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Home » Country Etiquette » Germany

German Etiquette Tips

If you are at a pub in Germany and you see a brass plaque on the table, don't sit there!  The plaque marks the table as “Stammtisch.”  That means that table is where a regular group of drinkers sit.  Tables without the plaque, however, are meant to be shared, so have a seat and order a beer! 

Enjoy your trip (and the beer!) but do keep in mind some basic etiquette guidelines for your trip to Germany.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO wear understated, formal, and conservative business dress. 
  2. DON'T wear flashy jewelry and accessories.
  3. DON'T wear shorts and extremely casual wear unless you are young.
  4. DO bear in mind that in Germany, formal means very dressy and informal means dressy.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T eat with your fingers. 
  2. DON'T eat with your elbows resting on the table. 
  3. DO cut your potatoes with the side of the fork and not the knife.
  4. DON'T put spoons used to stir beverages in your mouth.
  5. DON'T put your arms on your lap during dinner.  Put them above the table.

3. Tipping

  1. DO leave a tip if you appreciated the service.  In Germany, service staff is always paid by the hour, but tipping is still considered polite.  It is customary to leave a tip of 5-10% at a restaurant or pub if the service was good.
  2. DO leave a larger tip around Christmastime.

4. Gift giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO bring a gift such as chocolate or flowers if invited to a German's house.
  2. DON'T give German wine.  By giving a gift of German wine, it can be viewed as meaning you do not think your host will serve a high quality wine.  If you wish to bring wine, it should be imported, such as French or Italian wines.
  3. DON'T give red roses unless you have romantic intentions.  Also, do not give carnations (they symbolize mourning) or lilies or chrysanthemums (they are used at funerals).  Yellow or tea roses are always well received.
  4. DO open a gift when it is received.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DON'T ever, under any circumstances, show the “Nazi salute”, shout “Heil Hitler”, or show swastikas or other symbols of the Third Reich, even if you are kidding!  Using these signs is a criminal offense and punishable up to five years imprisonment.  Foreigners are not exempt from this, so don't do it. 

7. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands with everyone upon entering a room, including children.  A quick, firm handshake is traditional. 
  2. DO use a person's title and surname until invited to use their first name.  Say Herr (Mister) or Frau (Mrs.) and the person's title and surname. 

8. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO give your host a gift. 
  2. DO arrive on time.  Punctuality is extremely important in Germany.  Do not too arrive early, either.
  3. DO call your host if you expect be more than fifteen minutes late.
  4. DO send a handwritten thank you note the following day to thank your hosts for their hospitality.

9. Business Meeting

  1. DON'T make business appointments on Friday afternoons, because many businesses close early on Fridays.   10:00 AM to 1:00 PM or 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM are the usual business hours.
  2. DON'T reschedule appointments unless you have a very good reason.
  3. DO be aware of the fact that many Germans take six weeks of vacation at one time.
  4. DON'T sit until invited and told where to sit.
  5. DO get immediately down to business and don't engage in too much small talk.
  6. DO avoid being impatient or confrontational. 
  7. DO have all printed material written in both English and German.

10. Beach Etiquette

  1. DO be aware of the fact that some women will bathe topless at the beach, and even full nudity is tolerated, but not seen as often outside of the nude beaches. 
  2. DO note that nude beaches are labeled with "FKK.”  That stands for"Freikörperkultur” which means free body culture.

Keep in mind the above etiquette guidelines when traveling to Germany.  Be particularly aware of the importance on planning and punctuality.  Have a safe and wonderful trip to Germany!

 
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