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Which German cities have the rudest locals?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Which German cities have the rudest locals?
People queue up outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden. A new survey finds the Saxon capital to be the second most impolite city in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Perceived impoliteness is one of the major culture shocks that foreigners have after moving to Germany, but are some places worse than others? One survey has ranked the rudest cities in the country - and, in a surprise twist, it turns out that Berlin isn’t the worst.


In what German cities are you likely to get smug, snotty, or even completely absent answers to standard, polite questions? Where are you most or least likely to get bumped in the street without a clear apology afterwards? Who is most likely to be noisy in public, not respect personal space, not leave any tip money, be rude to service personnel, or cut in line?

British market research firm Censuswide, commissioned by language learning platform Preply, asked those questions and more in a survey of over 1,500 people in 20 large German cities. Based on the answers, it aggregated results and gave each city a politeness score and ranked them alongside other major German cities.


Berlin isn’t the worst!

In what might come as a surprise to many people in Germany - not least to Berliners themselves - Berlin is not actually Germany’s most impolite city. The city famous for Berliner Schnauze — or abrupt and rude directness — doesn’t even make the top five, although it does make the top ten.

READ ALSO: Berliner Schnauze: The ‘rude’ German attitude foreigners could learn from

According to the survey’s politeness score, Essen is far and away the most impolite city in Germany. It also performed the worst across many behaviours, including loud talking in public, discourteous driving, watching videos loudly in public, not respecting personal space, closed body language, line jumping, and not tipping service personnel.

Dresden and Frankfurt round out the top three most impolite cities, followed by Cologne in fourth place and Dortmund in fifth. Munich, Berlin, and Stuttgart then follow, in that order — although all three have almost identical politeness scores in the survey, indicating the three cities are essentially equally impolite.

North-Rhine Westphalia: Germany’s most polite state?

Aside from Cologne and Essen, cities in Germany’s most populous state - North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) - could well teach the rest of the country some manners.

Five of the top ten most polite cities in Germany are there, including Bochum - the survey’s winner. Bonn, Münster, Duisburg, and Düsseldorf - all cities in NRW - make the top ten, in contrast to Düsseldorf rival Cologne, which is the fourth most impolite city in the country.

Bremen and Hannover came second and third in the most polite category. In contrast to impolite city Dresden, its fellow Saxon neighbour Leipzig is rated the seventh most polite city in Germany. The top ten nicest German cities also include Hannover and Hamburg.

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

Politeness and tipping

The survey considers not tipping service personnel as impolite. But ironically, some of the country’s most impolite cities, according to the survey, also have some of the better tippers.

Although Bremen, the country’s second-most polite city, comes in first on tipping, impolite German cities make up the rest of the top six, including Munich, Essen, Berlin, Dortmund, and Frankfurt. 

READ ALSO: Tipping: What you need to know about tipping culture in Germany


Comments (4)

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Serj 2023/02/15 00:25
Yeah, I was shocked to see Cologne more impolite than Berlin 🥲
Rich 2023/01/20 15:05
As an American, I find the biggest culture shock that many people don't smile when you say hello or just offer a simple smile. Also that many don't like to make eye contact with strangers walking by them. I walk every day in a rural forest in Hessen outside Frankfurt and this is what I experience. I don't think their rude or impolite I think I'm just an overly friendly American that is sorting out the cultural differences.
Alex 2023/01/18 21:08
I find it bizarre how many Germans tip service for drinks, especially after queueing up to be served at a bar. The barstaff basically are just be doing their job and in the vast majority of jobs you are expected to carry it out expeditiously without being tipped. I think bar and cafe owners use the expectation of tipping as an excuse to underpay their staff.
Ric 2023/01/18 17:57
But Easy German recently uploaded a video saying that Cologne is one of, if not the, friendliest cities in Germany... 🤔

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