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    Typically German

    Just as in your home country, Germany has a wealth of customs that are good to know for making positive first impressions when interacting with others. For example, Germans are said to be very neat, punctual, and conscientious. We’ve put together a brief summary of the most important aspects of German culture, which should hopefully make your first experiences in your new home both enjoyable and successful, whether at the office, meeting new neighbors, or grocery shopping. Most importantly, please don’t hesitate to ask the Welcome Center team, your neighbors, or your colleagues should anything be unclear. It could mean the beginning of a great new friendship! The Welcome Center also offers various workshops on this topic. Ask us about dates and conditions! 


    Germans greatly value formality. For example, it’s common for strangers to greet one another when entering a business, elevator, or waiting room at the doctor’s office. Shaking hands is also an important part of greeting someone, both at work and especially in social circles. One of the most difficult things about everyday life in Germany is the use of the words “du” (the informal way of saying “you”) and “Sie” (the formal way of saying “you”). The general rule of thumb is: if you’re meeting someone for the first time, you should always address them with the formal “Sie” (unless they’re a child). Transitioning to use of the informal “du” is a somewhat formal process and doesn’t happen in every case.  

    The person who is older or higher in the professional hierarchy is the one who is allowed to offer use of the informal “du” to the other person; after this point, these two people are on a first-name basis and will address each other with the informal “du” from that point on. However, it is still very common to stick with the formal “Sie” at work, even after working with colleagues and managers for many years. In this case, continuing to use the formal “Sie” is typical German and by no means a sign of a less friendly or cordial relationship.


    The everyday business and leisure attire of most Germans tends to be rather conservative and formal. In Germany, the clothes you wear are a sign of respect for the particular occasion, such as dinner at your boss’ home. So feel free to ask in advance which attire would be most appropriate, as it often strongly depends on the individual and the occasion. You should usually wear a suit (for women it could be a dress or pant suit) to an interview for an office job. 


    If colleagues or friends invite you to their home for dinner, it’s customary to bring a small gift for the host. Common gifts include flowers for her, a bottle of wine for him, and some sweets for the children. Another option would be to give them a little something from your home country (e.g. sweets, alcohol, or arts and crafts). 


    Punctuality is very important to Germans, both professionally and in their private lives. For example, if you’ve arranged to meet your friends at 2 p.m., you should be sure to arrive between 1:55 and 2:05. For business meetings, you should arrive at the exact time specified - no sooner, no later.


    Smoking is prohibited on public transportation and inside public authority buildings. Newly enacted laws also ban smoking in restaurants and bars. When in someone’s home, it’s best to first ask the host if smoking is allowed. 


    Germans really enjoy inviting people over and put a lot of effort into making their guests feel comfortable. If they ask if you’d like something to eat or drink, don’t hesitate to answer honestly. In contrast to some other cultures, in which it is common to answer “no” before answering “yes” after being asked a third time, Germans will accept the first answer regardless if it’s a “yes” or a “no”. More importantly, they won’t ask again if you’d like anything until much later, if at all. And here’s another valuable tip: it is very common to take off your shoes when entering someone’s home, especially for informal visits between younger people. The reason? It’s more comfortable and keeps the host’s floors from becoming dirty or scratched. However, shoes will of course be allowed at a dinner party with colleagues (especially if you’re in a suit or cocktail dress). To be on the safe side, simply ask politely: “Soll ich die Schuhe ausziehen?” (Should I take my shoes off?). Last but not least, here are a few tips for making small talk with your German hosts: first, feel free to complement your host on their home or a piece of art if you genuinely like it. Your host will appreciate the complement without feeling obliged to give you the item you mentioned as a gift. You can also make positive remarks about their family members (e.g. the children), but try to avoid making such remarks about their partner or spouse. It’s also recommendable to avoid talking about politics. A great fallback topic for breaking the ice in any situation is, of course, the weather, regardless if at a dinner party or simply when making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store.

    Payment Methods

    In Germany, cash and debit cards are the most common methods of payment. Shops and restaurants accept credit cards considerably less often than in other countries. Bakeries, small shops, and market vendors rarely accept any form of payment other than cash. When paying with debit or credit card, there is also usually a minimum purchase amount of 5 or 10 €. The cashier may also ask you to show a valid form of ID when you pay with a card. An ID is also required when purchasing age-restricted products such as alcohol or cigarettes. 

    Source: Welcome Center Neckar-Alb

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