I love German people, they are really the best. BUT it took me a while to understand them because they are culturally very different from the country where I have initially lived (India), or the country that I first traveled to for work (USA) or people from other countries that I met while traveling.
It took me a few years of living in Germany after I started understanding them. There were quite a lot of things that I didn’t notice in the first years but more things became visible after a few years of living here.
Don’t get me wrong – most of the below points don’t make anyone better or worse. I’m not saying that they are the best or the worst – these are just my observations about how Germans are different from the rest of the world. I have grown to love most of these things about Germans, and you will too if you live here.
1) Germans Love Rules (Even The Ones That Seem to Hate Them)
I can not write an article about Germany and Germans without the #1 point being about the rules. I have said it before and I will say it over and over – Germans really do love their rules.
Now it is pretty normal that you’d meet a German who would say that they don’t like rules but don’t be fooled. If you spend time with them, you will see that they actually follow every single one of them. The same people will also go out of their way to remind someone of the rules if the other person is doing something to beak them.
They can’t help it because the rules are ingrained so well in their minds they subconsciously follow them. They like how the system runs so efficiently when they all follow the rules.
2) A True German Can Open A Beer Bottle with Just About Anything
It is really a true german skill when one can open a beer bottle with just about anything. Who needs a bottle opener when they have a bunch of random things that work just as well?
Cigarette lighters are the most commonly used but I have even seen plastic bottles, remotes, phones, or keys being used in place. Wondering if I can do it too? I try from time to time but my success rate is 30%.
3) Unfit Germans are Rare ‘Cuz Germans love to “Make Sport”
This section isn’t just about how Germans are but also how they talk. The German language is interesting and I love when they translate it directly into English and say they’re “making sport”.
Yes and Germans ARE sporty. They are a country of physically active people as compared to many other countries. It is hard to meet a German who isn’t in any kind of a sport and even those rare ones are super active in every way. People of every age like to ride bicycles, and almost everyone here likes to at least run, swim and ski. It is hard to find a fat person here.
I’d also like to add that I’m a Yoga teacher and I am always in awe of how fit my German Yoga students are as compared to the ones from other countries.
4) Germans are Highly Efficient
You may think that I’m, talking about the German workers here. Sure – they are known to be efficient but this is bigger than that. They are efficient on so many different levels for every random thing that it is as if they are robots. Be it time management, packing, designing systems, or organizing, the Germans are incredibly efficient.
It is as if the knowledge of how to do even the most random things in the most time-saving manner with maximum results has been passed down from generation to generation. If you live in Germany, you will see an example of this daily.
There seems to be an important life lesson that others have failed to receive except the Germans. German supermarket cashiers are known to scan the items at a lightning speed and a typical German will pick them all up one by one at that same super-fast pace and yet efficiently stack them neatly in their carts or bags.
One can easily spot a newcomer in Germany because they are the only ones who can’t match the pace while stacking the shopping in neat piles in their carts.
Yes, Indians are spoiled and we have the supermarket staff doing this stacking for us but I’m not alone in this observation, my American, Australian, as well as other Asian friends who live in Germany, have also noticed it.
6) Germans Know Their Alcohol Good
In a country where drinking in public is allowed, you’d think that you will often see crazy drunk people walking around but that’s not usually the case.
They can legally drink from the age of 16 and they know how to handle it. They can drink down just about anyone without looking drunk, except maybe a Russian or a Polish. (Haha)
If there’s one thing that German love more than rules it is maintaining social decorum. Believe it or not but generation after generation they have been conditioned to behave well in public, hence they do even on alcohol.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about the general “drunk-happy” people, but “out-of-control-crazy-drunk” – the kinds who yell around on the streets for nothing. Actually, you will see the latter quite often in New Delhi (where I come from) and without even alcohol. Haha
The only times when you’d see someone who’s out of control drunk is when there’s the carnival, or a soccer match.
When I first arrived in Germany, I realized that without even trying I ended up being the most colorful one because of my clothes. I’m not just talking about normal supermarket visits but also special events where I’d notice that most of the people actually wore muted colors.
If you’re a German and you’re reading this, then maybe you will shake your head in disbelief. But I have a question for you, what color are you wearing right now? If it isn’t black, grey or white then it is most likely another form of muted color.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you walk around in an arty city (like Hamburg) then you will actually see people wearing different bright colors but still not too much like the locals from the warmer countries do. More exceptions would be music festival people, the pseudo hippies, or the frequent backpackers.
Older Germans Love Jack Wolfskin and Younger Ones H&M. Yes, it actually does work like this with the majority of the germans, it looks like a dress code.
8) Germans and their English
Germans can speak decent English, but many of them don’t know that they can. A majority of Germans hesitate when it comes to speaking in English and they say “Oh sorry, my English isn’t good”. But in reality, they can speak basic English pretty well.
You see, Germans are inherently perfectionists. If they do something, it has to be perfect and “correct” and the same applies to the language They would rather not speak in English than make a tiny grammatical error. They have been taught English in their schools, many of them listen to English music and English is definitely a part of their life more than they realize it is.
On the other hand, I have met a few native English speakers like Americans or Australians who sometimes speak grammatically incorrect English more often but they don’t care. Even many of my Indian people do the same but their confidence level is crazy good.
Dear Germans, we don’t care if you make a grammatical error from time to time. Speak more English with newcomers please because your language isn’t the easiest to learn.
On the other hand, I absolutely love how Germans completely convert their language into English sometimes and say something that means something else. Actually, most of us who are not native English speakers are guilty of this, but since this article is about German people, I’d mention some of my observations here.
I love how Germans use the verb “become” for “getting it”, for example – “Oh did you become a letter today?” – just because there is a verb called “bekomme” that means getting something. Certain German words are so similar to English words with a different meaning. For example, Peperoni in the German language is chili pepper, whereas “Pepperoni” means an American salami. Imagine my surprise when I visited a vegan restaurant in Germany that was named Peperoni.
9) Most Germans Think Ginger is “Spicy”
Ask any Asian what they think spicy is and they’d say chili. Ask a South American or a Mexican, they’d say habanero. Even Italians, Americans, Australians, and Brits can handle spicy food. But Germans, of course, are a little different than everyone.
An Asian would never find ginger spicy, because that the base of 80% of our food. No, we don’t overuse it but it is there in a small quantity in most of the things we eat. In India, we even put it in our chai.
During my first months in Germany I asked someone if they wanted to try Indian food. They said yes but not spicy, so I offered them a bite. It was actually very funny for me when they said — oooh, the ginger is spicy. No, that’s not just one person but many other Germans too think ginger is spicy. Hilarious!
10) Germans Don’t Like Small Talk
If you’re a german then maybe you don’t know the meaning of small talk, because you are just not used to it. Small talk doesn’t have a purpose. It is actually a waste of time but is done to break the ice, even if you know the other person.
For example, if you were in America then most likely even a work colleague would say something random and unimportant to start the conversation – like how was your weekend, etc. After 1-2 minutes, the work colleague would actually come to the point and say that they need your help with an excel sheet or something.
It isn’t just Americans who do this but also Indians and many other people from all over the world because it is a part of our culture. We may not even realize it but we do it. Germans just don’t do it. Honestly, I really like it without the small talk because I don’t enjoy it when people don’t get to the point.
11) Germans may appear cold, but they are very “REAL”
Ok so if it is your first time in Germany then you’d probably say that Germans don’t smile much, or they are too cold. I thought so too at first. It took me a year or so to realize that Germans aren’t cold or unfriendly – they are just very real. They’d rather not fake a smile or indulge in small talk. They take time to open up to someone but when they do, you would realize that they actually have a very amazing (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor.
On the other hand, many other people from other countries can’t help but indulge in small talk. Also, if you meet an Indian, they’d smile a lot more than a German. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, but it is so interesting to notice the cultural differences.
I did mention in the earlier point that German people are highly efficient. But somehow they just don’t offer even mildly decent customer service.
I’m talking about industries like retail, hospitality, banking, and even travel. Whatever you ask anyone at any customer service rep in Germany will seem to annoy them and the nicest answer you will get is a shrug of the shoulder with “what can I do, it isn’t my job.”
Before I quit my job, I worked for a decade in a multi-national industry in India and also spent a few months in the USA. I wasn’t into customer service but it is a known fact that “the customer is the king” or “the customer is always right”. Of course, none of these concepts ever work in Germany.
Here if you actually go to a normal staff member and complain about something that’s not working in their supermarket/store/bank – they’d say “what can I do, that’s not my job” instead of actually getting up and asking their coworker who is in charge to do this.
This was actually a big cultural shock for me and every time my (German) husband would sweetly tell me that I’m wrong to complain and “what can they do”. I was so happy when I discussed this with an American friend and then a Thai friend who are all living in Germany and have the same observation. I even found so many threads about this on Reddit and an article by DW.
Guess what, I have somehow grown to accept this aspect and sometimes I even like it. Why? Because Germans are conditioned not to complain. It is when I visit other countries after living here is that I notice how many people complain too much and maybe it is a good thing that the German customer service sucks, because it conditions the people here to never complain.
13) Germans are Super Punctual
If you invite a German friend to visit you at 5 pm, most likely they will come 1-2 minutes before and wait outside and then ring the doorbell at exactly 5 pm. Isn’t that adorable? Well, it is a little freaky too. How are they so time efficient and how do they plan everything so perfectly?
14) Germans are Very Trustworthy
Have I mentioned a few times already how honest Germans are? Well their honestly makes them highly trustworthy. I feel very safe around Germans and I feel that they aren’t going to scam me. Don’t get me wrong but when I visit my own country, I can’t trust so many people because there are scammers around that are looking for an easy target. The only German city where I don’t trust as many people is Berlin because that’s the city where you can actually get scammed.
15) Strange German New Year Tradition: Dinner for One
This is actually an insanely strange but very funny. There is a tradition in Germany where Germans watch the same video every single New Years Eve and laugh a lot. (NYE is called Sylvester in Germany by the way.)
The video is called “Dinner for One” and is a small 5-10 minute long old English comedy video without any significant dialogues. It is so old that it is black and white.
I love quirky traditions and this one really is the best because it is the same effing video that the Germans watch every year and laugh so much. I wish we had a tradition like this in India too but I can’t think of any. I will leave the video for you below and let you decide how funny it is. Have a few beers and you will find it funnier than it actually is.
So, do you know any German people too? Share this post with them to make them smile. Pin the below image to save the post.
15 Things I learned about German People after Moving to Germany
Namaste, Guten Tag!
I'm Sonal from India, living in Germany and exploring Europe. I've been writing about my travel adventures since 2015. I often travel alone (and sometimes with my husband & our toddler).
I love nature, adventure, hiking to viewpoints, Yoga, and road trips. I love creating itineraries and in-depth travel guides which will help you make the most of your trip.
Haha, I love that. I experienced some of the points you described myself (especially number 1) when I lived in Germany for a summer internship. I’m Austrian and a lot of people think that culturally we are just like Germans, but no there are differences. But, I was surprised to read that Germans are not good at customer service and there is even a DW article about it. You always learn something new.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Hi Lisi, yes for me also it was very surprising at how Germans are good in everything else BUT customer service. I think it is because they don’t like to complain about things like other people do and they don’t like it when others do. I’m happy that you enjoyed my article.