Dos and Don‘ts in German culture
The increasing shortage of skilled workers (internal Link) brings more and more international employees to Germany. Smooth integration into everyday working life also includes cultural aspects, such as social interactions in private and business life.
Here are the top 12 Do’s and Don’ts for newcomers to Germany.
When entering a room or a building, it is custom to greet with a friendly “Guten Tag” or “Hallo,” even if you don’t’ know the persons present. For example, at an office, a doctor’s waiting room, or a train compartment, the same applies to saying goodbye with “Auf Wiedersehen” or “Tschüss.”
2. Form of address
Academic titles are part of a person’s name, such as Frau Doktor Müller. When meeting someone, it is common to address them with “Sie” until the older or more senior person offers the informal “Du.” An option for colleagues is using their first name and “Sie.” Always ask a person before switching to “Du .”The outdated form of “Fräulein” (Miss) isn’t used anymore and can even be offensive. All women are addressed formally as “Frau.”
3. Shaking hands
In Germany, shaking hands is very common on many occasions, especially when greeting and saying goodbye. When joining a group, one usually shakes hands with each person. In pandemic times, however, people no longer shake hands. At the moment, people greet each other either without contact or with a slight elbow-to-elbow bump, thus avoiding hand contact.
4. Greeting friends
A brief hug or kisses on one or both cheeks are common when meeting or saying goodbye to close friends. However, in a business setting, this would be inappropriate. This type of greeting has also changed as a result of the pandemic. Even friends currently greet each other either contactless or elbow to elbow.
Punctuality is held high in Germany, in private as well as in business appointments. Even being a few minutes late is considered rude, so make sure to be five to ten minutes early. It is important to call if you can’t make it on time and apologize when you arrive.
6. At the table
To show that you are finished with your meal, place your knife and fork parallel on the right side of the plate. This signals the waiter that they can take it away. To show that you are not done yet, cross your knife and fork on your plate.
At a typical dinner, guests are usually offered alcoholic beverages, mostly beer or wine. It is perfectly acceptable, though, to go with a non-alcoholic option. Insisting is perceived as unpolite. The legal drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for spirits.
8. Closed doors
Closed doors provide privacy, which most Germans like. So, a closed-door doesn’t mean that you are not welcome. Just be sure always to knock before you enter. However, you don’t have to wait for a response; you can enter immediately.
Also, a closed bathroom door at a private home doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s occupied; knock to be on the safe side.
9. Waste separation
Environmental consciousness is highly regarded amongst Germans. To make recycling easier, trash is separated accurately. Neighbors or colleagues will not appreciate you throwing recyclable paper or glass in the regular trash. If necessary, ask what is recycled and how if you are not sure. This makes an excellent impression.
You can bring flowers to the host when you are invited to a private event as a kind gesture. At a dinner party, you can also bring a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates. Showing up entirely without a hostess gift is considered rude.
When celebrating your birthday, make sure to provide enough food and drink for your guests. It is nice to offer a vegetarian option. As the birthday boy or girl, very customized bring a cake or sweet pastries to the office for your colleagues. If you are invited to a birthday party, it is customary to bring a gift.
Normally you shouldn’t call people at home before 8 a.m. or after 10 p.m. Usual office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., many close earlier on Fridays. When answering the phone, it is common to use your last name.
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