Travel Etiquette Series: Germany

by Adam Barralet
German fans at a soccer match

Our Flightie Adam Barralet has been all over the world and has learned a lot of valuable tips along the way. Each week he takes us to a different country and offers his tips on what to expect and what manners are acceptable. After taking us to France and China, today it’s all about Germany:

In Germany, they love their beer but no matter how many you have, be sure you remember the following tips.

When it comes to meeting Germans, punctuality is important, although being up to ten minutes late is acceptable. Shaking hands with everyone is the way to greet with kissing on both cheeks being left to good friends. Use a short, firm hand shake and most importantly ensure you look them in the eye.

Another time when eye contact is essential is as you clink glasses. In Cologne they firmly believe that you are cursing yourself with seven years bad sex if you don’t make eye contact… And you thought it was harsh having your grandmother scorn you for having your elbows on the table!

If you find yourself at a German party don’t feel alarmed if you feel a little excluded if you don’t know everyone. Germans tend to go to party to catch up with friends rather than socialize and meet more people. As time goes on, the party may tend to segregate into small close-knit groups. In conversation they tend to avoid small talk preferring to be direct and say what they want. If you are asked, “How are you?” it is not meant as the rhetorical question we use in the English speaking countries. If you are asked, they expect an honest answer.

In dining situations, if you have been invited, the host will pay for you so don’t even politely offer to pay. However if you weren’t specifically invited by anyone, expect a separate bill and to pay your own way. At dinner parties feel free to refuse anything you feel like as once again the Germans value honesty.

The British are usually accused of being precious about their potatoes, but in Germany you must not cut potatoes with a knife. It seems simple, but it offends well brought up Germans. The simple explanation is that if you crush your potatoes with a fork it gives a rougher surface to soak up the gravy. While you have your knife in hand, feel free to cut your bread roll half horizontally, which varies from the English way of using your hands to break apart a bread roll.

When out and about in Germany remember the following tips; don’t jay-walk as German drivers won’t stop for you. Always say hello when entering shops, especially small ones and don’t waste any ones time with simple transactions such as at a supermarket, bank or post office. Keep it quick and efficient. Finally be ready to recycle everything. Most plastics go in the yellow bin, paper and cardboard into the blue one, green wastes in the green bin, glass is separated into colours (ie. Clear glass versus coloured glass) and everything else goes into the grey bin.

Want more tips from Adam?

Let us know where you’re travelling next and he’ll write about it! Adam Barralet is Assistant Manager at our Flight Centre- Sheppard Centre in Toronto and can be reached by E-mail or by calling 1-866-828-1390.

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