How to Become a Good German

Now that we have been in Germany for three years, I have really learned how to be a good German, and I wanted to share my knowledge with you. While Germany is a great place to live, there are a few quirky things you need to know so you stay out of trouble. So, sit back, relax, pour yourself a glass of wine, and listen up.

1. Be nosy – In Germany, everyone is involved all of the time, even total strangers! I learned this, first-hand, when I was in the grocery store my first few months in Germany. download

I was holding a hand-held basket for my groceries. I had forgotten my plastic grocery bags in the car and I said to my son in a private conversation,”No worries. We will run outside with the basket; put the groceries in the car, and you can run the basket back inside the store.”  The man behind me in line leaned over and loudly said, “NO! YOU DON’T TAKE BASKET OUT OF STORE!” (Think Schwarzenegger in “Terminator.”) I was astonished that such a nosy character would be in my business. After rolling my eyes, I politely asked him if he was the “basket police” and could he show me his basket police badge. Strangely, he could not speak English all of a sudden and did not respond.

Nevertheless, we did not take that basket outside. I was worried about being taken down by an armed swat team. So, get nosy if you want to fit in; everyone does it!

NoMowGraphic2502. No mowing your lawn on Sunday – Sunday and public holidays are for rest; it is actually against the law to work in Germany, and by work I also mean work on your car, your yard, or your house. It is actually forbidden to mow your own lawn on a Sunday. We were unaware of this law, so I thought it would be best to share it with anyone coming to Germany. Sunday is for drinking beer, so get with the program.


3. Tell your dog when he is allowed to bark – Germany has set laws on1-DSC_0334 quiet hours; those being from 22:00 until 7:00. There is also a “quiet time” from 13:00 – 15:00 – meaning you should not make noise. Please enlighten your dog to those hours or you will get a nasty letter from the city. If you need a copy for reference, I have many of them.


How to be a good german

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4. Think inside the box – Listen, if it doesn’t fit in the box, it is not happening in Germany – and you better have all the paperwork that goes with the box  – and I mean all of it! Paperwork and exact thinking are kings in Germany. Don’t stray or try to find a different way – it’s not going to happen!




stm5170459453389201304185. There is no such thing as customer service – If you are coming from a customer service country, you are in for a rude awakening in Germany because there is none. Furthermore, when you walk into a restaurant, don’t expect to be greeted with a smile or offered a table. Instead, you can just find your own table. You also should not attempt any small talk with your waiter/waitress; you will immediately get shut down, so don’t even go there. Lucky for you, you don’t have to leave a 20% tip for the not-so-friendly service. When tipping in Germany, round up to the nearest €.  For example, if you have a bill for 20.10€ leave 21€, unless the service was exceptional.


6. Germans love to be naked – In the saunas and hot tubs, which are co-ed, everyone is butt naked. If you are not down with the nakedness, you will be reprimanded. If confused about this, re-read rule #1 on being nosy. I once walked into a sauna with 25 men and balls up to my neck. I was swiftly told that unless my suit came off I had to go. No, really! Let’s not even get into how unsanitary this is. My vahjayjay is just not going there.

7. Peeing is not free – Most places will charge you .50€ to use the toilet, including gas station rest stops. So, pay up or hold it. Maybe this is why I see so many men just whipping it out on the road or in the street. Hmmm…

merkel kising

8. Germans are more formal when it comes to doing business, but like to kiss everyone the rest of the time – Most Germans are more formal when it comes to the work place. If in doubt, use the last name of the person you are addressing. If you have made friends with Germans, don’t be astonished when they lean in to kiss both your cheeks. I thought it was one kiss, and got some love dead on the lips when I didn’t turn the other cheek, so watch out! Hey, if it’s good enough for Merkel it’s good enough for me! However, this could be a problem if you are a germaphobe.

9. Don’t be late – Switzerland is very close by, and everyone has a good watch; invest in one, too.

1-photo 110. Blue is for plastic, yellow is for paper – You are expected to recycle. No exceptions. There are multiple trash bins – yellow (plastic), blue (paper), green (bio), and black (regular trash). You must recycle or they will come knocking on your door. Even at fairs and markets, you will normally pay a deposit for glassware/mugs. When you are done, you should return them so you don’t put plastic in the trash bin.

*Special note for drinkers – There are special bins set up around Germany for glass bottles (such as beer and wine). You must keep your glass and take it to the containers. This is one rule that seems inefficient because I usually have more wine bottles than paper and plastic – but hey, no one asked me!

So, there you have it – ten rules on being a good German. Learn them, live them, or subject yourself to harsh tongue lashings and copious amounts of paperwork! Auf Wiedersehen.

SUNDAY-TRAVELER-BADGE-BLUE1This is part of Sunday Traveler. Check out some other great blogs at the link up at Chasing the Donkey, a travel guide to Croatia.


– Stacey

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  1. I wonder how the no bark rules works out. I saw something similar in Thailand.. dogs are not allowed to poop in certain places, but there are mostly stray dogs here. Funny.
  2. Hahahahaha this one had me smiling. I love how you have to train your dog when it is or is not allowed to bark. Classic. It also now makes sense to me as to why Germans flock to Croatia - it's for the naked beaches :) Thanks for linking up to #SundayTraveler with us again.
  3. ROFL I totally understand this. I'm living here since '92 and believe me - this is one of the reasons why my husband and I are traveling. Escape the Germans (even though we are two of them)! Very funny - have to share it @facebook right away! Thanks!
    • Thank you very much I am glad you enjoyed it :) and yes now its funny they day it happend I was a little bit mortified LOL
  4. I can relate and have to agree with the quiet hours --especially for your dogs. I've been to too many places where people don't seem to mind their dogs barking all night. Not fun. As for the being naked, that's true in quite a few European countries. In that sense, I've always fit right in. :)
  5. I just loved it!!! I have been to Germany close to 10x, have a house in Breslau, Poland, and family in Hannover, and they just laughed when they read all of this - fantastic post, loved it, loved it!!
    • Yes once you get to meet the people and make friends the Germans are surprisingly really friendly and fun to hang out with. We will be sad when we leave Germany! AS long as you know the rules, you are ok!!
    • Ahh well actually if you read the rest of the paragraph it was a joke, backwards, blue is for paper, yellow is for plastic. :)
  6. Wait, I thought the blog name was because of basketball - does it actually refer to the basket removal rules in Germany?? :) It's interesting how many of these laws/customs change across borders and time zones. Reading them, I must be a bit more German than I thought!
    • Hee Hee Dave you guessed it - its all about that first week in Germany where I was screamed at about the basket!! :) Yes, there are similar rules in many of the surrounding countries. Then again some countries have no rules LOL! Thank you for reading!
  7. Some things are very German indeed :-) I worked with a German girl and on the 2nd of January she handed over her holiday requests for the rest of the year!!! :-)
  8. I really enjoyed this hilarious post! I must say I am shocked by #6 :O The rest I've often heard of, and so I cannot imagine living in Germany. Specially because I am from the customer service oriented city of Dubai. Your article makes it sound like we're very lucky, maybe we are ;)
    • I am orginally from the USA where we are all about cutomer service, sadly that is not the case here. YOu can find really nice places that care about this but it is not the norm. However, it is just a part of being in Germany and you learn to live with it. :)
  9. Hahha that's sooo funny! Maybe you should add something like: wear strange clothes. I saw guys in Berlin wearing bathing suits or just their underpants when driving their bike. Strange lads :D
    • Hee Hee I actually am workign on a post how to dress like a german. :) thanks for reading glad you enjoyed it!
  10. I will admit... I initially clicked on this post via the #SundayTraveler because of the pig nose picture... haha and I am so glad I did! This was hilarious! I have only spend one day in Germany but some of these even rang true for me. Great post!
    • Well however you got here is ok with me! Yes they are all true and more if you live here. Thank you for reading I am glad you enjoyed it.
  11. Hahaha I LOVE these tips!! I always find it amazing how different countries that are right next to each other can be. I lived in France for 3 years, and while some of these things might be similar, some couldn't be more different. And almost all are new coming from America! But that's the great thing about moving overseas! :)
    • Yes that is the best thing about living overseas all the new things you learn and the things that are different. We are only an hour from the French boarder, its interesting how different the countries all are. For sure coming from American where Sunday is our day mow to the lawn and wash cars it can be a shock to your system for sure. Thank you for reading!
    • Yes I think it is similar around Austria, Swiss and German Countries. Best to know before you go or you will make someone mad!! :) thank you for reading!
  12. I wish French city councils warned people about noisy dogs. We have a horrible yappy little thing next door whihc is left outside on a balcony to yap for hours and hours. It drives everyone mad but there's nothing we can do! Many other points you bring up could apply to France too, but not the doggie one!!
    • OH we have a BIG German Shep and I think he just knows when it is quiet hour so he barks hee hee - actually he is pretty good we just bring him inside now so he doesn't disturb the neighbors. Thanks for reading -
  13. I agree. haha. I used to put trash and paper separately, but then our "landlords" told us that we have to separate the aluminum/plastic as well. so it makes sense to why everybody has three trash cans in their kitchens.
    • Yes we have 4 in our kitchen - paper, plastic, glass, and trash - whew! But is makes it easier if you separate at the begining instead of the end. :) Thank you for reading!
  14. I'm a german for about 29 years now, but I also never figured out the recycle thing :D And I'm always late... so maybe I'm not a good german at all! Very funny post anyway ;)
    • Hee Hee we are lucky that we always see the neighbors trash cans out the night before, that is how we remember or we would never get the recycle out! There is just so much to learn. Thank you for reading!
  15. Haha, this is hilarious Stacey!! The bin thing is the same even here in England - it's one colour for recycle, another colour for plant waste, another for household and it varies form area to area - I totally give up trying to figure it out!
    • Hee Hee me too! half the time I am not sure what item goes in what bin and where do those darn metal cans go LOL! Thank you for reading!