german tower clock and blue skies

What Not To Do In Germany

Germany is full of cultural quirks and customs that are slightly different to the rest of the world. Life in Germany is mostly followed by rules and regulations, ensuring order and efficiency. Sometimes cultural misunderstandings cause confusion, and sometimes they cause offence. If you’re going to visit Germany, avoid making any cultural faux pas by reading on. Here’s what not to do in Germany.

What Not to do in Germany

1. Make jokes about nazism

We know this is an obvious no-no, but any insensitive jokes or gestures are out of bounds. Some tourists might associate Germany with WW2, Hitler and the Holocaust, but not only is that a wildly incorrect representation of Germany, but it’s also exceedingly insensitive. We would advise against talking about the war, Hitler, the Third Reich, and anything of that ilk altogether. But if you absolutely must do it, then approach with extreme delicacy and without any disrespect. And if that isn’t a good enough reason to not do the Nazi salute, it’s actually illegal to do so and punishable by up to three years in prison.

entrance to Auschwitz

2. Don’t cross the street when the traffic light is red

Always respect the road rules. If the traffic light is red, you can cross. Generally, pedestrian crossings are the safest bet. Crossing the road when it’s on a red light is actually illegal in Germany and can incur up to a €10 fine. Not only is it illegal, but it’s frowned upon and will discredit you in front of any new German friends. Germans strongly believe in being positive role models for the children of the country, so it’s an especially bad offence if there are children around.

cars on the road in german city

3. Share well wishes before the day

If you see someone just before Christmas, New Year, or their birthday, avoid saying happy Christmas or happy birthday if it’s not actually the day. It’s not necessarily rude, it’s just considered bad luck. It’s more of a cultural quirk and you (probably) would be forgiven for slipping up, but avoid it to stay on the safe side.

4. Disrespect quiet hours

Generally, quiet hours are between 10pm and 6am. This can differ in various cities and towns, and landlords might impose different quiet hours. This isn’t to say that the nightlife isn’t good, Berlin, in particular, has some of the best in the world, but it’s about respecting the people you live around. Essentially, someone’s sleep is of utmost importance and shouldn’t be disturbed. The same goes for calling people late at night – unless it’s a close friend and you know they’ll be awake, you shouldn’t disturb somebody at night.

apartment building in a german city

5. Recycle incorrectly

Some stereotypes can’t be argued with. Germans love their rules. And the same goes for recycling, they take it very seriously. But there is a system and a process to it, which might cause confusion if you’re new to the country. But once you’ve got the hang of it, it’ll make sense. Most households have some different coloured dustbins for general waste, plastics, paper and cardboard, and organic waste. Empty glass bottles are kept separately and taken to large containers nearby. Lightbulbs, batteries, electronics, and old furniture are recycled separately too.

german recycling bins

6. Be late

This is another stereotype that we can’t argue with. It is rude in Germany to be late, being punctual is the done thing. If you are going to be late, give the person you’re meeting a courtesy call and don’t keep them waiting.

7. Wear your shoes in someone’s home

While it’s not necessarily an overt offence to everyone, it’s good practice to take off your shoes when you enter their home. It’s generally down to personal preference – some people don’t mind, some would prefer they were taken off, and some find it downright rude. Avoid the awkwardness of not knowing which team your host belongs to and take off your shoes. More often than not, you’ll actually be offered slippers.

Aleyna Thompson

Aleyna is an appreciator of learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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