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Cultural quirks: Five things the expat needs to know about Germany

Written by Robinsons Relo
Storage Specialist


Germans are efficient, ruthlessly so, which makes it no surprise that they have a very stern line separating work and play. Another weirdness I’ve grown used to. Back in SA, you had to be best friends with someone and preferably had got drunk together the night before, before you could ask them to do something for you at work. Here the opposite is true: you barely even need to know their names, and you certainly don’t care about the health of their children or their elderly parents. When visitors are in town for work, it is always the expats who make the effort to take them out and show them around; the Germans tend to melt into the shadows at 6pm. Work is work, play is play, and the twain should never meet.

Thanks means no

Sometimes when asked a question we might not give it our full concentration, or we might assume that replying with ‘thanks’ is an accepting term. In Germany, you might trip up if you use thanks as a term of acceptance, as it will likely be seen as you turning an offer down. Make sure you keep it simple with a ‘ja’ for yes or ‘bitte’ for please.


In the UK, we have those amongst the community who are known for their outspoken nature. In Germany, you can expect this number to be exponentially larger. You might find it refreshing to hear people voicing their feelings on subjects, however it may take some getting used to for others. If you aren’t used to, or expecting it, the abrupt nature of questioning and speaking could come across as rude, however with time, you’ll learn that isn’t the intention and it is simply the culture.

Fresh air

We all know how warm and stuffy a packed office can get, so in the warmer months, a cool breeze through an ajar window is welcomed with open arms. This isn’t the case in many German places of work however. Whilst maybe not true of the whole country, some areas are definitely ‘breeze-averse’. During your time in Germany, you will hear the phrase “es zieht”, meaning all windows must be buttoned down and that dangerously fresh air must remain outside, where it belongs.

Beer head

We might be the butt of the joke when some nations insist we like our beer ‘tepid’ however at least we know how to get the head right on a beer. If you’re a resident of Germany, you can expect to slurp your way through an excess of foam before getting the taste of lager or beer past your lips. If you reside in Germany, you have two options, address the issue with the bartender stating that your British roots require less head, or you can learn to live with losing out on a sizeable amount of your drink.


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