Monday, August 4, 2014

Etiquette in Germany

Celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich 
Germans are extremely punctual, and even a few minutes’ delay can offend someone. Be on time! Better yet? Be five to 10 minutes early for important appointments and be sure to call the people you are meeting if you are for any reason going to be late.   
It is polite to bring flowers if you’re invited to a German home for coffee and cake or some other social occasion. If the flowers are wrapped in paper, remember to take off the wrapping just before you enter the home. 


Practice saying "Guten Tag" and "Auf Wiedersehen." When customers enter shops in Germany, especially the smaller outlets, they greet everyone in the shop. The same is true of doctors’ waiting rooms. 


Shaking hands is an important part of German culture. It is customary to shake someone's hand when meeting them for the first time, and at every subsequent meeting too. It is very common for a person who is joining a group to shake hands with every single individual.
At business meetings, and even at some social meetings, it's customary for each participant say their name and shake everyone else's hand upon arriving, and then again when leaving. 


When close friends greet each other, it is common to kiss both the left and right cheeks. However, this is considered inappropriate in a business setting.   
Though cheek-kissing in Germany isn't quite as ingrained as it is in France or some other European nations, it can still be quite daunting for visitors who hail from cultures where personal space is considered more sacred.

Names, 'Sie' and 'Du'

The formal and informal forms of address for the German language are Sie and du, respectively. The finer points of using Sie and du can take a lot of experience to learn, but below are some helpful tips:
The formal Sie is always used together with the last name, for example Herr Schmidt or Frau Fischer. Store clerks, business acquaintances and strangers are always addressed with the Sie form. Telephone calls also always require the "Sie" form if you do not know the person on the other end. 
When introducing yourself, it is common to give only your last name, or you can give your full name. Introducing oneself with only the first name indicates that you want to be addressed with the informal du, which may be inappropriate for some situations.
Don't assume you are on a "first name basis." To call someone by their first name, unless they have offered to be addressed by you with the informal du, or if they use du and your first name when speaking with you, is considered impolite.
It is generally the older person, or person of higher rank, who offers to switch from Sie to du. After they get to know you, they may do this by re-introducing themselves and using their first name.
If you're unsure which form to use, listen for which form of address the person is using with you. Then you can comfortably use the same form with him or her.
Du is used among younger people and friends, as well as for children. It is used together with the first name. In private, the older person suggests using the informal "du" to the younger person. 
In the business world, the higher ranking person – regardless of age and sex – would always be the one to suggest switching to "du." A nice intermediate step is to address a person by their first name but then use the formal "Sie." Always ask, however, before you decide to take this step. If you’re not on a first-name basis in German, you can still switch when speaking English. Just don’t forget to switch back when you are speaking in German.
It is polite to address everyone by their family name and "Sie." Do not leave off double-barreled names, such as Frau Müller-Weber. Names are inserted into conversation after every few sentences. 
What about "Fräulein"?  This is an outdated form of addressing young women. Nowadays, rather than being seen as polite, it can also be offensive. Just use the normal "Frau Müller." "Frau" is the equivalent of the English "Ms."


If you are in doubt of titles, it is advisable to ask. Titles of nobility belong to an individual’s name –such as Fürstin von Metternich. Academic titles also belong to the name, such as Herr Doktor Müller or Frau Professor Weise.

Seating in Restaurants  

It is common to share tables with perfect strangers when restaurants are full and very busy. Before you do so, however, always point to the free seat and ask, "Ist dieser Platz noch frei?" (Is this seat free?).  
It is polite to wish the other diners at the table with you "Guten Appetit." But don’t expect any further conversation with others at the table. It may be very welcome, but you shouldn’t force it. When you leave, be sure to bid farewell to your table companions.
A Bavarian restaurant.

German Table Manners:

You certainly may continue to hold your eating utensils (besteck) the American way, but Europeans find the American way of eating rather inefficient. (You may get some stares.) They find all that switching hands and picking up and putting down the knife a bit too complicated. Here’s the German/European way of using a knife and fork: 
  1. Hold the fork in your left hand, the knife in your right hand.
  2. Keep both in your hands while eating. Don’t put the knife or fork down except to drink or pick up bread. The knife (in your right hand) is also used to help discreetly guide food onto your fork (in your left hand).
  3. Do not cut up an entire piece of meat at once. Cut off a bite-size piece and eat it before you cut off another piece.
  4. If there are more utensils than just a knife and fork (salad fork, dessert spoon, etc.), the rule is simple: Move inward from the outside for each course. Sometimes spoons are placed above the plate rather than on the side.
  5. When finished, lay your knife and fork side by side on your plate pointing to the center, with the handles on the lower right rim (five o’clock position).

Finger Foods?

Nein! Germans and other Europeans rarely eat with their hands. Especially in a fine restaurant or in a formal/semiformal dining situation. Even pizza is eaten with a knife and fork. However, if you are at an outdoor "Grillparty" or eating informally, it’s okay to eat some foods, such as hamburgers or hotdogs, with your hands.

Beverages, aka "Getränke" 

Germans don’t normally drink tap water, even though it’s perfectly safe to do so. Sparkling mineral water (from a bottle) is the norm. If you prefer the non-fizzy variety (stilles Wasser), you can get that. Germans are big coffee and tea drinkers. (Decaf coffee may or may not be available.) Of course, beer and wine are usually also part of any dinner in Germany. After dinner, brandy, cognac, grappa or some other digestif is often served. Sometimes a Kräuterlikör (herbal liqueur), such as Jägermeister, may be offered instead.
Drank too much Jägermeister last night, did you?

More on Alcohol

Beer and wine are part of a normal dinner and alcoholic drinks are usually offered to guests. Not drinking, however, is completely accepted. Do not insist on alcoholic drinks if a person has rejected your initial offer and don’t order them for them. A German who rejects a drink is not just being shy or polite but does not want to drink. For some cultures it is uncommon to see teenagers order a beer at restaurants and pubs. Remember that the legal drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for spirits.


It’s common to clink glasses with a "Prost" ("cheers") or "Zum Wohl" ("good health") before drinking. At official dinners, it is more common to lift the glass by the stem and nod meaningfully to the others. The host should lead the toast. 
At a dinner party or in a restaurant, you should not start eating or drinking until everyone in the group has received their drink or their meal, and then follow the lead of the host.

Closed Doors 

Germans enjoy quietness and privacy. They may thus often close their doors but will be happy to receive you if you knock on the door. A closed door doesn’t necessarily mean that the person cannot be disturbed. Likewise a closed bathroom door in somebody’s house does not mean the bathroom is occupied. But when entering someone's office, it is common to knock first and then enter the room immediately.


When answering the phone in Germany, it is customary to identify yourself with your last name. It is best not to call people at home after 10 p.m. unless you’ve asked them first if they mind you doing so. Don’t expect to reach anyone in the office after 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and after 4 p.m. on Fridays. 


Berlin is the capital city of dogs. But living together with our four legged friends also brings problems. There has been a Dog Regulation in Berlin since summer 2000. As a dog owner you should pay attention to the following:
  • Keep you dog on a lead at public festivals, in parks and forests and on public transport (maximum length 2 metres). 
  • Do not let your dog run onto children’s playgrounds or sunbathing lawns. 
  • Dog breeds classified as dangerous on a special list ("Kampfhunde", or fighting dogs) must be kept on a lead as a basic principle and wear a muzzle.

Sources- Visit Germany, Young Germany and The German Way