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Five German lifestyle habits you should think about adopting

There are lots of positive lifestyle habits that are important to many Germans, from striving to be on time to buying local. We take a look at five of them.

Five German lifestyle habits you should think about adopting
Germans love their "Kleingarten" (allotment) like this one in Viersen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Matthias Balk

Being raised in a bilingual home, I’ve learned many German and American customs, and by living in Berlin I experience multiculturalism every day. So when I look at my German identity, it becomes apparent how diverse cultures can be, especially in lifestyle habits.

Because many foreigners know or have experienced the negative habits of Germans, such as complaining too much about cold draughts of air or the weather, I have compiled a list of some positive traits that Germans can be proud of.

READ ALSO: 13 things foreigners do that make Germans really uncomfortable


“Deutsche Pünktlichkeit” (German punctuality), Photo DPA

A stereotypical German virtue is punctuality (Punktlichkeit). Most Germans believe that it is better to be early than late. Of course, this mindset is dependent on the generation and how someone was raised, it doesn’t mean every person in Germany has this trait.

What I’ve found is that older generations usually are sticklers when it comes to punctuality and might tell their grandchildren: “Der frühe Vogel fängt den Wurm!” (The early bird catches the worm!).

Younger people, on the other hand, tend to be more carefree, and have a laid back approach towards life. Their motto would be something along the lines of “besser spät als nie” (Better late than never).

Whatever the age though, there definitely is a big emphasis on being on time in Germany, and at least a few minutes early in some cases, so keep that in mind if you have an important meeting or job interview.

Growing your own fruits and vegetables

Homegrown peppers, Photo DPA

Many Germans love growing vegetables, or any plant for that matter, in their “Kleingarten” (Allotment garden).

Nowadays, almost a million people in Germany, from all socio-economic backgrounds, are members of an allotment garden association and use their gardens for all kinds of purposes: parties, gardening, family gatherings…the list goes on.

Renting a Schrebergarten might be one of the most German things to do ever. But beware: there are strict rules that you have to follow when renting a small garden – and it is illegal to permanently live in a garden shed in the allotment, no matter how big it is.

Germans will also grow things in their backyard, if they have enough space. Ranging from  strawberries or an apple tree, to eggplants, pumpkins and rhubarb, there really is a big culture for growing your own in the Bundesrepublik.

Often, they even grow vegetables and fruits on their balcony as well. Tomato plants, for instance, are common plants for the balcony.

Germans quite frankly just love their vegetables!

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Der Schrebergarten

Buying from local shops and buying organic-products

The organic seal in Germany, Photo DPA

Supporting local shops and markets that offer products without the use of chemicals not only helps the environment, but also your health.

Germany has loads of ‘Bio’ (organic) supermarkets and Germans pride themselves on buying good quality products. Although the downside of that is they can be more expensive.

However, it’s not always necessary to buy at Starbucks, for example. Why not try the local coffee shop at the corner or the local bakery down the street?

These shops are not part of a big cooperation but are often run by family or friends. By supporting them you will help local shops stay in business.

And the great thing about them, is that they value humane, organic, eco-friendly products.

Animal-friendly products

This seal indicates animal-friendly farming, Photo DPA

It is not only vital to support the environment and your health, for many Germans it’s also a crucial habit to purchase products that are animal friendly.

This is sometimes not as easy as it sounds, because there are dozens of labels that can confuse the buyer.

When looking at an egg carton for example, it is important to pick the one that raises the male chicks, who would otherwise be killed (Brand: Bruder Initiative Deutschland), and allows the chickens to live outside (Labelled: Freilandhaltung).

Of course these things also apply when buying meat or any other animal product.


German recycling trash cans, Photo DPA

The recycling system, trash separating system, is an established part of the German system that most citizens help support. It not only keeps the streets clean but also contributes to being eco-friendly.

Because this system is not only a movement but a rudimentary part of society, it needs to be supported by every single person in order for it to be effective. Once you get the hang of it, it will become a routine.

The yellow trash, labeled “Leicht Verpackung” is dedicated to plastic, aluminum, and other light packaging products. The black trash, “Restmüll”, is for cigarettes, ceramics, cosmetics, and other residual waste. The brown trash labelled “Biotonne” is for organic waste which is basically anything that can be used for compost.

The trash for paper and cardboard is blue and called “Papiertonne”. The newest member of the trash-family is the orange trash which is for metal and synthetic waste. And lastly, the glass trash is labelled by which colored glass belongs in it.

Meanwhile, the bottle “Pfand” (deposit) system means you take empty plastic and glass bottles back to the shop for recycling and receive the deposit back.

Recycling in Berlin, as an example, is even a fun activity, because the “Berliner Stadtreinigung-BSR” (Berlin city cleaning) decorates their garbage trucks and trash cans with whimsical, unique phrases such as “Kerrari”, a compound word made up of Ferrari and “Kehren” (Sweeping).

All in all, these habits are great to adopt because they will not only make you a better German but will also support animals and the environment, and help yourself to be on time.

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For members


‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

Germans have an international reputation for enjoying functional clothing. A top German fashion expert told The Local whether the stereotypes of German fashion are really true - and what Angela Merkel has to do with modern style.

‘Sandals mean freedom’: Eight tips on how to dress like a German

‘Comfortable and practical’

“It’s pretty easy to define German style,” says Bernhard Roetzel, the author of books on men’s fashion such as ‘Gentleman: A Timeless Guide to Fashion’. “Nowadays the basic dress of a grown-up man is mainly blue jeans, some kind of sweatshirt and an anorak. The shoes are usually comfortable sneakers. This is the basic German fashion that everyone from workers to doctors wears, and it is suitable for 90 percent of occasions.”

The basic theme, he says, is comfort and practicality. “That is very important.”

According to Roetzel, this love for the practical stretches all the way back into the 19th century when most other Europeans still had strict public dress codes.

“It began with a movement called Lebensreform, which valued things like vegetarianism and woollen clothes, which were supposed to be healthy,” he says.

“Even if Germans at the time didn’t like political freedom, they loved the freedom to wear sandals. Freedom for Germans is to wear sandals in places where it is not appropriate!”

A woman lies on the shore of the Schwarzachtalsee in Baden-Württemberg still wearing her sandals. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Thomas Warnack

Dressing down became even more acceptable after the First World War, when Germany became a republic and the aristocracy, with its formal sense of dress, lost its importance. “The Nazis also propagated being active outdoors,” Roetzel notes. “Fashion was seen as something awful created by the French and the Jews to bring about the downfall of German culture.”

When the craze for casual wear crossed the pond from the US in the 1960s, Germans were slow to adopt it. But now jeans are even standard clothing for septuagenarians, he says. “Twenty years after jeans arrived people started to realise that they are great for all occasions – and now everyone wears them. This was the last blow to formal German clothing.”

Dress down for work

The German love for all-purpose clothes means that it is perfectly appropriate to wear jeans to work, according to Roetzel. 

“If you don’t work in a bank or law firm you can probably wear jeans in most offices. A non-iron, short sleeve shirt is also very important. German men love these shirts, despite the fact that you get hot in them.”

You can even wear sneakers in the office. Or, if you have to look a bit smarter “some very cheap, comfortable leather shoes” will make you fit right in.

“In business, it is very important that you don’t stand out,” Roetzel advises. “If you are smartly dressed people will ask if you have an important meeting or will think you are looking for a pay rise. For everyday business, you dress as casually as possible.”

A woman cycles to work in jeans and a simple jacket in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Christin Klose

Nothing too sexy

Meanwhile, women’s workplace style, perhaps even more than men’s, is based on the principle of ‘the more forgettable the better.’

“Women in German business must not look too sexy,” says the fashion writer. “If you wear a skirt, for example, it should not be too short and heels should not be too high.” A “boxy, mouse grey suit” including a jacket that doesn’t complement one’s figure completes the look.

“Whereas in Italy, businesswomen carry Chanel bags, in Germany they usually carry a laptop bag or something very practical. Makeup is also rather reduced, not too much lipstick, nothing that is too obvious,” he says.

No door policy

Ties are basically a redundant piece of apparel in modern Germany, meaning wearing one really is a matter of choice in most settings.

“There are very few places where you are not allowed in if you don’t wear a tie,” says Roetzel. “I don’t know a single restaurant that wouldn’t admit you if you don’t wear a tie. You might not be allowed into Cologne Cathedral if your shorts are too short, but basically, you can wear everything everywhere and Germans love this!”

Funerals and weddings

Even the most formal occasions, such as weddings, funerals and important birthdays are much more informal events than they once were.

“At funerals, people will wear black but they rarely wear a black suit, most people will wear a black sweatshirt and jeans,” says Roetzel.

Copy Merkel

Angela Merkel’s unpretentious style appealed to Germans. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Fabian Sommer

Anyone looking for inspiration need look no further than recently retired German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who famously wore variations on the same trouser suit for most of her career.

“She had different colours and fabrics but that was her uniform and she also found her hairstyle and that was it. I don’t think she had a stylist,” Roetzel says. “That’s what Germans love. It’s recognizable and it doesn’t look expensive.”


“In Germany, one thing you should never admit to is wearing expensive, tailor-made clothes,” he explains. “As a politician, you can admit that you like drinking but you should never admit to having an expensive wardrobe.”

In fact, the cheaper the better. “Olaf Scholz has always earned a lot of money but his clothes are awful, his suits are awful – this is just perfect for Germany,” says Roetzel.

Splash the cash subtly (or on outdoor clothes)

This is not to say that all Germans wear cheap clothes, but they don’t make a big fuss about the brands that they do wear.

“People want to express status by wearing certain brands,” Roetzel points out. “But in Germany, this is done in a very subtle way. You will see small details in the clothes and glasses of a professor or doctor that will tell you a lot. Class exists but people hide their status because it is negative to show it off. This can be hard for foreigners to detect.”

There is one major exemption thought to the rule of not flaunting your wealth – outdoor apparel.

“Outdoor clothes are really a big thing here,” Roetzel says. “It gives people a sense of freedom and healthiness. Spending €800 on an outdoor jacket is perfectly okay. But it is a sin to spend the same amount on a tailor-made suit – you will destroy your image if you admit to doing this.”

Moreover, anyone who wants to impress Germans through their possessions would be better advised to buy a good car or modern kitchen, the fashion expert says. “It is perfectly normal to have a very expensive kitchen, but your clothes should still be cheap.”

Focus on inner beauty

The German (dis)interest in fashion can actually tell us a lot about deeper German values.

“There is an old Prussian saying of mehr sein als schein (content is better than appearance). Germans feel that if something is too beautiful there must be something fishy about it. Anyone who is too smartly dressed could be a conman,” says Roetzel.

“Germans are very honest, they like to be very direct. They say “what’s the point in not wearing sandals if it’s hot?’”