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7 places where you can actually make small talk with Germans

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
7 places where you can actually make small talk with Germans
Friends making chit chat at a 'Stammtisch' in Hamburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Themendienst | Christin Klose

Germans aren't known for their inclination towards small talk - or informal chit chat. But here are seven spots around Germany where we've often observed it happening right out in the open.


While casual chitchat with friendly strangers - or at least acquaintances  - is part of everyday life in many countries, it’s not exactly a common occurrence in Germany. 

Stopping for a bit of banter at the supermarket checkout is so rare in the Bundesrepublik that a Bavarian supermarket even made national headlines when it opened up a special small talk counter - something that would just be the norm in a country like the US or UK. 

But there are a few locations in Germany where people do actually chat with each other about day to day topics like the weather - or a delayed train. Here’s where you might come into contact with them, even in a big city like Berlin, infamous for its rudeness. 

READ ALSO: The 5 best and worst things about living in Berlin

At a Wochenmarkt

German supermarket checkouts can feel like sports matches: you rush to gather your groceries as quickly as possible, placing them on the conveyor belt before a faster 'opponent' puts his broccoli down first.

Yet the Wochenmärkte, or weekly markets, are more laid-back places where regional farmers - and in bigger cities ethnic or vegan food start-ups - gather to bring you their products.

Unlike at supermarkets, the owners don't usually don’t seem to care if you dawdle a few extra seconds, or even if you ask them questions about what they have on offer - which can sometimes even evolve into a conversation. When you become a Stammgast (regular customer), your conversations might even span into weekend weather or upcoming holidays.

In the sauna

It might sound a little strange to strike up a conversation with a sweaty naked person sitting next to you, but that’s exactly what happens in some of Germany’s beloved bastions of relaxation, especially during the long winter months. While in some it’s the unspoken rule to sit silently, others - especially at fitness studios - can feel like a mini-Stammtisch between friends and acquaintances.

READ ALSO: The truth laid bare: What you need to know about Germany's sauna culture

At a Stammtisch

Be it at a local Kneipe or spread out in a park, a Stammtisch is a regular get together where people gather - traditionally at a round table and unite over a central theme - to chat. That includes with your friends - yes, even new ones you might make at the gathering.

A Stammtisch sign on a table. Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance

A Stammtisch sign on a table. Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance

At the playground

In this case you’re forced to interact with strangers when your child starts playing alongside theirs - or nicks their favourite sand shovel. But the beauty of the situation is that many children are simply happy to play with other children, regardless of whether they know them well or at all. Hence you might come into a conversation with other parents or caregivers you otherwise wouldn't have.

READ ALSO: 7 cultural differences between raising kids in Germany and the US


While waiting for a delayed train 

Nothing seems to unite Germans better than waiting impatiently for a long-distance train that’s, gasp, five minutes or more behind schedule. People seem to drop the stoicism they otherwise would have displayed on public transit and rant to the stranger standing next to them that their train is late, yet again. Sometimes this even leads to a chat about external conditions that caused the Verspätung, be it a strike, weather or perceived incompetence of the train service. 

While collecting a package 

It’s a common practice to collect packages for your neighbours (especially if you’re ‘lucky’ enough to live on the ground floor), where you keep them until they ring your buzzer to pick them up. In bigger cities like Berlin, this exchange might be more about getting down to business: get the goods and go, throwing in a Vielen Dank at the end. 

But ​​in smaller cities and towns (and just places where you happen to have friendlier neighbours), it’s not uncommon to stand at the door for a Schnack, a northern German word for a little chit-chat. 


In a small(er) town 

On the one hand, bigger German cities are extremely multicultural, with activities for everyone. But like with cities everywhere, they are more anonymous, with people coming and going. In smaller towns, or sometimes even neighbourhoods in a large city, there are more likely to be Stammgäste at cafes, restaurants and get-togethers. 

And as foreigners, when someone hears our accent when speaking German, we are more likely to stand out. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: sometimes the "Woher kommen Sie?" (where do you come from?) question is simply spurred by curiosity and can lead to a nice chat with a new contact.

READ ALSO: Ask a German: Do you ever make small talk?


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