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The German habits foreign residents say they can’t shake off

German traits can quickly become part of everyday life after living in the country for a while. We asked which habits you just can't shake off, which ones you like – and which ones you try to avoid.

The German habits foreign residents say they can't shake off
Do you sit down to pee? Photo: DPA

We received a high number of varied and interesting responses to our questionnaire – thanks to all who took the time to get in touch. We were glad to have the chance to read all of your answers.

What are the most common habits you’ve picked up from living in Germany?

Paying in cash, peeing sitting down (at least for our male readers), waiting for the green light to cross the road and enjoying different types of food: these are some of the habits our readers told us they'd picked up since settling down in the Bundesrepublik.

Unlike some other places like the Netherlands and Scandinavia, Germany is still not on board with paying for everything with a card. And this is a trait our readers found they had developed since moving to the country.

Christopher Rastin, who came from Canada to Düsseldorf in 2013, said: “I almost only pay in cash… the idea of a credit card or EC card to pay for something now seems bizarre, whereas it was the only way I paid before.”

Rastin added that paying in cash had made him “much more sensitive to my spending habits” and he now has more savings than when he lived in Canada.

On the topic of Germany's love affair with Bargeld (cash) Laurie Hall, who's from the UK and now based in Munich, added: “This is one I resent only because German shops are too stingy to let you pay for anything under €10 with a debit card. And you can forget credit cards.”

Crossing the road is a serious business in Germany. If you walk over when there's not a green pedestrian light you might face a telling off from a fellow pedestrian or road user – or even a fine.

READ ALSO: Daily dilemmas: Is it ever acceptable to cross the road at a red light in Germany?

Tonia Brauer from California, who moved to Berlin in August 2018, said she often used to cross the road in the US when there was a red light (if it was safe to do so). But in Germany she never does it.

Photo: DPA

Meanwhile, Brauer has picked up other German lifestyle habits such as cycling everywhere.

“I love riding my bike even in the rain now,” said Brauer. “I never chit chat and I'm so fast at bagging my groceries!

Kaffee und Kuchen is the best idea ever! I found myself adjusting to these new habits fairly quickly. I did notice because it is so different from my behaviour in the US.”

Vija from India, who now lives near Hamburg, said he now always cycles to work and “follows traffic lights like a pedestrian even when there is no vehicle traffic”, echoing the stereotypical German love of rules and order.

Hasyin Iqbal from Bangladesh, and now based in Heidelberg, has also changed a few of his habits. 

“Ever since my arrival, I always take my bags for grocery shopping instead of buying plastic bags,” he said. “I regularly check the mail box and buy stamps. I use more cash than my debit or credit card.”

Some readers say they've picked up the German trait of practicality and planning seriously.

Jose in Münster plans things “three to six months” in advance since he settled in Germany.

Being on time – and direct

Is it a myth that the Germans are always punctual? Well, maybe not completely. For lots of foreigners, punctuality is something they've become more invested in since living in Germany.

READ ALSO: Five German lifestyle habits you should think about adopting

Amber Dase from the US and now in Munich said: “I am much more punctual for everything. Back home, I would be on time for work or for specific appointments with offices, however, I would be much more relaxed about showing up late for social events – meeting a friend, a lunch date, going to the movies.

“It's almost unthinkable for me now. And it's nice to actually show up for a lunch date and my friend actually comes on time too! Imagine that! I I have to hold my tongue when I go home for a visit and a friend shows up 20 minutes late for a coffee date. It drives me crazy now!”

Omair, from Pakistan and now in Salzwedel, said he is now always on time – and he had become more direct, like the Germans.

He added that he plans ahead in detail, has become more organized and opens windows in the morning to let air in “even when it's freezing outside”.

For some people, food habits were a major change, from getting a Wegbier (a beer to carry with you for the road) to drinking more coffee.

Photo: DPA

“Every meal had to be hot or warm in India,” said Yurvaraj Govindarajulu. “Now I do not mind if even two of my meals (breakfast and dinner) are cold. I think I picked this up from my German friends.”

Others said they'd taken to enjoying “Brotzeit”, a traditional German meal of bread and other snacks.

READ ALSO: 13 things foreigners do that make Germans really uncomfortable

Attitude to nudity and toilet habits

For many foreigners, Germany's more casual attitude to nudity is a major cultural difference. People in Germany don't tend to cover up in the changing rooms of gyms and in most saunas you have to be completely naked.

Zaid from Pakistan said he's now adapted to Germany's open gym showers although he feels “a little bit weird” about the nudity.

On the other hand, Maria from Spain, who's now in Berlin, said she enjoys the Free Body Culture (FKK) attitude in Germany.

“Tried it once, now forever a nudist,” she said. “I even feel uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit when I really have to.”

Some of our male readers pointed out that they now sit peeing down on the toilet seat since that behaviour is encouraged.

Laurie Hall said: “It is so frowned upon to stand up that I started doing it pretty much immediately.”

Others pointed out that they now always clink glasses with eye contact. Well, the Germans do say that you face seven years of bad sex if you don't…

Lauren Barry, who's originally from Florida, said she now spoke English with German grammar. Barry also folds her duvet in half on the bed (a very German trait), and puts “the bar down on the grocery belt so others behind you can put their stuff down” in the supermarket.

Germans are known for not being afraid to speak up if they think someone is doing something wrong. It's all part of the country's correcting culture.

Do you prefer to pay in cash? Photo: DPA

And Barbara Born, who's originally from South Africa but has been in Germany 20 years, says she's picked up that habit.

“I find myself telling people what they shouldn't be doing,” she said.  “I'm quicker to speak up, but sometimes stick my nose where it shouldn't be!”

READ ALSO : Are Germans really rude or just avoiding politeness overload?

Which German habits do you dislike or try to avoid?

Respondents said that being negative, not very polite, not engaging in small talk and staring too much were habits that they didn't like so much or tried to stop doing.

Tonia Brauer said: “I like all of the habits I’ve picked up except one. I find myself being aloof and not smiling which is not me. It is my least favourite thing about Berlin. Life's too short to walk around avoiding eye contact.”

“Germans smile a lot less than most people around the world,” said Hasyin Iqbal. “I wasn't like that before. When I first came here, I would always have a smile on my face, but now, I would rather smile less.”

Neil Insh said he tried to avoid the German habit of “staring at other people unashamedly”, while Rutuja in Wiesbaden doesn't want to “eat Kartoffeln (potatoes) with every meal”.

Meanwhile, Christopher Rastin said he hates that motorists in Germany can sometimes “tailgate” while driving.

“I cannot accept 50 cars all doing 150 kph on the autobahn only separated by 5cm,” he said. “I will never understand how the 'Germans are great drivers' reputation evolved.”

Lots of respondents said there were some habits from their home country that they're stuck with.

Laurie Hall said: “As an Englishman I say please, thank you and sorry all the time to an extent that Germans find bizarre. Don”t think I will ever stop doing that.”

Member comments

  1. Hey, I am living in Germany since 2014. I am an Indian. One habit that i have picked up in Germany is to use dim lights. I found it weird when I came here as a student. I was used to bright white lights when I was at home. Now I got used to the dim lights. Nowadays I just use a small table lamp in my apartment and never turn on the bright lamp.

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For members


Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!