Germany’s Unspoken Rules

Every country has its own unspoken ‘rules’, some more obvious than others. Sadly you don’t receive a handbook with a list of them when you first enter a country. That would have saved me a lot of dirty looks during my 2 week trip to Germany! That’s why I have come up with a list of Germany’s unspoken (and unwritten until now) rules. I learned some of these the hard way and some from talking to my Irish aunt who has lived in Germany for 6 years. Even if you have never been or plan on going to Germany, give these a read, I personally found some pretty amusing.

Don’t ask for tap water at restaurants

It is not the norm and will be considered rude. After making this mistake once, I decided not to be rude again and buy my water (big move for a cheap skate like me who never pays for water). The water was €4. Its water, not a Starbucks frappachino. To be honest, next time I might just be rude and save €4.

Sparkling water is the norm

On the topic of water, sparkling water is most German’s main form of hydration. Some even have sparkling water taps in their homes.  If you ask for water in Germany they will probably assume that you want sparkling so if you don’t, make it clear! Ich will natürliches Wasser!!!

Pay to pee

I walked into a bathroom in a small petrol station to see a man sitting at a table with a small dish of money. I just assumed that he was begging in a weird location and ignored his grunting as I walked past to the ladies.  I was later told that I should have given him money. Most  public toilets in Germany and other European countries I have been to are pay in, maybe it’s just Ireland that has free public toilets?

Don’t walk on cycling lanes

This is a pretty obvious one but if you are not paying attention like my brother in Cologne, you may be screamed at by angry cyclists. Germany is big into its cycle culture and cycle lanes are everywhere so be careful.

Germans shower naked in public showers

This is more of a warning than a rule just so that you don’t get as big a shock as I did when I walked into the shower room of an outdoor pool to see two stark naked granny butts facing me.

Shake hands when you are introduced to someone

Like the two kisses is France and three in Switzerland. Its polite and expected.

Be clear about what you want

In general, Germans are clear and straightforward when talking. I am not used to that as Irish people tend to be very unclear and vague about what they want. We would have a clear idea in our heads of what we want but say ‘I don’t mind’ 100 times while trying to discretely communicate that you actually do mind a lot.

A prime example is me 10 minutes after telling my friend that I am going to be more straightforward when I speak;

Me: I can’t believe I forgot to pack my powder. I’ll just go around like a shiny sun cream sweat monster all holiday

Her: *while applying powder* Remember, you are communicating like a German.

Me: Oh yeah haha! Can I use your powder please.

I was staying with my German relatives. I woke up and walked straight downstairs in my pyjamas to see their elderly neighbour who I had never met before asking if anyone wanted to go to the market with her (she wanted to refresh her English by talking to us). She then pointed at me and said “I would like you to come with me”. She singled me out and asked me to go. Now that’s clear communication. I, being Irish assumed that she would take the hint when I said “Well I am still in my pyjamas and I need to eat breakfast so…” I was wrong, she said she didn’t mind waiting for me. Of course she just expected a clear yes or no. I did kind of want to go anyways and it was really interesting.

Moral of the story; Germans communicate clearly. Be like a German it makes life easier.

Guard your boundaries

Tip from my aunt who learned that if you do not say no to some things you will have too many responsibilities you will become überfordert.


Thanks for reading! If you have a minute comment some of your countries ‘unspoken rules’ I would be very interested to hear them xx

disclaimer: Some of this is personal opinion and I do not want to offend anyone

6 thoughts on “Germany’s Unspoken Rules

  1. Hahaha as a German I wouldn’t generalize all these things you described but it’s fun to read. I like the being clear part. It really does make things easier. Decisions decisions. But In case you’re finding an excuse to say no it’s not about being German to not understand that. It’s about the person not being empathetic.
    Keep on your great work. Like it 🙂


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