Unwritten Rules And Etiquettes You Should Know Before Visiting Germany

Those who have traveled to foreign countries can tell you first hand- there are always going to be standing unspoken rules. These rules come as a result of society and communities molding to the status quo that has been in making over past years. Most foreigners learn the hard way, but we are here to ease the learning curve.

Public Transportation

unwritten rules of germany

Although public transportation is a necessity in every country, some transportation etiquette works in other places that are a big no-no in others. In Germany, it is recommended to mind your own business and go about your trip in a very quiet and polite manner. The only time you can catch people speaking in their outside voices are on Friday and Saturday nights.

In Germany, most of the public uses the S-Bahn and the U-Bahn, along with other buses, trams, taxis, and uber’s.

The term “S-Bahn” is an abbreviation of “Stadtschnellbahn” (German for “city rapid rail”). Introduced in 1930, it was the first rail network as Berlin began to expand. The U-Bahn (short for “Untergrundbahn”) is the German term for what is known as the subway or metro in English.

Germany does not require its passengers to feed their tickets into a machine to board the train, so this may leave some tempted to avoid paying for a ticket. Be like the other local German residents who follow the honor system and be prepared to verify your purchased train ticket when asked.


The supermarkets in Germany are known for their speedy checkouts. Always bring your bags and be prepared to bag everything on your own. Make a note to always use ‘Sie’ while addressing anyone at the supermarket or a store.

Things to take note on:
• To keep shopping carts in order, it is required to deposit 50 cents/ 1 EUR coin to use the cart and when finished, if you return the cart to its original home, you will get your coin back.
• Shops are closed on Sundays
• Many shops have limited hours and are required to close by 8 pm
• As a very environmentally friendly country, there is a deposit system in place for glass and plastic bottles. When purchased, you will pay for both the deposit and the bottle and if returned to any supermarket when you are finished, you can get the deposit back.

Random Rule: If you go to a sauna, be prepared to get naked and be surrounded by others who are also naked.


When going to a restaurant in Germany, you will get funny looks if you stand around waiting to be seated by a waiter. You have the freedom to choose your own table. It’s first come, first served. Unfortunately, don’t expect endless amounts of bread and water to be free. Most of the time, these extras require payment.

Anytime you are with guests and a toast or cheers is announced, you are expected to look directly into the eyes of the person you are clinking the glass with. Never cheers if you are drinking water, it may as well be considered a crime.

unwritten rules germany

Sundays Are Sacred

Germany takes its “Lazy Sundays” very seriously. Everything and everyone shuts down for the entire day every Sunday. It is a day where not even lawn mowing takes place, everyone respects the quiet atmosphere for their surrounding neighbors.

Sunday is very much honored as a time for reflection for all and the extent of the day will be going to church and taking a walk.

When in Germany, do as the Germans do and take a load off on Sunday’s.


Germany is a very environmentally friendly country. Using plastic bags is not encouraged and not recycling is frowned upon.

The best ways to recycle in Germany:
• There are different slots for depositing green, brown, and clear glass. You will find these bins dotted over every neighborhood.
• You are supposed to flatten boxes before putting them in the bin and make sure you throw only the box and not the plastic wrappers inside the box, in the bin.
• Rinse the containers to ensure an efficient recycling process and to help reduce unwanted odors.
• If you do not sort correctly, you can get fined

Know the basics

When traveling to a new country, those who take the time to learn some basics of the language will always be treated with more respect. Speaking broken German will always be better than not trying at all.

Basic German words to know:

  • Hallo- Hello
  • Guten Morgen- Good Morning
  • Guten Tag- Good day
  • Guten Abend- Good Evening
  • Kommen – Come
  • Lachen – Laugh
  • Machen – Make
  • Sehen – See
  • Trinken – Drink
  • Essen – Eat

Other Random Unwritten Rules in Germany:

  • When planning to meet with someone, be sure to plan it well in advance. Every meeting is taken seriously and will be put into a calendar. If you are going to be late for a meeting, let the other person know well in advance.
  • Always stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left
  • Always give people their personal space- don’t stand too close
  • Always offer to pay for your food even when invited. Unless the host has mentioned they will be paying.
  • Pedestrians have first gone on a crosswalk without traffic lights. Do not wait for cars to pass, just walk.
  • Do not jaywalk.

There is nothing like learning about a new country while being completely immersed in the communities and their culture. However, there are some things they are best not learned the hard way. To avoid nasty looks and fines from the local Germans, be sure to read up on some of the unwritten rules and ways of life of the people. Culture shock is indeed real, but it is also an opportunity to learn about yourself, others, and a new place.

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Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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