10 things only those who lived in Germany understand
Germany has way more to offer than amazing cars, cozy Biergartens, and picturesque castles: The country in the heart of Europe also boasts a high quality of life, and metropolises like Berlin and Munich regularly show up in the top 10 rankings of the most livable cities in the world. There are also a few things that make living in Germany very unique – and definitely add to all of that high-quality environment.
1. Football is a religion
Football, or soccer as Americans call it, is not just a sport in Germany, it’s a religion. There are few other countries in the world that are as crazy about football as Germany: Fans of different clubs literally hate each other, which can even affect relationships. In cities like Munich, you need to be VERY lucky to get a ticket for a game, much less a pass for the whole season. When Bayern Munich has an important game, the whole city – from kids to grandmothers – shows its support by wearing red.
2. German bread is AMAZING
Living in Germany will change your opinion on bread forever. I’m biased, but German bread simply is the best – from the variety, to the taste and the quality. There are so many different types of bread that you will soon forget about the so-called “bread” you know from home. Bakeries show off their creativity with all kinds of different loaves and rolls: dark, white, sweet, savory, crunchy, soft, plain, or with all types of seeds – you can have it your way, any day!
3. 4 p.m. means 3:55 p.m. (not 4ish)
Germans are famous for their discipline and punctuality, and you need to adapt to that to make friends. Always show up five minutes before the appointment, meeting, or date. If you meet friends, it’s ok to be right on time or even two to five minutes late, but that’s about as much wiggle room as you get. There’s no such thing as 4ish in Germany!
4. Germany’s idea of #SundayFunday
Shopping on Sunday? Not possible in Germany. Most of the stores are closed – the only exceptions are small shops in train and gas stations. Originally, this was a religious rule as Sunday, the Lord’s Day, was a day of rest where one should not work. Now, it’s more of a secular tradition that gives people precious time for their families or hobbies. Germans take the “no work” rule very seriously, so don’t try to mow your lawn on a Sunday!
5. Sunday afternoon is reserved for coffee and cake
The British have their tea time, the Germans celebrate their coffee and cake tradition – especially on weekends. Sunday afternoons, between 2 to 3 p.m., is the perfect time to sit together and enjoy a cup of coffee and a piece of homemade cake. (Because what else are you going to do if you can’t shop or mow that lawn?) If you have neither the time nor the talent to bake something yourself, just drive to the next train station or bakery that opens on Sundays (for a couple of hours) to serve the German demand for fresh rolls and cake.
6. “How are you?” is a serious question
Maybe you’ve already run into a German acquaintance and wondered why you get a 15-minute monologue on the person’s health, finances, and personal life after greeting them with a simple “How are you?” The reason behind this is that “How are you?” isn’t just a polite phrase in German, it’s a real question. People expect you to answer and talk about your life – for example, how your family is doing or what your Sunday afternoon plans are. If you meet someone in the hallway at work and don’t want to end up in a long conversation, it’s better to just say “Hallo!” (“hi!”) and keep moving.
7. Germans actually do have humor
I know, it’s hard to believe, but Germans do have a great sense of humor, and they love to have a good laugh. It’s just that non-Germans often don’t understand what’s so funny: German humor is built on blunt, seemingly serious statements, which become funny simply because of their context. It takes a while to get used to it – and mastering the German language is a big part of this – but then, you’re in for a humorous treat that will have you LOL and ROFL.
8. Everyone in the sauna is naked
Germans are much more comfortable with being naked than most other Europeans and Americans. So, going to a sauna, a popular pastime in Germany, can be quite “interesting” as everyone is naked. Like, birthday-suit naked because bathing suits are not allowed. (For health reasons, whatever that means.) But don’t panic, female readers: There’s usually one day a week reserved for women only. (And, believe it or not, the next point doesn’t apply to saunas at all.)
9. People stare at you all the time
Germans have a staring problem: Either the old lady in the house next door is watching your every move or the kid across from you on the subway can’t turn away. In Germany, intense eye contact is a daily occurrence – to such an extend that expats and visitors have dubbed it “The Germanic Stare Down.” German pedestrians also use it to communicate, and the right amount of eye contact at the right time can mean “I am walking here, and it’s not my fault if you don’t move over and get pushed off the sidewalk.” It might take some practice, but just try to stare as the locals stare.
10. Cash is king
In Germany, you can never assume that a store or restaurant will accept credit card payments: Germans prefer good old cash. There’s usually an ATM in larger stores and shopping centers so you can obtain the cash you need, but it’s wise to carry more cash than you probably would back home. When you go to the supermarket, never forget your one Euro coin because without it, you won’t get a shopping cart. Also, be prepared to pay for any plastic bags (if you forgot to bring your reusable ones) and to pack your groceries yourself.