Things you should not do in Germany

Before I moved to Germany I decided to research German customs and basic laws. Most of the guides I found online and in print version covered a lot of what I discuss here. Still, I found it very strange when people weren’t smiling as much as South Africans do. I also thought it was odd when I saw tourists dressed up in dirndls for no reason. Living in a student dorm meant I attended many parties hosted by my roommate. My dorm building also had a bar inside of it. So it was weird that there were people living in the building who weren’t students and who were complaining about the noise. So being quiet during certain hours in Germany matters. You can even get fined for jaywalking so if you want to know more about what not to do I suggest you continue reading. 


Don’t stand or walk in the bicycle lane 

The bike lane is sacred and you should not walk on it. Cyclists get angry and there’s really nothing worse than being yelled at in German.


cycling in germany city
Image source:


Don’t  grill without asking your neighbours permission

Some apartment contacts state how many times you are allowed to grill. People in Germany don’t like the smell of grilling for some strange reason. Because of this, you need to ask your neighbours for permission to grill.


Grill at my apartment building. I stayed in a student dorm in Essen, Germany.


Don’t wish someone happy birthday before the time

Don’t send happy birthday wishes before the time. Wishing a person happy birthday before the time is considered bad luck.

Birthday cake celebrated my friends’ birthday in Duisburg 



Don’t jaywalk 

You can get fined heavily for crossing on a red light. Plus if there are children around you will be accused of setting a bad example. You may also get scolded at.

Press this button when crossing the street and wait for the light to turn green


Don’t walk with your shoes on into someones home 

Not all Germans take their shoes off before they enter their homes so play it by ear. Look at whether your host is taking off his/her shoes. Or start taking off your shoes at the door and to see whether you should or not.

German House Shoes
German house shoes, Image source:


Don’t be late 

Be punctual it is important. This stereotype is trueGermans hate latecomers rather leave earlier to be sure that you arrive on time.


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Train delays do occur so plan accordingly


Don’t be disrespectful at memorials 

There are concentration camps and various memorials don’t take selfies at these sites. And don’t climb on to the memorials it is just rude.

Memorial in Aachen



Don’t bring up the war 

As a political studies student completing a development degree in Germany I got to speak about this topic. Every German person told me that the topic remains taboo. This obviously includes Hitler jokes.  It is a sensitive subject so tread lightly.

Cologne after being bombed during WWII. This is a photo which can be found at the National Social History Museum in Cologne.


Don’t show the Nazi salute 

It is not funny and you can be arrested for it. You will then have to pay a fine or even spend 5 years in jail for it.

This photo is part of the exhibit of the  National Social History Museum in Cologne


Don’t take “free” rides  

You can get fined if you are caught without a ticket. The thing is Germany doesn’t have turnstiles like most other countries but, it does have ticket inspectors so rather buy a ticket. If you are caught without one you might have to pay a €60 fine.

Ticket machine for train tickets 


Don’t be noisy during quiet time 

Before I went to Germany I did research on its’ quiet hours. Germany has laws which regulate noise levels.  Sundays are quiet days. This means that you shouldn’t play loud music or even use a hammer on Sundays. Sundays, public holidays and evenings are strictly quiet times. Daily between 1pm and 3pm you have to keep your noise levels down. And again between 10pm and 7am. Vacuuming, kids playing loudly and even putting on your washing machine can lead to complaints so rather respect the quiet hours.

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Don’t use a drill on a Sunday your neighbours might complain, Image Source:


Don’t recycle wrongly

There are different coloured bins for different kinds of waste. And different items go into different bins. For more information on how to recycle read the following article

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Bin at the train station


Don’t throw out Pfand bottles 

In Germany, you can return certain bottles which have a Pfand sign on them. You are charged an additional 25 cents per bottle when buying certain drinks. This can later be returned usually at a grocery shop.

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Image source:


Don’t be loud when travelling on public transport systems 

As a foreigner, I didn’t always respect this social convention. I also noticed that at certain times especially on Saturday evenings people were generally louder. But, on weekdays talking in the bus, Ubahn (underground) or train tends to be done quietly. People generally don’t accept phone calls on public transport either and if they do it’s to quickly say that they are travelling.

The train 


Don’t be overly friendly 

In South Africa, people hug a lot. We also address people by their first names even within professional settings. Saying thank you with a smile is normal. And talking to bus drivers and taxi drivers is also normal. Asking a cashier or waiter/waitress “how are you” is a typical thing too. This is not the case in Germany. You only hug people you’ve known for a long time and only people who are friends. Handshakes are more common. Saying thank you without a smile is normal in Germany. Talking to bus drivers and taxi drivers is unusual unless you are asking about the fare and other related questions. And asking strangers, how they are doing is seen as odd.

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I think this quote sums up German views  towards being friendly 


Greet properly

In Germany, you have to use formal greetings, especially within business settings. There’s a formal you and an informal you in Germany. Sie is formal and du is informal. When addressing someone in a professional setting its more common to address them using Sie or their last name. 

And if you are addressing a Professor you will usually use “Herr Professor Lambach” if your professor is a man.   When you are writing in  German you would write “Herr Professor Doktor Lambach”. When addressing a female Profesor you would say “Frau Professor Müller” and when writing letters or e-mails it would be correct to use” Frau Professor Doktor Müller”. For me, as a foreigner and given that my classes were very international I would just say Professor Lambach. Take note of how your Professors introduce him/herself that way you will know how to address them.

Follow the link for more on greeting in Germany:


man and woman shaking hands
Handshakes are appropriate when meeting people for the first time


Don’t walk around in traditional wear 

Some tourists in Germany think that it’s appropriate to wear a dirndl or lederhosen in public. These outfits are reserved for beer festivals such as the popular Oktoberfest.  Ordinary Germans don’t walk around daily in traditional clothes. Even in places like Bavaria, it doesn’t happen. But, if you are going to Oktoberfest which takes place in September not in October go get yourself traditional wear. There are Germans who don’t dress up but, they are few and far in between. If you don’t want to immediately be spotted as an Auslander (foreigner) get dressed up and have fun.


This lady was dressed like this because it was September.  She may have been travelling to a Beer festival. 


Autobahn rules

Since I wasn’t driving around Germany these rules didn’t concern me. But, if you plan on driving around follow the link to learn more about the road rules:


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Refugee situation 

In my opinion, Germans are generally kind to refugees. I got to witness a welcome parade in Gottingen and it was so touching to see so many people supporting refugees. However, there are Germans who are against the states decision to allow so many refugees to enter Germany. This topic is a bit controversial so steer clear of it if you are meeting someone for the first time. And or if you are in a professional setting. 

A self-confident answer to the right-wingers′ battle cry of ″Auslaender raus″ (Foreigners get out!)


Don’t wash your car anywhere 

In Germany, you are only allowed to wash your car in designated spaces. This is done to prevent harmful chemicals like oil and soap from entering the wastewater network. It’s also now done to recycle the water which is used when cars are being cleaned. So you can wash your car at mechanical carwashes or at places where you physically wash your own car by hand. You pay for both options and these places have operating hours. If you don’t believe me follow the link to find out more:

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Cars must be washed in designated areas


Don’t drink without toasting 

Usually, you toast before you drink. This doesn’t mean that you toast every time you order a drink but, you usually do it once before the first round. When you toast remember to look the person in the eye. If you don’t you will be cursed with seven years of bad sex according to the German custom ha ha ha. Also, remember that at Oktoberfest you will be toasting randomly and often just go with it.

My beer at Oktoberfest


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Overall I will say that people are more forgiving if they see that you are a foreigner. But, some of these don’ts are regulated by the law,  be aware of that. Many Germans can be friendly and warm it often just takes them a bit longer to warm up to strangers. Thank you again for reading my blog if you are a longtime follower. And if you are new to my blog thanks and welcome. Please feel free to comment as I love reading comments on my blog. If you want to collaborate online or even if you just want to chat inbox or e-mail me.


Wishing you happy travels through the journey of life!

xxx Nikki xxx


  1. ~H@rdip~ says:

    Wow these are some amazing facts about that country 👌👌
    Thanks for sharing 👍😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so happy that you enjoyed reading this post


  2. carmen says:

    I loved living in Germany, Sundays were so quiet. One time we were staying at a vacation home and my husband started mowing the lawn at noon hour (we didn’t do our research as you did). The neighbour politely told us that was not allowed during the quiet time. He knew we were foreigners and was very nice to us. I miss that quiet time, especially Sundays and we have company, meanwhile our neighbours (in Canada) mow the lawn any time, all through the week. 😦


    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s kinda nice to have a day off from the hustle and bustle. Even my dorm building was quite on Sundays. And when the sun is out it’s so lovely to take a walk outside. Luckily my neighborhood is quite here in South Africa.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A lot of this also applies to Denmark! As a swede returning from other countries it’s taking me time to get used to as well. Especially the bicycling here. Watch out and be very careful crossing roads in Copenhagen 🙏🏻😌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will have to go to Denmark some day to see for myself. Didn’t get the chance to go when I was in Europe. I love how so many European countries enjoy cycling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s very pretty here. And the bicycles it’s amazing! They’re everywhere. And watch out when crossing roads- it’s more the cyclists than the car that you should watch out for 😌🙏🏻

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Same in Germany. Here in South Africa bicycle culture isn’t that widespread. I can’t even remember the last time I rode a bicycle.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well I’ve been in the US and the U.K. so not cycled in many years! Now I love it again. 🙏🏻😌


            1. I need to probably learn how to ride a bike again. Cycling is good exercise.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. It is lovely. I was out earlier today and it’s fun and healthy all at the same time! I’d recommend. 🙏🏻😌


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