Do’s and Don’ts in Germany for expats

Dos and Donts Germany
Important do's and don'ts in Germany.

We have listed some Dos and Donts for foreigners in Germany. Germany is one of the largest economies in the world. If you are planning to move to Germany there are some things that you should keep in mind. Germany is flourishing because of its well-maintained infrastructure. And that is maintained by making and following some strict rules. If you want to adjust in Germany you should keep these in mind.

Donts In Germany

There are a few things you should not do when in Germany. As this can get you in trouble. We have highlighted Do’s and Don’ts in Germany. Go through these as follow:

Being unpunctual

Germans are very punctual and expect others to be as well. They would rather reach a place before time than be late by even a couple of minutes. Wasting people’s time is considered rude and unacceptable. If you have made an appointment, make sure to arrive at least 5 minutes earlier. Never give excuses for traffic or public traffic being late, always allow time for this when going somewhere. Deadlines, appointments, timetables and even dates carry the weight of solemn oaths in Germany. Being late is equal to breach of contract. However, if you have a really good reason behind being late only then it is acceptable. Although for most people, it will be right if you let them know in advance about your chances of getting late.

Making noise

In Germany, quiet hours are regulated by law. Obviously, life creates noise. However, the noise has fixed hours. In these hours there should be no loud music, drilling, or vacuuming. Even turning on a load of washing during quiet hours can result in complaints by neighbours and a visit by public officers. Each municipality can set their guidelines, but mostly quiet hours are between 1 pm and 3 pm or between 10 pm and 7 am. Also, they do not want to be annoyed on Sundays or any public holidays. There are a few exceptions that are considered socially acceptable like children noises.


In Germany even if there are no cars in sight pedestrians patiently wait for the traffic lights to turn green no matter how long it takes. Crossing the road at a red light can result in a 5 Euros fine. You will receive angry remarks and scoldings by other pedestrians. If the kids are watching, you might even get yelled at. As you will be setting a bad example for their offspring. They do not hesitate to educate you on the traffic regulations.

Unannounced visit

Germans appreciate privacy. You should never go to someone’s house unannounced in Germany. Germans like to be prepared both mentally and physically. They follow an order and like having everything arranged. If you show up unexpectedly at their home it will be negatively received.

Wearing shoes in house

Most people in Germany do not wear shoes inside their houses. So if you were invited to someone’s home, take off your shoes before entering. Or inquire if it is okay to be wearing shoes inside before you enter. They sometimes even hand you a pair of slippers to wear inside the house.

Walking in bicycle lanes

Do's and Don'ts Germany

Germany is a bicycle-friendly country. There is a separate lane for bicycles. Do not walk in these bicycle lanes. Firstly it is prohibited and it is a traffic offence. Secondly, it is dangerous for you. As cyclists are used to travelling across cities at high speeds and you could get hit by a cyclist. The cyclist could get very angry with you for this.

 Addressing with first names

When addressing people, never address them with their first names, unless you were specially asked to do so. The title Herr (for men) and Frau (for women), should be used before their last name. Germans differentiate between a formal and informal.

  • ‘Sie’ signifies respect and must be used in all formal settings. So the formal pronoun is ‘Sie’. In a business context or when conversing to strangers, stick to Sie. Also when you are addressing the older generation use the word ‘sie’.
  • If you were invited to a dinner party with people of the same age, you will usually stick to the informal version. But it’s polite and better to ask how the other person wants to be addressed. Only friends refer to each other as ‘du’ as it is an informal tone.

Speaking English

Germans do speak English and some can follow your conversation.  But they prefer their native language. And mostly in-store and public places you need to speak German.  When speaking English do not expect them to do so as well. Instead, learn basic German phrases and then ask them if they could speak English.

Don’t waste food

 No one should waste food. But wasting food in Germany is a sign of disrespect. When you are ordering food be sure of its quantity. You should definitely ask the waiter what you are ordering. In many restaurants, if you are wasting food expect to get extra-charge.

Asking for tap water

Never ask for tap water when you are dining out. You can order sparkling water or mineral water in case you do not want non-carbonated water. Although German tap water is perfectly safe to drink, but if you ask for it, you are looked upon as stingy. In fact, most of the Cafés and restaurants in Germany do not serve free tap water, even if you ask for it.

Showing Nazi salute and joke about it

Do not show Nazi salute or any Nazi symbol, flag, or slogan. It is considered highly offensive as it is also illegal. By doing this you might face high fines or even end up in prison for up to five years.

Also, do not talk about them as a joke. If you are really interested, ask very politely to a German you know very well about what you would like to know. They just don’t like to hear any joke about it. What looks like a joke to you can be seriously offensive to a German.


Germany is known for its liquor. You can drink your beer on the streets along the way. Drinking for leisure is fine with people. Make sure you do not get drunk and move in public. Public drunkenness is not acceptable in Germany.

Hands while Eating

When eating, do not put your elbows on the table, it is considered bad manners. Only your hands should be on the table.

Concentration camp

Concentration camps are placed where we should show respect for the dead. Death of millions of people occurred within those camps. So when visiting those camps we should not be playful and take pictures with selfie sticks. German show respect there we as a foreigner should do the same.

Wasting time

Time is precious and Germans abhor those who don’t value time. They are efficient and like to do things on time. So do not waste other people’s time. Know about procedures beforehand. If you want to ride a bus or get tickets to go somewhere, know the procedure before instead of causing a nuisance for others. Even in restaurants be efficient with your orders.

Dos In Germany

The next chapter of Do’s and Don’ts in Germany. There are a few things you must do when in Germany. These are as follow:

When visiting

Germans may invite you to their house. So if you are visiting some body’s house, it is better to show gratitude with a small gift such as flowers, wine or candy. Also, do remember to remove shoes upon entering their home.
If you are just landed in Germany, please check things to do as an expatriate when you arrive in Germany and if you are planning to visit get to know what to bring.

Public transport ticket

Germany has an excellent public transport system. For public transportation, they have trains, trams, subways, and buses to take you anywhere you want to go. But be aware that these transports are free. You have to get a ticket and get it properly stamped. Tickets are checked by staff on the train and those who fail to show ticket face fine. You may get fine up to 60 Euros if you boarded the train without a valid ticket.

Follow rules

Germans are very rule-oriented. The like things to be organized and they do not like rules being broken. It may be traffic rules or garbage segregation rule; they take it all very seriously. So don’t try to jaywalk on their roads. And ensure that you have 4-5 different types of garbage bins – one for biodegradable waste, one for paper waste, for glass, plastic, used batteries etc.

Shake hands

You should shake hands when greeting people. Also, shake hands with a woman first when meeting in the group.

Take cash

If you are used to using a card to pay you may have to change this a bit in Germany. In Germany, you still have to use cash. It is common for adults to use cash and not to use a credit card or a debit card for purchases. Even in cafes, some foreigners find it hard to pay with cash for their coffees. So always carry cash with you in Germany. Germans believe that paying cash by hand will keep your spending in check.

Share table

In a restaurant in Germany, do not wait to be seated by the waiter. It sharing tables is common in Germany with a stranger and, you can choose your table. So if you enter a restaurant and do not find a vacant table, join anybody. However, do not strike up a conversation with them.

Recycle wrongly

Germans take recycling very seriously. It often causes confusion for people who are new to Germany.  But if you try to understand its importance, it makes sense. Most people have multi-coloured bins for waste at home. These are divided as general waste, plastics, papers, and organic waste. Empty glass bottles are taken to public containers present in every neighbourhood. Light bulbs, batteries, electronics, and old furniture are recycled separately as well. Do not litter the streets. There are bins everywhere to throw the litter in these bins.

Dos and Donts Germany

Collect Pfand

Germany has this Pfand system. You can receive pfand on glasses and bottles. When you buy water or drinks in plastic bottles, you have to pay some additional cents per bottle. When you return these bottles to shops you can get these back. So do not throw your bottles in the bin. In fact, return them to the shop and get some cents for it. Also on do not throw away or leave glasses on the table when you leave a beer garden or Christmas market. At the Christmas markets, you are served in decorative mugs. They charge an additional deposit of 3-5 Euros for the mug. You can either make these a souvenir if you want to keep the mugs or return them to get the deposit back for the mug.

German Business Etiquette

As Germany is strict about timing you should not contact anyone beyond office timings. They do not like to be disturbed beyond 5 pm usually. Also on the weekend and always check if it is okay to call someone for any official reasons.

  • Dress formally for official meetings.
  • Never skip a scheduled business meeting or cancel it at the last moment. They find it very rude and inexcusable. In case you are unable to attend it, call ahead and let them know in advance.
  • Germans are straightforward people. So do not beat around the bush in fact get to the point.
  • They are also professional in their dealings. So don’t ask anything personal.

We hope these Dos and Donts help you while you stay in Germany.


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