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German habits For Members

5 ways living in Germany changes you as a person

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
5 ways living in Germany changes you as a person
Hikers stand at the Höchsten vantage point in Baden-Württemberg and look out over the Alps. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Warnack

Getting used to the German way of life can be challenging. But, once you've been here for long enough, you'll not only find yourself adapting, but changing too. Here are five ways life in the country changes you.

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You gain a thicker skin

It would be unfair to say that Germans are rude. But Germans do tend to have a more direct communication style than say, people from the UK or from the US, which can sometimes come across as blunt or abrupt to non-natives.

This directness can also extend to certain behavioural traits, such as not smiling as frequently as people in other cultures or engaging in small talk.

READ ALSO: Which German cities have the rudest locals?

At first, this communication style can be a shock and even be quite hurtful, but, over time, you learn not to take things so personally and that, beneath the slightly tough exterior, even the most direct of Germans are generally nice people who mean well.

Eventually, you might also find yourself cutting to the chase more often in conversation and seeing small talk as slightly superficial.

You become more patient

From getting an appointment for a Wohnungsanmeldung (apartment registration) to trying to stream a video in a rural bed and breakfast, there are many things in Germany you have to wait for.

One of the first things you'll realise when you move to Germany is that the idea of German efficiency is a myth in many ways -  such as the lack of digitalisation and the unreliable train service - the country is slow to change.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany is trying to tackle its slow internet problem

At first, you'll probably feel a lot of frustration and irritation, but you can't keep that up forever. Eventually, you just have to learn to be patient, which isn't such a bad thing.

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You pay more attention to detail

There’s no doubt that living in Germany will sharpen your sense of precision.

For one thing, the language is extremely precise: there is a word to describe pretty much everything.

But it’s not just words that are more precise in Germany. Certain life habits require a keen eye on the details, too.

A waitress holds a bill for drinks and food in a restaurant in Stuttgart.

A waitress holds a bill for drinks and food in a restaurant in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weißbrod

Take paying a restaurant bill, for instance. When eating out in a group in Germany, it's normal for each person to pay only for exactly what they ate, down to the last cent.

As The Local journalist Rachel Loxton said in this week’s Germany in Focus podcast: "Now, I feel it's normal to pay a bill getrennt (separately) rather than together (zusammen) and I feel like my Scottish friends would think I'm stingy for doing that because I even thought that when I first arrived here."

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You appreciate nature more

Germany is a country rich in natural beauty and Germans generally have a strong appreciation for nature and the environment.

Outdoor activities - such as hiking, cycling, and camping - are an integral part of German culture. Gardening and growing your own fruits and vegetables is also a popular pastime, explaining the popularity of Kleingärten (allotments).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get a Kleingarten in Germany

The German government also places a high priority on environmental protection and conservation, and Germans are generally very conscious of their impact on the environment: recycling is taken very seriously and many Germans travel with public transportation or by bicycle instead of by car. 

The love for nature also extends to the love for the natural beauty of the human body. Nudity in Germany is not such a big deal (in the right places, of course) and in saunas for example, going nude is seen as the healthier option than wearing a swimsuit.

After some time in Germany, you'll definitely find yourself wanting to spend more time in the great outdoors and feeling less self-conscious about being naked in public. 

You take better care of yourself

Perhaps the best way that living in Germany changes you is in your attitude towards your health. 

Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and, though those obligatory monthly health insurance payments can sometimes be painful, the insurance system comes with a lot of benefits. 

You don't usually have to wait long for an appointment with a specialist and most health insurance companies subsidise special treatments like osteopathy, physiotherapy and even dental care.  

The German attitude towards sickness and work also firmly prioritises individual health. 

Whereas, in other countries, it might be normal to go to work with a runny nose or a cough, it's generally frowned upon to go to work in Germany when you're sick.

There's a cultural expectation in Germany that employees should take care of their health and not put others at risk by coming to work when they are sick. This is seen as responsible behaviour, and it is generally appreciated when employees take time off to recover fully before returning to work.

German law also guarantees employees the right to take sick leave without fear of losing their jobs or suffering any other form of negative consequence.

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