Do's & Don'ts

Written by Garry on


A few aspects of life in a foreign country can be of surprise. One are two important points about living in Germany might be worth considering to avoid offence or a run in with the authorities.

Carrying papers

Whether or not Germany issues resident foreigners with a document such as a green card, alien registration certificate or carte de séjour, it is a requirement to carry a passport or solid identification at all times. Citizens do have to be able to produce official identification in all sorts of humdrum situations though, such as collecting a package at the post office or when stopped by the police when driving. It’s best to play the game even if stop-and-search swoops are rare in Germany.

Birthday congratulations

Superstition prevents Germans from enjoying birthday wishes in advance, because it is believed to bring bad luck. Also birthday gifts not welcomed before the actual day but belated congratulations are expected and widely accepted. Even for several days afterwards.

Mothers with prams

It’s customary and expected that the able bodied help women lift their baby carriages on and off the tram when there are steps. Most just adore the assistance offered.

Time for quiet

Hours of rest are usually from 1pm till 3pm and from 10pm till 7am from Monday to Saturdays and all day Sunday. It is prohibited to disturb others through noisy activities such as mowing the lawns, listening to loud music or labouring. Many have ended up in court.

Crossing a red light

It is normal in Germany to obey the traffic rules. Even pedestrians do not cross a street on red light when the street is empty and car traffic seems far away or simply is not visible for a longer time. It is widely regarded as very rude to cross a red light by foot when children are able to watch adults jaywalking. Others will scold offenders and if police are in the vicinity, they will often reprimand or even douse out a fine.

Cyclists in town

Adults on bicycles should stick to the road or dedicated paths while young children are allowed to ride on the pavement. Some cyclists however, frequently flout the law with impunity, contesting with pedestrians for control of the city’s sidewalks. Remember, Germans tend to walk relatively slow and pedestrians on shared bike paths have priority.

Motorway driving

The German motorways (Autobahnen) are famous for having no speed limit. That is partly a myth, since for many years vast stretches are in fact regulated. Sometimes, where it is free to speed, a slower driver may remain in the outer lane. It is forbidden to overtake on the inside. Grin and bear it; this is not the US.

Littering spaces

German society took an early stance on recycling, which has also helped prevent discarded rubbish. Apart from smokers and late-night drinkers, people here usually don’t litter. Some exceptions unfortunately include open recreational areas and dog’s excrement. Some say the former is down to youths, the latter old ladies that cannot bend down.