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Living in Germany: Being free from small talk, borders and moving German public holidays

Each week the team at The Local Germany sends out a weekly members' newsletter looking at some of the quirks, perks and big issues for people living in the country.

Living in Germany: Being free from small talk, borders and moving German public holidays
Photo: AFP

Tweet of the week

Save for maybe discussing dreary weather, “small talk” isn’t really a concept that exists in Germany. That means that “awkward silence” is not exactly a thing either, as there’s no pressure to fill conversation gaps – or initiate a chat in the first place, as one American English teacher and travel guide in Görlitz noted.

Is this also a relief to you? How do Germans initiate conversations differently than in your home country?

Reunification Day

Saturday October 3rd officially marked 30 years since East and West Germany became one united country on October 3rd 1990. Even in corona times, several events are slated in Berlin to mark the momentous occasion, such as a series of illuminated monuments throughout the city.

One of the most impressive displays is seen at the famous Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of the Berlin Wall’s fall and the cohesiveness of the country in the years that followed.

This historic photo shows Germans gathering in front of it the night that the Berlin Wall fell on November 9th 1989.

Photo: DPA

Readers have their say

This year October 3rd fell on a Saturday. It meant all shops were closed – and there is no public holiday during the week. We asked The Local readers if Germany should change this system to make sure public holidays fall on weekdays… here’s the verdict:

Keep in mind many shops across Germany will be opening on Sunday October 4th instead so you can (hopefully) stock up on milk and bread then.

Where is this?

Located in the student city Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, the Ulm Minster holds the title of tallest church in the world – at least until the Sagrada Family in Barcelona is eventually completed.

It’s also the fifth tallest structure to be built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 metres. It’s no wonder that the structure is often erroneously called a cathedral, when it’s actually classified as a church.

Local Germany editor Rachel Stern craned her neck to see the top upon a visit in September. But the impressive work of architecture wasn’t the only allure to the city bordering Bavaria.

It’s also filled with cosy restaurants filled with regional mouthwatering regional food like Maultauschen dumplings and has a picturesque Altstadt situated along the Danube river.

Did you know?

Germany shares a border with nine other countries: Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Prior to 2020, it was easy to take for granted the ease of crossing borders – sometimes even accidentally – into a neighbouring country. Yet at the moment, Germany is placing greater importance on these dividing lines, and issuing travel warnings to several of its surrounding nations.

As of Friday, Poland remained the only Nachbarland which the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had not categorised partially or fully as a risk area.

A reader's view

We published an article this week about how the Berlin Brandenburg airport is slated to open at the end of October, following a 12 year delay.

Yet one of our readers wrote to us to correct our labeling of EasyJet as a “British” airline. It actually has a deeper connection to Germany than many people might assume, she said.

“I’m working for EasyJet and had a tour of the building on the day the article was released. It’s exciting to see it tantalisingly close to actually opening!” wrote a reader who wanted to remain anonymous.

The only thing I was saddened to see was the labelling of easyJet as a no-frills British airline. The subsidiary company that operates in Berlin, easyJet Europe, is actually registered Austrian and here in Germany we operate on German contracts. We’re quite separate now from the British company.

This idea of a British airline taking over from Air Berlin (which went bankrupt in 2017) has really hurt our prospects with locals choosing the obviously German airline options. This is despite our cabin crew being required to speak German within their first year and much of our management being locals.”

Thanks for reading,

The team at The Local Germany 

Rachels at The Local

Rachel Loxton & Rachel Stern

[email protected]


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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.

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. German 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 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, comes 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.