Cultural no-nos for expats heading to Germany

Cultural no-nos for expats heading to Germany

Cultural no-nos for expats heading to Germany

One of the most difficult aspects of taking on a new job overseas is getting through the first few months without committing cultural sins of omission.

Wherever your relocation destination, it’s certain that office and personal protocol isn’t the same as in the home country. Even in first-world Germany, cultural dos and don’ts can be tricky to master without making at least a few faux pas due to not quite understanding the cultural norms. Remembering what not to do won’t earn you any prizes, but forgetting what you definitely should not do can land you in warm, if not extremely hot, water.

When you’re invited to a meal at a new German colleague’s home, remembering to take off your shoes on entering is essential, with the clue easily spotted – a pair of house slippers set neatly on the floor next to the door. Germany isn’t the only expat destination which insists on this protocol, but it’s one of the only countries outside Japan where house slippers are provided for visitors. If you’re a night owl to whom socialising until the early hours is the norm, remember to do it quietly between the hours of 11.p.m. and 6 a.m, as the ‘quiet hours’, as they’re known, shouldn’t be disturbed by noisy expatriate revels.

You may be surprised to find that, in an ultra-modern, 21st century country like Germany, cash is still king and paying by card isn’t accepted at a huge number of shopping destinations and service providers. This national aversion to using plastic is so strong that hitting the nearest ATM before you buy anything is a necessary chore. Another cultural no-no here is jaywalking, with the entire population obsessed with standing in line watching until the little green man appears on the opposite pole of the crossing. If you risk it and get caught, you’ll be subject to a 10 euro fine plus reprimands from every German patiently waiting for the light to change.

Ordering tap water in a restaurant marks you out as being a cheap Charlie, even although it’s perfectly safe to drink, and throwing your plastic drinks bottle in a bin attracts immediate condemnation due to Germans being brought up with the toughest recycling system on the planet. One of the worse sins you can commit in Germany is to be late for an appointment, even if it’s just for a friendly get-together.
Arriving late is seen as very rude, and can even be interpreted as a personal insult, making calling to say you’ve been delayed essential to both personal and business relationships. Waiting your turn to talk, even in what passes for heated discussion in Germany is another must-do unless you’ve a serious reason for interrupting, such as a fire or flood.

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