While Germany has many similarities to the United States like a free highway system, a hearty appetite and our sense of personal space, there are a few pointers to keep in mind to make your holiday in Deutschland a smooth one.
1. To toast in German, you can either say “Zum Voll” or “Prost!” But, whatever you do, make sure to look each of your table mates directly in the eye as you are clinking glasses. It is considered bad luck to toast and not make eye contact with your neighbor at the table.
2. Never, ever walk in the bike lanes. They are numerous and heavily trafficked in most German cities and serve one purpose: for bikers to zoom around the city. An oblivious tourist in the bike lane could quickly turn into a flattened tourist.
3. Greet shop owners, clerks, the checkout lady at the grocery and even the other guests in the hotel you are staying at. It is common to say hello to them with a simple “Guten Tag” or even “Grüss Gott” in Bayern. Not acknowledging the presence of others in certain situations, like the ones mentioned above, is seen as standoffish and rude. Expressing this courtesy will definitely win you the respect of the store clerk and in my experience they are more likely to help should you have a question. On the other hand, it is totally unnecessary to wave at all the other joggers on the trail or to nod at the driver stopping when crossing the street as a pedestrian.
4. If you do decide to rent a car and hit the Autobahn while in Germany, make sure to stay out of the left lane unless you intend to quickly pass the motorist in front of you. Pristine road conditions and expensive, luxury cars lead to the ability to drive extremely fast safely, as long as those zipping down the highway don’t run into you putting along, driving in the left lane like many incompetent drivers do here.
5. Most Germans know quite a bit about politics, so if you decide to engage this topic, make sure you are well-informed, too. If not, you run the risk of looking pretty foolish.
6. Getting outdoors in the fresh air, whether to jog, bike, hike or just eat a picnic is a quick way to warm the hearts of older locals. Breathing the “frische luft” is considered important, especially in the warmer summer months.
7. If you need a quick refreshing drink after exercising, one of the favorites in summer time is a “Radler.” Literally the drink for bike riders, a Radler is a half and half mix of sparkling lemonade and Hefeweizen or whatever beer the establishment has on tap.
Anything you’d add to the list of must-knows before travelling to Germany?