16 things you should know before traveling to Germany

So you’re planning on going to Germany? You’ve made a great decision! You’ll be able to drive as fast as you want, party until noon the next day, and eat a whole lot of delicious bread. But wait, there’s more! So read about the things you have to know before going to Germany and scroll to the very bottom of this article to find more helpful posts about how to budget for Germany, which cities to visit, etc. And don’t forget to sign up for your FREE checklist that will let you know everything you need before going to Germany, so your trip will go perfectly smooth!

Also, check out the ultimate bucket list for your Germany trip (castles, cities, fairytale towns, nature attractions, bridges, must-do’s, must-eats etc.)

If you want me to help you plan your Germany trip and provide you with a customized itinerary – no matter if you’re taking a romantic getaway, exploring with the kids, or planning a road trip with friends – I got you! Just click here.

1. I’ve got a small tip for ya!

Are you wondering how much you should tip in Germany? It’s definitely less than in the US, but more than in Australia.

In restaurants, Germans round up the bill. For example, if you had a soda for 1,80 € you’d pay 2 €. If your bill ranges between 20-30 €, you usually add another Euro – for example, Bill: 27,50 €, Tip: 1,50 €. It’s not very common to tip more than 10-15 %.

For taxi drivers, hairdressers, or other service providers, 5, 10, or 15% are an adequate tip – depending on how satisfied you were with their service or how long the distance was, for example.

In a hotel, you’d tip porters 1 or 2 €, maids at the end of your stay 5 € or however much more you see appropriate.

Do not try and tip the police, though, ok 😉

2. Germans love gas (in their water – not the stinky one)

Germans do not serve free water. If you’re lucky, they’ll let you have tap water without you paying for it. If they’re bold, they’ll charge you for it! Say whaaat? Yeah, I know, crazy, huh? But it be like that sometimes. Also, make sure you clarify that you want a still water because if you don’t, you will be served carbonated water! Also, you have to ask for ice with pretty much every drink you order because usually, Germans will NOT put ice in your water, soda, and occasionally serve you warm beer or other non-refrigerated drinks.

3. Carbs on carbs on carbs

Bread for breakfast, for dinner, as a snack – Germans don’t get tired of it. We have over 600 types of bread and a bakery (or two or three) in almost every single village. We eat it plain, with butter, cheese, sausages, eggs, jelly, Nutella, anything. Bread, pastries, and cake are essential for us. You will probably never find a German who does not like bread. Never.

By the way, by cake I don’t mean that sugary, plain stuff with (sometimes) fancy-a$$ frosting that Americans call cake, I mean tarts and tortes and pies with fruit, nuts, poppy seeds, cream, pudding, and whatever else you can imagine. Can you tell I love cake cake cake?

Lunch is usually the biggest meal for Germans as dinner consists of … you guessed it … bread. Typical German lunch would include a small side salad, meat, potatoes, and a sauce next to a big piece of meat.

A lot of Italians and Turks live in Germany; therefore, we love us some pizza, pasta, and ice cream and have late night or early morning Döners to prevent hangovers.

Forget a lot of vegan or vegetarian variety unless you’re staying in big cities.

4. You’ll need a coin wallet!

In grocery or clothing stores you’re mostly able to use your credit card, but everywhere else, you’ll need cash – at bakeries, butchers, some bars and restaurants, etc. You will end up with A LOT OF coins. Trust. Me. I had my American friend literally leave me all his coins (worth about 15 €), because he couldn’t stand carrying so many.

If you want to book tours for your Germany trip, such as to the Neuschwanstein Castle, a Concentration Camp or Hop-On, Hop-Off buses, you can do so here.

5. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”

You’d think Shakespeare was a true German for saying this! Punctuality should come next to German in the dictionary. We literally get anywhere 10 minutes early because 5 minutes early would almost be considered late. To Germans, it’s extremely rude if you’re not on time because it means you’re not respecting theirs.

You also can’t say “I’ll see you tomorrow” because the German will ask “When?” to which you’ll respond “in the afternoon,” but that’s not precise enough for the German, who will inquire “at what time?”

6. “You look FAT.”

Germans get straight to the point and are very direct. You look fat in that new shirt of yours? Be sure that your German friend will tell you. And older Germans – they give even less than two f*(ks! And small talk – ain’t nobody got time for this!

7. You did NOT just wish me a HAPPY EARLY birthday?!

Don’t wish anyone a happy (early) birthday before his/her actual birthday. It’s considered BAD luck. And Germans will freak out if you do that!

8. Ever smelled like an ashtray? You will soon!

Germans love their cigarettes and unfortunately still smoke in closed rooms – sometimes even in restaurants, bars, and clubs even though it’s officially prohibited in most places. Your clothes and hair are guaranteed to smell like an ashtray after a night out (or even just a dinner or drink)! There are PLENTY of places where people smoke inside, or in the (closed-off or not) smoker room.

9. About “Black music” and after hours – going out in Germany

You tryna go out by 10 p.m. and be back in bed before 2 a.m.? Ha! Think again! Most clubs are not even open until 11 p.m.! They won’t fill up until 2 a.m. really and parties last until 5, 6, or even 7 a.m. Don’t forget the after hours – they will keep going until 10, 11 a.m. or noon! I guarantee you that you will find Germans who come home after work, eat, take a nap, wake up at 1 a.m. to get ready and go out!

Most Germans prefer drinking and – depending on their sobriety level – slurring or talking to dancing. Don’t except to find a German with great dancing skills – they’re one in a million or as rare as rocking horse poo (an Irish saying, in case you just went like WTF).

Music-wise, you will find a wide range in large cities, but Top 40, electronic music, and Hip Hop (which is sometimes referred to as “Black Music” – sorry, black brothers and sisters – Germans just don’t have as much of an idea of racism as Americans) are most common.

10. You’re hot then you’re cold (in my best Katy Perry voice)

To sum up the weather in Germany: It can get hella cold during winter months to as where your eye lashes freeze or you can’t feel parts of your body anymore aka minus C, but also minus F degrees, and pretty hot and humid in the summer (OR NOT, because we can have really shi!!y summers). No matter what season, it will probably rain a lot. Always carry an umbrella with you.

11. Germany the “service desert”

There’s a saying that titles Germany as a service desert, which means the way you’re not going to find anything other than sand in a desert, you’re not going to find service in Germany. The waiter (or whoever) messed up? Don’t expect an apology. The customer is king? Ha! Not in Germany. Now this is a definite generalization, BUT don’t expect people to go above and beyond, to greet you extensively, cater to all your needs or ask how you’re doing. And don’t expect a friendly smile from everyone either. In fact, if you’re wishing a stranger a good morning, expect a confused look.

12. Uuuuh-mazing public transportation (except in small towns)

Urban areas have excellent, safe, and clean public transportation – I’m talking trains every 3, 5 or 10 minutes. Did you know that Munich has the most punctual train system in Germany?

In rural places, you’ll still find buses but a lot less frequent. Riding the train is getting more expensive (book two or three months in advance and you’ll save a lot) and unreliable because of delays and worker strikes; therefore, ride shares with blablacar.com have become increasingly popular. With ratings, pictures, and verified phone numbers, they’re safe, too and a great option for city hopping.

13. Do you have Internet in Germany?

I kid you not, I’ve been asked this question on my travels. And not only once. Especially by Americans. Yes, my dears, we do have fast Internet and free, basic WiFi (rather known as WLAN here) in a lot of cities and even small towns; however, Germany is not that saturated (yet) to a point where every coffee shop and restaurant is offering WiFi.

14. ä, ö, ü, ß – WHAT?

Yes, we do have “weird” letters in our alphabet that you can’t pronounce – it’s because we’re special – DUH. But anyway, English is widely known and understood by most people, so you’re definitely are able to get around the country without any German and without knowing any of the above letters (Umlaute).

However, if you want to learn a few words, remember:
“Danke” – Thank you
“Bitte” – Please & You’re welcome
“Hallo” – Hello
“Tschüß” or “Ciao” – Bye (the Italian word is more informal)
“Prost” – Cheers
“Guten Appetit” – Bon Appetit (very common to say before every meal!)

15. You won’t have access to everything 24/7

Most stores are closed on Sundays and might close early on Saturdays, especially in rural areas. Even malls will be completely closed.

Oddly enough, some restaurants are closed on Sundays as well (common in Munich). If they’re not, restaurants usually have a day off on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It’s also common for restaurants to be closed in the afternoons.

Some smaller stores or offices will have a lunch break.

16. It’s TRUE! You can drive as fast as you want.

As the only country in the world, Germany has no speed limits on parts of its highways.

If you see this sign, push your gas pedal all the way through (but only if you don’t have anyone in front of you, please!).

Germany, no speed limit

My favorite sign on the Autobahn – no speed limit

Another important rule to remember when you’re on German streets is that when you come to an intersection where everyone has to stop, the person to your right side has the right to drive first. It’s not “first come, first drive!”

Also, Germans love their radar speed checks and will have fixed ones installed in a lot of places, but also regularly, sometimes sneakily set up speed checks elsewhere.

Book tours for your Germany trip, such as to the Neuschwanstein Castle, a Concentration Camp or Hop-On, Hop-Off buses, you can do so here.

If you want me to help you plan your Germany trip and provide you with a customized itinerary – no matter if you’re taking a romantic getaway, exploring with the kids, or planning a road trip with friends – I got you! Just click here.

Liked it? Pin it! And scroll further down to find a helpful list of ALL articles I’ve compiled for you about Germany!

Other useful articles I’ve written about Germany:

Looking for tours in Germany? A day trip to Schloss Neuschwanstein from Munich, the Berlin Welcome Card or a “Sex & Crime” tour in St. Pauli? Check these out.

This post contains affiliate links of trusted partners, which will not change my opinion. If you book through these links from my website, I will get a small amount of money, which will make me do a little happy dance and go towards more inspiring blog content [or chocolate].

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