Germany dos and don'ts

Social rules. Germany’s got a lot of ‘em, and ignoring etiquette yields a puckered brow, pronto. But don’t fret – our tips will get you on the right track.

Do

  • Shake hands when you’re introduced to someone – it’s impolite not to.
  • Say Prost! (cheers!) before you sip your beer – and look your drinking buddy in the eye when you say it.
  • Feel free to have serious discussions in social settings – Germans like talking politics and philosophy. They don’t relish idle chit-chat or small talk.
  • Say your name at the beginning of a phone call, even if it’s followed by 'do you speak English?'
  • Address people with the formal 'you' (Sie). If the familiar 'you' (Du) is cool, they’ll let you know.
  • Hit the ATM – cash rules in Germany and many restaurants don’t take credit cards.

Don’t

  • Be late – everyone else will be on time.
  • Send a German friend lilies – they’re for funerals. Carnations symbolise mourning, too.
  • Dig into that Sauerkraut before your host says 'Guten Appetit' (good appetite).
  • Stroll in the bike lane. You’ll get bruised or yelled at (or both). It’s marked red for a reason.
  • Jaywalk. Nobody else does, and you might get fined.
  • Drink yourself into a stumbling fool. We know the beer goes down easy, but public drunkenness is frowned upon.

This article was updated in June 2012