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HABITS

The German habits foreign residents say they can’t shake off

German traits can quickly become part of everyday life after living in the country for a while. We asked which habits you just can't shake off, which ones you like – and which ones you try to avoid.

The German habits foreign residents say they can't shake off
Do you sit down to pee? Photo: DPA

We received a high number of varied and interesting responses to our questionnaire – thanks to all who took the time to get in touch. We were glad to have the chance to read all of your answers.

What are the most common habits you’ve picked up from living in Germany?

Paying in cash, peeing sitting down (at least for our male readers), waiting for the green light to cross the road and enjoying different types of food: these are some of the habits our readers told us they'd picked up since settling down in the Bundesrepublik.

Unlike some other places like the Netherlands and Scandinavia, Germany is still not on board with paying for everything with a card. And this is a trait our readers found they had developed since moving to the country.

Christopher Rastin, who came from Canada to Düsseldorf in 2013, said: “I almost only pay in cash… the idea of a credit card or EC card to pay for something now seems bizarre, whereas it was the only way I paid before.”

Rastin added that paying in cash had made him “much more sensitive to my spending habits” and he now has more savings than when he lived in Canada.

On the topic of Germany's love affair with Bargeld (cash) Laurie Hall, who's from the UK and now based in Munich, added: “This is one I resent only because German shops are too stingy to let you pay for anything under €10 with a debit card. And you can forget credit cards.”

Crossing the road is a serious business in Germany. If you walk over when there's not a green pedestrian light you might face a telling off from a fellow pedestrian or road user – or even a fine.

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas: Is it ever acceptable to cross the road at a red light in Germany?

Tonia Brauer from California, who moved to Berlin in August 2018, said she often used to cross the road in the US when there was a red light (if it was safe to do so). But in Germany she never does it.

Photo: DPA

Meanwhile, Brauer has picked up other German lifestyle habits such as cycling everywhere.

“I love riding my bike even in the rain now,” said Brauer. “I never chit chat and I'm so fast at bagging my groceries!

Kaffee und Kuchen is the best idea ever! I found myself adjusting to these new habits fairly quickly. I did notice because it is so different from my behaviour in the US.”

Vija from India, who now lives near Hamburg, said he now always cycles to work and “follows traffic lights like a pedestrian even when there is no vehicle traffic”, echoing the stereotypical German love of rules and order.

Hasyin Iqbal from Bangladesh, and now based in Heidelberg, has also changed a few of his habits. 

“Ever since my arrival, I always take my bags for grocery shopping instead of buying plastic bags,” he said. “I regularly check the mail box and buy stamps. I use more cash than my debit or credit card.”

Some readers say they've picked up the German trait of practicality and planning seriously.

Jose in Münster plans things “three to six months” in advance since he settled in Germany.

Being on time – and direct

Is it a myth that the Germans are always punctual? Well, maybe not completely. For lots of foreigners, punctuality is something they've become more invested in since living in Germany.

READ ALSO: Five German lifestyle habits you should think about adopting

Amber Dase from the US and now in Munich said: “I am much more punctual for everything. Back home, I would be on time for work or for specific appointments with offices, however, I would be much more relaxed about showing up late for social events – meeting a friend, a lunch date, going to the movies.

“It's almost unthinkable for me now. And it's nice to actually show up for a lunch date and my friend actually comes on time too! Imagine that! I I have to hold my tongue when I go home for a visit and a friend shows up 20 minutes late for a coffee date. It drives me crazy now!”

Omair, from Pakistan and now in Salzwedel, said he is now always on time – and he had become more direct, like the Germans.

He added that he plans ahead in detail, has become more organized and opens windows in the morning to let air in “even when it's freezing outside”.

For some people, food habits were a major change, from getting a Wegbier (a beer to carry with you for the road) to drinking more coffee.

Photo: DPA

“Every meal had to be hot or warm in India,” said Yurvaraj Govindarajulu. “Now I do not mind if even two of my meals (breakfast and dinner) are cold. I think I picked this up from my German friends.”

Others said they'd taken to enjoying “Brotzeit”, a traditional German meal of bread and other snacks.

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

Attitude to nudity and toilet habits

For many foreigners, Germany's more casual attitude to nudity is a major cultural difference. People in Germany don't tend to cover up in the changing rooms of gyms and in most saunas you have to be completely naked.

Zaid from Pakistan said he's now adapted to Germany's open gym showers although he feels “a little bit weird” about the nudity.

On the other hand, Maria from Spain, who's now in Berlin, said she enjoys the Free Body Culture (FKK) attitude in Germany.

“Tried it once, now forever a nudist,” she said. “I even feel uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit when I really have to.”

Some of our male readers pointed out that they now sit peeing down on the toilet seat since that behaviour is encouraged.

Laurie Hall said: “It is so frowned upon to stand up that I started doing it pretty much immediately.”

Others pointed out that they now always clink glasses with eye contact. Well, the Germans do say that you face seven years of bad sex if you don't…

Lauren Barry, who's originally from Florida, said she now spoke English with German grammar. Barry also folds her duvet in half on the bed (a very German trait), and puts “the bar down on the grocery belt so others behind you can put their stuff down” in the supermarket.

Germans are known for not being afraid to speak up if they think someone is doing something wrong. It's all part of the country's correcting culture.

Do you prefer to pay in cash? Photo: DPA

And Barbara Born, who's originally from South Africa but has been in Germany 20 years, says she's picked up that habit.

“I find myself telling people what they shouldn't be doing,” she said.  “I'm quicker to speak up, but sometimes stick my nose where it shouldn't be!”

READ ALSO : Are Germans really rude or just avoiding politeness overload?

Which German habits do you dislike or try to avoid?

Respondents said that being negative, not very polite, not engaging in small talk and staring too much were habits that they didn't like so much or tried to stop doing.

Tonia Brauer said: “I like all of the habits I’ve picked up except one. I find myself being aloof and not smiling which is not me. It is my least favourite thing about Berlin. Life's too short to walk around avoiding eye contact.”

“Germans smile a lot less than most people around the world,” said Hasyin Iqbal. “I wasn't like that before. When I first came here, I would always have a smile on my face, but now, I would rather smile less.”

Neil Insh said he tried to avoid the German habit of “staring at other people unashamedly”, while Rutuja in Wiesbaden doesn't want to “eat Kartoffeln (potatoes) with every meal”.

Meanwhile, Christopher Rastin said he hates that motorists in Germany can sometimes “tailgate” while driving.

“I cannot accept 50 cars all doing 150 kph on the autobahn only separated by 5cm,” he said. “I will never understand how the 'Germans are great drivers' reputation evolved.”

Lots of respondents said there were some habits from their home country that they're stuck with.

Laurie Hall said: “As an Englishman I say please, thank you and sorry all the time to an extent that Germans find bizarre. Don”t think I will ever stop doing that.”

Member comments

  1. Hey, I am living in Germany since 2014. I am an Indian. One habit that i have picked up in Germany is to use dim lights. I found it weird when I came here as a student. I was used to bright white lights when I was at home. Now I got used to the dim lights. Nowadays I just use a small table lamp in my apartment and never turn on the bright lamp.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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