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8 quirks you have to get used to as a foreigner in Germany

When you settle in a new country, it's inevitable that you pick up some lifestyle quirks. But you might find yourself in need of explanation if you take these German habits home with you...

Germans pack fast like Olympic champions

It's an old joke that you have to pack extremely fast in German supermarkets like LIDL Germany because the cashiers are so quick at the checkout. To make matters worse, the space to pack the groceries is absolutely tiny, and if you don't manage to get them into the bag in time, the next person's weekly shopping piles up right on top of yours.

Maybe it's the German love of efficiency, or maybe the cashier really hates you, but there's barely any small talk when your shopping is scanned. You might greet each other briefly, but the niceties are usually skipped to save time, so don't expect to make friends in the supermarket.

The same applies if you're queuing and an extra checkout is opened in the aisle next to you. There are no pleasantries about who got in the queue first and should go first; it's a brutal race to the top and if you take a nap, you lose.

Watch out if you adopt this mannerism, because you might seem a bit rude when you return home, where shopping is more relaxed, if you treat the shop like a battlefield, refusing to greet the cashier and flinging your purchases away as if someone is trying to snatch them out of your hands.

Germans do their grocery shopping on a Saturday night.

Although it can be annoying or inconvenient at first, you get used to the slow pace of life on Sundays in Germany. And once you really settle in, you don't even think about the fact that (almost) all the shops are closed.

You will probably do your shopping on a Saturday evening too and think nothing of it. Where else would you be on a Saturday night?

Germans get straight to the point

(Most) Germans don't like to beat around the bush. That's an old cliché and definitely a generalisation, but there's also a lot of truth to it.

Germans are far less inclined than the English or Americans, for example, to speak euphemistically, to make subtle allusions, to lie or to embellish in order to get their meaning across. German manners are impeccable, but they consider a direct form of communication to be more open, transparent, honest and efficient. Germans are more likely to speak to you simply, clearly and openly than to worry about how you feel about it or how you see them.

This idiosyncrasy can be something of a culture shock and is interpreted by some as unfriendly.

Germans drink more bottled water

Although tap water in Germany is safe, you will usually earn a few nasty looks if you want to serve your guests a glass of cool water from the tap at home. Instead, you are expected to stock your fridge with endless bottles of mineral water, both carbonated and non-carbonated, to supply your guests and yourself.

In many ways, this preference for bottled water is inexplicable, especially in a country so keen to minimise plastic consumption. German tap water consistently scores best in blind tastings compared to bottled water, and mineral water does not even have a higher mineral content.

One of the main reasons for this peculiarity is that Germans generally prefer carbonated water to still water. Carbonated water is very popular in Germany - 78% of bottled water is carbonated - and is usually served in restaurants.

There are 500 different mineral water brands in German shops trying to capitalise on the preference for bottled products, as the average person drinks 147 litres of mineral water per year.

Germans drive fast

If you drive a car, you may have to get used to the high speed on German motorways. About one-eighth of the autobahn network is unrestricted, meaning there are no speed limits, so it's not unusual to see people driving extremely fast.

However, there are speed limits near major cities, and most motorways have signs saying "130", which means "130 km/h", the recommended speed on the motorway.

Germans communicate with their eyes

Newcomers to Germany are often confused and more than a little alarmed to find that their German colleagues, friends, neighbours and often complete strangers are staring directly at them. In many countries, the maxim is that it is impolite to stare at someone, but if you have lived in Germany for a while, you will probably be able to decipher the silent language of the unblinking stare.

In Germany, it's perfectly normal to communicate with your eyes and expect the other person to understand you completely. A look can come from annoyance, e.g. when you break an important custom such as mowing the lawn on Sunday, or from admiration, e.g. when you are wearing a beautiful piece of clothing.

Although it may be a little uncomfortable at first, you will soon get used to being stared at intensely for the slightest transgression or simply by bored neighbours who want to watch something from their kitchen window. Soon you'll find yourself staring at strangers on the underground as well.

Germans buy slippers

In many German households, it is considered impolite to wear your shoes around the house. Many Germans have slippers to wear around the house. This may seem a bit fussy at first glance, but there is probably no more luxurious feeling than sinking into your slippers when you get comfortable at home after work.

If you haven't experienced this before, we're pretty sure you'll get used to it very quickly. You'll probably find it hard to visit your family at home without your trusty slippers, and you'll instinctively reach for them on the shoe rack when you walk through the door. They really are that good.

Germans have cash with them everywhere

Having cash with you everywhere is not necessarily an advantage in some countries, where most things are paid for by card, especially in pandemic times. But in Germany, you're screwed if you don't leave the house with a few coins in your pockets.

Not only do you always have to carry cash when shopping in shops and visiting cafés, but you also have to carry a coin to unlock the chained shopping trolleys in the supermarket, use the lockers in the sauna and swimming pool and much more.

And what do you think? Are all these typical quirks about Germans really so typical?

What do you think and what experiences have you had?


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