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Guide for Orientation and Communication in Germany

Public Life

  • People in Germany value their personal space and privacy, so sometimes they can appear distant.
  • Sunday is a quiet day. Most shops are closed and few people go to work. People might complain if you make a noise and disturb them on a Sunday. Also if you are noisy in the time between 10 pm and 6 am.
  • Toilet paper should be thrown into the toilet, while sanitary pads or tampons mustn’t be thrown there but in the waste bin.
  • In public, especially on public transportation, it is considered rude to have long, loud conversations. Conversations and phone calls are rather made in a quiet voice.

Personal freedom
  • In Germany there is freedom of religion. Everybody is allowed to believe in whatever or whoever he wants or not.
  • It is common for couples of the same or different sex to show affection in public.
  • Saunas and some swimming venues are known as “textile free” or FKK areas. Here people are naked. Otherwise in public pools people have to wear swimwear.

Community life
  • To greet each other, people in Germany shake hands.
  • Sometimes friends hug and kiss each other on the cheek to say hello. This kind of hugging is just being friendly and is not meant in a sexual way.
  • It is common to be criticized or criticize someone else. This isn’t meant rude but honest. Accepting and offering (constructive) criticism is considered to be an important way of improving your character, especially in working life.
  • Punctuality is very important. Being late for an appointment or a meeting is considered as rude and a lack of respect. If you are late, call the person and tell them why you have been delayed. This counts in private and in work life.

Environment and Ecology
  • People in Germany separate their waste and recycle many things.
  • In public places people take their waste with them and throw it into the next waste bin, even if it means carrying their waste until they reach the waste bin.
  • There are special recycling banks for old clothes.
  • Many kinds of bottles have a deposit of between 8 and 25 Cents. This deposit is refunded when you return the bottle. You can do this in any supermarket which sells them.

Foods, Drinks and Smoking
  • Drinking water from the tap is perfectly safe. Exceptions: In public places or trains, when the tap has a notice saying: “Kein Trinkwasser” (No drinking water).
  • There are a variety of cheap supermarkets known as “discounters” (e.g. Aldi, Lidl, Penny), as well as more expensive supermarkets (e.g. Rewe, Edeka, Kaufland). You’ll find in them everything you need for everyday life.
  • Drinking alcohol is common at social events in the evening, but it’s perfectly fine not to drink alcohol.
  • It’s illegal to drive the car when you have been drinking alcohol. Even riding a bike can be illegal if you are too drunk.
  • Smoking is common in many public places. In restaurants and night clubs it’s not allowed to smoke, only if they have a special “smoking area”.

  • Shops and offices open and close at set times. Trains, buses, and etc. also leave at set departure times. So it’s important to be on time.
  • Bureaucracy can be quiet complicated, sometimes takes a long time and is done according to standardized procedures.
  • Offering or accepting bribes is a crime.
  • Traffic regulations must be obeyed.
  • In some places, especially in cities, there are separated paths or lanes only for bicycles.
  • Texting or talking on the phone while you are driving is forbidden.

In case of emergency
  • By law everyone is required to help a person who is in danger, for example, by providing first aid and calling emergency services.
  • In case of fights, theft, sexual harassment or other crimes, call the police (dial 110 on any phone).
  • In case of a fire or a medical emergency call the fire brigade (dial 112 on any phone).
  • If you need to get a medication in the evening, on a Sunday or public holiday, you can go to a late-night or standby pharmacy (“Notapotheke”). To find out which pharmacy is on standby duty, use google or call 22 8 33 (max. 69 Cent/Min.). The name and address of the nearest pharmacy is also posted on the doors of all other pharmacies in the area.
  • Doctor’s offices are usually open from 8 am to 12 am. Sometimes they have also open in the afternoon. Most doctors speak English.