciate that doing it at a proper car wash place (being Germany I’m pretty sure that water gets recycled …) is better. In the realm of car washing rules, Germany is miles ahead of Australia, that’s for sure. Car washing laws in Germany are quite strict to prevent soap and oil getting into the waste water system, apparently, so don’t just set up at a car wash at your house!!

No washing your car in the car park in Germany

Can you wash your car in Germany? Not at home! This is my little VW Golf in Germany in the exact spot where I erroneously washed it

Unfortunately when I tried washing car in Germany none of my neighbours were brave enough to come out and tell me that it was against the rules and one of them (still not entirely sure which one) left an anonymous note in my letter box telling me that cars don’t get washed there. Oops. Seems I needed to take it to a Germany car wash instead. And not on a Sunday!

Don’t be a hooligan (or even a slight hooligan) in Germany

A friend who will remain nameless confessed on my Facebook page that she once “borrowed permanently” a sign from an Intercity train in Germany, as a souvenir. Taking (borrowing?!) signs – even street signs if they feature your name, for example – is something that is obviously not legal here but it, well, happens, and people laugh about it. Not in Germany. This friend mentioned it to a German friend and said the friend was mortified and never looked at her in the same way again!

This also applies to getting outrageously drunk. It’s okay to have a beer on the train in Germany – something that is definitely not okay here in Australia – but I can totally understand why. In Germany, I can’t actually remember seeing drunken crowds being loud and obnoxious – not even at a crazy time like when the FIFA World Cup took place there – but here in Australia, stumbling into a slightly scary drunken crowd on a weekend night in town is commonplace, and I don’t especially like it.

Crowds watching FIFA World Cup training in Germany

There was plenty of beer available at this FIFA training event but not the slightest sign of drunkenness

Don’t shower after 10pm in Germany

An actual German (who grew up there) told me this one: Stephanie said that although she never understood it, her friends and family all stick to this idea that you can’t have a shower after 10pm because it will disturb the neighbours. I actually do remember being able to hear the noise of showers from the apartment above us when I lived in Germany (and of course here in Australia a large majority of us live in separate dwellings so this never happens) and so I think the idea is all about being considerate and quiet once it gets late.

I actually do kind of like the consideration of the neighbours thing – it doesn’t always work that well here in Australia and certainly I tend to be in bed by close to 10pm and I like it to be quiet. But if you’re a night owl then the magic hour of 10pm in Deutschland is something to be wary of!

Don’t make small talk at the supermarket checkout in Germany

Now this was definitely my experience, along with that of my friend Kate who mentioned it on Facebook, but not everyone agrees that this is the case. So from a sample size of two: making small talk with the checkout operator in the supermarket is not the done thing. Here in Australia it’s practically expected to make conversation with the post box when you post a letter, and for me personally it’s a really uncomfortable feeling to just stand there silently while my groceries are all scanned.

In my experience of small-town Germany, small talk of any kind is not really done that well – even my German husband, after eight years in Australia, struggles with the amount of general chit-chat that the average Aussie partakes in. I remember teaching business English to a group of managers in Germany who had worked together for many years, but who had never realised they had children attending the same school until we discussed it in my English conversation class! I think a lot of Germans reserve their stock of words for meaningful conversation. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a culturally different thing for me, for sure.

But: Germans are truly really cool people

Yes, there are rules. And so many more: you definitely wouldn’t jaywalk in Germany, and I remember spending a lot of time patiently waiting with friends for a green pedestrian light when there was not a single car in sight. You always make sure you recycle everything correctly, even though the various recycling systems can feel like you’ll need another university degree to understand them. Finding a good car wash in Germany is essential, too (as I learnt).

But Germans are great. An orderly society is a good society and they manage to get a lot done during working hours (no small talk, remember?), enjoy their weekends (no work on Sundays … definitely now washing car on Sunday in Germany …), and take long holidays and travel the world, which of course I think is a wonderful thing. This means most Germans have a pretty wise perspective on the world, they know why their society works so well, and they stick to the rules, but still manage to enjoy their lives. Pretty enviable set of characteristics, if you ask me. Life in Germany for foreigners who learn and follow the rules is awesome, I promise.

I still want to know, though: have you ever broken any rules (unspoken or otherwise) in Germany? Let me know in the comments. And then do take a look at my second post on mistakes foreigners make in Germany – I realised there were still more!





  1. This is quite funny, and also true. I love how each country has its little quirks. I lived in Germany back in 2005/2006, and I was trying to remember if I made any of these mistakes. The not showering after 10 pm does ring a bell.

  2. Rae Hilhorst says

    I think I might break all of those rules and get thrown out of town xx

  3. Same in France about Sundays. All shops, most attractions and eateries are closed. There a few places open in Paris, but literary nothing in small towns.

    Showering after 10 pm may disturb the neighbors – whoa, this is super weird!

    • Aha! So it’s not just Germany! Actually, I remember being in Strasbourg on a Sunday and experiencing the same. In theory I quite like the Sunday-rest-day theory but in practice it can be quite inconvenient, especially if you’ve been busy all week working!

    • Vivienne LYNCH says

      Heck, no! It’s a great rule as I lie here waiting for my noisy Irish neighbours to shut up and finish clattering in the bathroom! The water pipes bang like crazy! I’m moving to Germany in July and I’m really looking forward to quality sleep!😁

  4. You have a really gorgeous blog Amanda! Keep up the good work!

  5. I break the shower rule: Showering after 10PM is actually against the rules in the building I live in Hannover, but a court has ruled that this is no enforceable. This is a good thing, because my ice hockey team doesn’t get out of practice until 10PM. I am pretty careful to make sure that the water doesn’t pound on the floor and I only actually run the water when I need it. Nobody has complained yet.

    Another rule that I broke was to bring the cake for my birthday, which was on a Saturday, into work on the Friday before. My colleagues were 1) amazed that an American knew about the bring cake on your birthday rule but 2) appalled that I would celebrate my birthday in advance. Apparently, it is bad luck and I should have waited until Monday to bring the cake.

    • Oh Sue! This is hilarious and also good to know that these rules I learn about from my husband and others are really true.

      Especially the cake one. I am not a fan at all of the birthday person being required to bring the cake (I know my sister-in-law does baking for her birthday just in case people drop in, they come along for her birthday without even telling her in advance but they expect cake!) but my husband always tells me you can’t say happy birthday before somebody’s birthday. (I still do!)

    • Brigitte griffith says

      Oh yes it is. I am German living in Texas. When we are in Germany my American husband likes to break the rules and I get very upset. I am still trying to be very considered here in Texas about talking loud in our back yard so I won’t disturb the neighbors. By the way , the pastry and coffee shops are open on Sunday’s and also the ice cream shops. We Germans have to have our cakes, pastries and coffee on Sunday’s.

  6. Loved your post!

    Oh, yes, those anonymous notes – I got some, too, for not parking 100% correctly. There you can excuse the writer, maybe he came when I´d left already – but yours is a coward! Say it to the person directly, I´d say!

    Yip, I learned after we had a beer when waiting for the bus in Perth: Not allowed!
    And I really saw some dude on the bus drinking wine from a bottle wrapped up in brown paper!!!

    Haha, yes! I could´t believe it when at Wollies they had a chat at the checkout! That explains also that the dude in Wanneroo at the checkout chatted. I thought he does so cause we´re Germans… don´t take yourself that seriuos, I got it!
    Though in our store around the corner I witness it, too, now – short chats, very short chats. The German is in a hurry, haha.

    Ack, recycling, yes. We overdo it, I´d say. So often you read it all ends up in one bin and goes to be burnt anyways…

    And yes. I am German. And yes. On the way to Perth. No more beer when waiting for Transperth, I got it!

    • Iris, thanks so much for your comment! I’m (kind of) glad it’s not just me who got anonymous notes … and I laughed about your experience with the Woollies checkout guy having a chat with you. Here in Australia I feel nearly insulted if they *won’t* chat!

      And also it’s lovely to “meet” another Perth-German!

  7. I made the mistake of washing clothes on a Sunday, our landlord came
    Immediately and told us about the Sunday rule. We love Germany, best three years of our lives. 1990-1993

  8. JessicaPro says

    My husband and I were just there a few weeks ago and had a few funny experiences but one that stood out.
    We had stopped for lunch in Fussen on our way to Neushwanstein (sp?) castle. On our way out of town we were warming up my husbands new sports car while typing in the address in the GPS. A man came up to our window yelling at us and gesturing like he was turning a key. We asked if he spoke English and he just kept on telling (or loudly talking) and then finally just walked away.
    My husband and I were so confused! It wasn’t until we were stuck in traffic later and heard all these cars engines turning off when they came to a stop that we realized what he most likely meant. Apparently you don’t warm up your engine in Germany. You don’t idle while typing in your GPS either. It makes sense!! I feel like the big idiot now and when I see people just sitting there texting or putting on makeup while their car is running I too judge them. 😉 There is a reason why Germany smelled so amazing and the air felt so fresh!!

    • Oh Jessica! I got in trouble for that too, but I’d forgotten! I can’t remember where we were or what we were doing, but a man came up and rapped on our window and told us to turn our engine off. We never did it again!

  9. Great blog! I just got home from Germany with my German boyfriend. I was there a week before I used the F-word (for emphasis), and was told “we don’t say that here”. True! I did not hear it once! (And did not say it again.)

  10. Apart from the showering which sounds like urban folklore ( unless you live in a packed flat in East Germany ) it’s all true.. must say: try and steal a sign the UK! And I’ve lived here for a while.

  11. ive been to germany a few times (live in the country next to it) and I actually never heard of those rules, never noticed them either. The shops were open on Sunday, I showered in the middle of the night and why wouldn’t people want to wash a car on the streets.. I guess I’ll break a lot of rules too, except for the stealing signs part, why would anyone do that..

    I did notice that there weren’t any drunk people/crowds indeed! Not even in a bar or anything.

    • You’re lucky Laura, if you try living there you might be told of the rules quite quickly! My neighbours were certainly rather rude to me about the car washing thing!!! But I do like that it’s rare to see rowdy drunks. (Definitely not the case here in Australia).

  12. Zoe Clements says

    I got in huge trouble when I was in Munich. We ate our breakfast in a little cafe / bread shop and when we had finished we neatly stacked up our plates on the table and went to leave. I had the German waitress shouting at me in German. When I looked at her blankly and explained that I didn’t actually understand German she then yelled at me in English. Apparently we were to take our dishes to a rack and stack them there. The rack was around the corner with a sign clearly marked on the wall I was told (shouted at). I then had to explain that as I didn’t understand German it was fairly reasonable to assume that I couldn’t read it either. She finished her tirade off with ‘at least I would know next time I came’. I assured her that it was highly unlikely there would be a next time. Moral of the story … follow all rules to the letter … even if you can’t read the letter(s)!

    • Oh Zoe, you naughty thing you!!! You’re right. You do need to follow the rules in Germany and not all of the locals realise that you may not know the rules (as I experienced quite a few times myself). At least we get funny stories to tell later though …

  13. As a German who has not been living in Germany for some years, I’m now at a point where I’m no longer “getting” all the rules, some unspoken but seemingly so important.
    My sister and parents still live there, and last year my sister bought her Christmas tree at the beginning of December, or maybe it was even Mid-December, because her kids would visit their father just after Christmas and not come back until January, when the Christmas tree is thrown away. She just wanted to get it early, so they could enjoy it while they were there. Our parents were appalled. I knew that it is customary to buy the tree only a couple of days before Christmas, but I did not realize that it is considered bad taste and a total no-go to do it earlier.
    Another story – my sister’s English neighbours did not know that the trash bin for biowaste is ONLY for biowaste and threw their biowaste into the bin inside plastic bags. The garbage man noticed that and did not accept it. In that city the garbage is recollected once a week, but it’s 1st week paper, 2nd week biowaste, 3rd week plastic, 4th week residual waste, or something like that. So not only were the poor English newcomers stuck with their stinky biowaste for another month, they also had to take all the bags out of the bin, open them and empty them into the bin …
    But I still recommend Germany to everybody, it’s a beautiful place, and people are really nice and welcoming once you get to know them.

    • You’re right – some of the rules are so inflexible and your poor sister who tried to do the right thing by getting the Christmas tree early for her kids is a great example! But yes, it’s a really beautiful place and some of the rules help it be an even lovelier one – just not all of them!

  14. Hey there! I really enjoyed reading your post! Being German myself and having lived here most of my life I found it hillarious to see us German’s from a foreigner’s perspective. 😀
    I think a lot of what you experienced is true for most of Germany. In Berlin, where I was born and raised, there seem to be less rules though, e.g. I have never heard of the no shower after 10pm rule, and I actually do know Germans who might or might not have stolen a street sign back in the 1990s. 😉
    But that Sunday-rest-day-thing is very very true, even here in the capital of Germany. But restaurants and bars and the common attractions are all open, so there’s plenty of fun things to do on a Sunday. After all, it’s Sunday Funday, right? 😉
    Hugs from Berlin,

    • You’re so right Julia – in fact just yesterday (Sunday!) we were discussing this, as all the shops etc are open and were so full – and yet a year or two ago they weren’t open here and people were probably hanging out at home with their families instead. So, maybe not such a good thing!

  15. Hi,
    being German it is really interesting to read foreigners thoughts about German rules.
    Washing cars on the street is forbidden by law because of the cleanser. You have to pay for if you are catched.
    Having a shower after 22:00 is still a problem while you live in a flat. Same problem with listening loud music, using a hairdryer or starting the washing machine. From 22:00 to 6:00 it is called “Nachtruhe”. In addition the same quiet time is between 12:00 and 15:00 and on the total Sunday(no hammer or drill madchine e.g.)
    Do not disturb others, it is the normal time to sleep and Sunday is the day of the Lord (even if you are not religious) .
    Your neighbours can call the police and believe me it isn’t amusing to speak with those officers.
    The birthday cake story is absolutely right: Never congratulate in advance or make a party in advance! Bad luck!?
    I rarely make small talk in supermarkets.
    In large football stadium like ours( 88.000 places)the hardcore fans are drunken after the match, but if you are drunken: be quiet, otherwise you will be picked up by the police which was called by a passerby.
    30 years ago we had just 5 TV channels, during the films no advert breaks and our shops were open Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:30 , Saturday from 10:00 to 15:00. Nowadays in bigger cities you have Monday to Saturday 7:00 to 21:00, but old people don’t shop at those ‘uncivilised times’, just the younger <50
    If you know that you only can buy fresh bread at the bakery on Sundays you adapt your shopping plan. I love the time with my family on Sundays. At an emergency you can buy important things for a really high price at the gas station!
    I think we many more rules and some are idiotic or old fashioned, but I love our structure!
    I think the younger the people the higher the disposition to break rules. I think my grown up kids have crossed many red lights at the traffic lights (and it costs15€ if you were caught! !!!)

    Please excuse my English, I just hope you have understood what I have written ?

    • Martina, your English is excellent, I certainly understood everything! And actually I do know what you mean about loving the structure. It makes life more straightforward and simple when you know that something will always be the same. There are definitely some parts of it I really love! Thanks so much for your comment.

    • I would really like to see in which law(sl are those rules you speak about written.
      All Germans think they know what’s in the law.

  16. Hey Amanda,

    I’m from Germany and always find it interesting to see ones owne culture from a different view. Most topics I can absolutely confirm. E.g. shops beeing closed on sunday – this is the same all over Europe since it’s a christian rradition that Sunday is a rest day.

    Also the birthdaything is absolutely true. It’s funny to hear, that you actually can have a birthday party in advance in your country. I mean, why would you? It IS not your birthday and who really knows if you “sruvive” it. You wouldn’t congratulate someone for his exame or new job a day in advance, would you? Very interesting! (:

    What I consider as absolutely untrue – but not for your fault! – ist that you can’t wash your car in the street. I was raised in a small village in western Germany and we ALWAYS wash our car on the street / our ground facing to the street. I also would have done so in the city where I lived. I guess you just found an unpleasant neighbour. 😀

    Overall thank you for your interesting view on Germany (:

    Many regards

    • Great to hear from you Salim! And I take your point about the birthday in advance – perhaps we are just quite optimistic that we will still survive that long!!! Interesting to hear about the car washing, and yes perhaps I just had a bad neighbour!!

  17. I went to Germany years ago for my son’s wedding. At that time, I smoked. One morning, I dropped a cigarette butt on the street and an elderly man chewed me out ( have no idea what he said) but picked it up and put it in my pocket.. No littering allowed. Also, when I got home to Seattle I realized how dirty US cities are compared to Germany.

  18. Melanie Ramsey says

    HAH!! Too funny! I lived in Germany for three years in the late 70’s. I can’t even begin to list all the broken rules! But fortunately we had many German friends that helped us learn. I think things have changed considerably since then, but one of our faux pas was going to the schwimmbad visibly pregnant! The tongues were wagging! Also skiing in Bavaria whilst preggers was frowned upon. Apparently, back then pregnant German women pretty much stayed inside. My father was German and I think I must have had a pretty good dose of the culture before I went there so it wasn’t quite so bad me. I was determined to NEVER be the “Ugly American” so I tried to err on the side of caution! I have SO many fond memories and friendships from that time and am ever grateful for the time I got to spend there, it is such a beautiful country.

    • Oh interesting, how dare you swim while pregnant (hang on: isn’t it the best exercise for a pregnant woman?!!). I wonder what the thinking is on that these days – I can’t think I’ve seen any examples or counter-examples, I must ask. Breaking the rules does give us hilarious stories – and I agree it’s such a beautiful country (partly because of all their rules!).

  19. Do you know the bavarian “Grantler”? That’s the bavarian word for a man who is ALWAYS crumpy. You can do totally fine and meet him. He will find anything he can tell you no matter if you german or from another country. So it is absolutely no problem to go swimming when you are pregnant (for example) but the people will watch, cause, sadly, the have nothing other to do. When you want to see what a ” grantler” is watch “ein münchner im himmel”. You can find this animated film on youtube.
    But there is a quite german rule i missed here. The escalator rule: stand on the right, walk on the left. It is quite handy in bigger cities at trainstations. When you are in a hurry you can go up really fast on the left side and catch your train
    Sorry for my english it isn’t my mothertounge.
    Best wishes from bavaria

    • Thanks for your comment Melli – I hadn’t heard of a “Grantler” but I can imagine exactly (and to an English speaker the word sounds just right, like “grunting”!).I will look up that film!
      And the escalator rule does make sense, I admit, though we don’t do it in Australia much.

  20. Hey there,
    I’m a German girl and this article is quite funny!
    But well, I do small talk every time I visit a shop or supermarket and I found that mostly the staff is really glad if you do so.
    And I also took street signs more than once but had to split from the police one time, haha!
    What I don’t understand is why you shouldn’t do your laundry on Sundays. I’ve never heard of that and even my mom doesn’t obey this rule 😉

    Best wishes from Germany 🙂

    • Hi Luisa! Yes, the Sunday thing seems to be only in some parts of Germany, but I have had lots of messages from people who confirm it! Where do you live in Germany? Where I lived, the staff definitely wouldn’t talk to me … I did try!!

  21. Hallo, wie wahr wie wahr, ich bin ein Deutscher und lebe seit fast 10 Jahren in Thailand. Wow wenn ich mich daran erinnere das meine Deutschen Landsleute auch ihre Lieblingsbeschäftigung nachgehen, nämlich versuchen anderen Menschen, egal ob in Deutschland oder im Ausland, zu erziehen und zu sagen das man das so oder so macht und nicht anders, wird mir ganz anders. Sorry liebe Landsleute in Deutschland, Leben und Leben lassen, so ist die Lebenseinstellung der Thais, dies würde den Deutschen auch ganz gut stehen, jedenfalls etwas mehr als jetzt. Sawidii Khrap aus Bangsean in Thailand.

  22. Great blog!

    Huh…. It is funny to get a mirror in front of us Germans :-). And it is interesting to make it conscious and to see if its true. So I can confirm most. Yes, there are tons of idiotic rules here (and nobody can explain why) but lots of them are going and we all work strong on our issus (not really). But I can confirm that some of your experiences are just in some places here and are very “local”. In other areas you will not have any problem with same situation. Yes, Germans love rules and there are still a lot of us who point out others who brake these rules but… break it self. So its a bit kind of double standards.

    Perhaps some help and information of background:
    – Sunday is a holy time (the unions want this to save the workers) and “dead” if you are in small towns. Solution: search for a gas station. They know that people need toothpaste even on a weekend. BTW; can you imagine that it is not so long time ago that shops did close at 6pm? We are happy that we can shop even until 10pm under the week 🙂
    – Car wash: we love to save the invironment and imagine what can happen when anybody use a dangerous soap 🙂 and thousands litres of pure water will be contaminated. But people do it when the neighbor don`t tell it to the government
    – No shower after 10? Hm… might be in some flats. This is regulated in house rules. So please stay clean or wait.
    – No Smalltalk? Not basically. There is a big difference between smalltalk of Germans and for example US guys. This kind of smalltalk is more in a personal base. It is more mandatory. So thats why Germans say that people from US are superficial. So it can be that a guy want to marry you when you talk to him (kidding). I had some good relationships after a smalltalk. And I agree that most Germans are amazed when you try to smalltalk…OK, we don´t do it usually.

    I saw your second post now and really agree that item with the birthday. Most people think (not officially) that bring bad luck. As most of all rules, people “use” it but cannot tell why. It is a kind of tradition?! However its time to change some things. So everybody can shower even after 10! 🙂
    Don`t come too late? Today it seems that everybody is coming always too late. That has changed dramatically. I remember a business meeting in Italy. We thought that it doesn`t matter if we come a bit later. Traffic was awfully in Verona and we came 15 minutes too late. The italian guys were pissed off and said “you are Germans and you cannot come to late, thats impossible”. Very funny….
    Take care

    Under the line I can say that not everything is usual in Germany and it differ where you are and where you live.

    • Thanks for your fabulous comment Klaus! I love the story about the Italians being annoyed that the Germans were late! I have to say that I did meet some Germans here in Australia who aren’t so punctual, it seems to have worn off! I also loved your comments on small talk – I definitely think Germans are not ones for superficial small talk at all!

  23. Dorina Palcu says

    here I might tell you from another point of view, as a foreigner(originally from eastern europe) living in germany from childhood on. I lived in various towns, big and small and can say, the smaller the town, the more are the rules. Because people in small towns use to watch you more and like to teach you the “right” way of living :). Some of the rules appear foolish to me, some are more senseful , especially the “keep your surrounding clean”-rules. I experienced a kind of protest growing inside me because of the rules and I am acting against them sometimes, e.g. cleaning the staircase in the house, what is meant to happen usually on fridays or saturday mornings. It caused war between me and a self-styled housekeeper when I did it at my convenient times, uuuuugh. I explained to him my changing work times and continued, no matter his attitude towards it.

    What I can say about small chats in supermarkets and restaurants: I like to do it and the employees there like it too, it just depends on the right time, in waiting queues better don´t extend it…..and washing and showering after 10 p.m. might depend on the apartment conditions. when your washing machine is a noisy one and use to jump while pumping, it might be more regardful to do your laundry on day- times, but I will never allow an intervention concerning showering, I do it when its necessary and I fight for it, if confronted, but it never happened.
    I can say, germans became more relaxed by the time and don´t do fingerpointing so much again, or even take the rules more flexible than years ago……
    I like to live here and follow my own considerate (as I hope) way, andI noticed, that kindness and politeness has always positive effects. What makes me still crazy here, is the silence of people in public traffic vehicles……it gives me an uncomfortable feeling to sit in the midst of quietness, so very often I look for opportunities to chat with my neighbours and it uses to change the atmosphere imediatedly, Germans sometimes need a little push to open up.

    • Dorina – thanks so much for your interesting comments! Very interesting to hear your experiences, some of which match very closely to mine. Glad that you are pushing them to open up a little bit more on public transport – I remember it being very quiet there!

  24. Hi I thought I would jump in here too as a German girl living in the US
    I grew up in a small village with 6000 souls in the south of Germany.
    and yes I do agree many of the points being valid but like I have seen in some comments that depending where you are and you have around you.

    Yes it is true Sunday is a rest day as well as when I was growing up that a couple hours in the afternoon was quite time. true you stay mindful of your neighbors but I think the 10 pm not getting a shower that’s a little out there I think if your in an old building where you can hear things yes I could see that others never heard of it.My mom use to kick us out of bed on the weekends so the blinds could be pulled up other wise what would the neighbors think your laying in bed all
    and are lazy 🙂

    As for me people have always told me you a not a typical German which I don’t know what a typical German suppose to be but if I compare my self to my towns people than I guess yes I’m different
    I am me , yes I do have my German trades no doubt but there are things I don’t agree with nor would do,
    as for going to the store and there is no small chat I never came across that when I would go to the store for one thing it would take me a few hours to get home since you ran into so many people and always ended up talking awhile.
    It’s not the place it’s each and every person in that place that make it what it is or comes across and every village, city, town and state are so different from each other you feel like you left the state and at times the country

    Living in the US and having lived in many different states due to being a military spouse I have come across many different trades customs etc but I don’t think anything unless it’s real bad is a mistake

    • Thanks for your great comment Petra! I laughed about your mum kicking you out of bed so the neighbours wouldn’t think you were being lazy. I can totally believe that in southern Germany!

  25. Your point about small talk at German supermarkets made me think about a hilarious episode I had a few years ago. A friend from the U.S. was visiting and asked me how to say “How are you?” in German. Since it’s a pretty normal way of greeting people in the English-speaking world, she didn’t think twice about it when we were checking out at a store later and said to the cashier, “Hallo, wie geht’s?” The woman looked absolutely mortified, paused for a few seconds, and then hesitantly asked, “Do we know each other?”

  26. I’m German and wonder myself why and how we strictly obey our rules without hesitating and doing it instinctively. Though, did you realized why the pavement in front of the owners home are so clean and when it snows, the pavement is usually shoveled and salted before 8 a.m, so nobody slips.

    • Hi Oliver, I know, it’s a funny thing that you all strictly obey the rules, although I must say in general they’re largely good rules and they make for a very orderly society. And yes I did appreciate the clean pavements – and I had to take my turn to do the same thing early some cold winter mornings when I lived there (which I didn’t enjoy so much as I had to leave for work by 6.30am, so it was a very early start to get the pavement cleared!).

  27. When I was first stationed in Germany no one jaywalked, everyone was quiet on Sundays and evenings, stores closed at 6pm or earlier…etc. So imagine my surprise now, twenty years later, when we rented a house in a lovely German neighborhood only to listen to our closest neighbor play his music very loudly all day long. Another neighbor screams at all hours of the night and even likes to serenade us with her opera skills. I kid you not–she steps onto her porch, goes through a few scales, and belts out a completely off-key aria. She can go for hours, anytime between 1 & 5am. I hear people screaming and fighting with each other most weekend nights. There are several skeletal cats that roam our backyard that clearly aren’t fed enough. When I drive home each evening I constantly have people crossing right in front of me in the middle of a block, and cars cutting me off and generally disobeying traffic laws. I’m just confused and disoriented by all this. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE living in Germany! I’m just truly surprised…perhaps it’s because we live in a city?

  28. Hello!!! I loved this blog! Here is a latina going to Germany for 22 days next May, I can’t wait to do a mistake hahaha, I am a latina we speak a lot!!! How on earth I am going to resist to talk in the shops?? Thanks for every single advice in here!! <3


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