Etiquette & Customs (in short)
The Germans have a formal attitude to practices and attitudes.
Try to learn as much German you can before you arrive, or at least so many simple words you can, like “Hello”: Guten Tag (GOO-ten tahk), “Thank you”: Danke schön (DAN-kuh shurn) or “Goodbye”: Auf Wiedersehen (owf VEE-dur-zene)
This shows, that you are willing to learn their language.
- A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting
- Titles are very important and denote respect. Use a person’s title and their surname until invited to use their first name. You should say Herr or Frau and the person’s title and their surname
- When entering a room, shake hands with everyone individually, including children
Gift Giving Etiquette:
- If you are invited to a German’s house, bring a gift such as chocolates or flowers
- Yellow roses or tea roses are always well received. Do not give red roses as they symbolize romantic intentions. Unless that IS your intention, of course!
- Do not give lilies or chrysanthemums, as they are used at funerals
- If you bring wine, it should be imported – French or Italian. Giving German wines is viewed as meaning you do not think the host will serve a good quality wine
- Arrive on time as punctuality indicates proper planning. Never arrive early
- Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or someone says Guten Appetit (‘Enjoy your meal’)
- Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife
- The most common toast with wine is Zum Wohl! (‘Good health’)
- The most common toast with beer is Prost! (‘Good health’)
Should you leave a tip in restaurants or bars?
You can leave a tip, but you don’t have to.
As in many European countries, the bill includes a service charge. So make sure to check the bill itself; there is no need to leave any extra tip in addition to this amount. A service charge is not the same as a tip.
People sometimes give 5 or 10% of the bill as a tip or round up to an even number. It depends on how happy you were with the service.
Germany is generally a peaceful country, but there can always happen thefts of mobile phones, cameras and other valuable things. Be aware of pickpockets around various sights – especially around cathedrals and other places where tourists gather.
Most travellers will not experience any issues or problems on their holiday in Germany. It can happen, but it can also be prevented by some simple precautions as:
- Do not “flash” cash or expensive items
- Visit only the cash machines during the day or early evening
- Do not leave expensive items visible in the car
Terrorism is new to the German people and it is the highest topic on the security list for the police. They are doing everything they can, with all the technology they have to protect you. Therefore, stopping you on the street is for protection not harassment. Nevertheless, they can never provide you 100% safeness.
Places you should avoid in Berlin :
- Lichtenberg, Neukoeln and Marzahn – Avoid after dark, parts of these areas are not safe
- Moabit – Avoid after dark, it’s not safe
- Prenzlauer Berg – Use caution
Places you should avoid in Hamburg:
- Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (central station) – Use caution, you do need to be careful after dark
Places you should avoid in Munich:
- Munich Hauptbahnhof (central station) – Use caution, you do need to be careful after dark
Emergency numbers in Germany (free call)
In case of any emergency call:
- 112 – National emergency number
- 112 – Fire brigade
- 112 – Ambulance
- 110 – Police
The caller must:
- State the location where assistance is needed
- State their name and telephone number
- State what happened and if it is still happening
- State how many people need help
- State, if there are weapons involved