Welcome to Germany, what do you know about life in Germany? Is it all oompah music, steins of beer, Lederhosen and large portions of Meat & Potatoes? Well yes, there is that too but there is so much more to learn about those quirky german ways and soon enough you’ll be following the rules whilst wearing lederhosen, dancing to oompah music with a beer in your hand!
What do you mean there is no kitchen?! It’s no joke, many german apartments/houses come without an inbuilt kitchen. This will appear as a shock to most ex-pats as a kitchen would seemingly be just part and parcel of a rental. But in Germany, this is most often not the case. The theory is, it stems from the fact that germans rent for longterm, meaning for the rest of their lives (well not always but sometimes!) and therefore they want to pick a kitchen which is theirs and consistent with their own style. So you may find yourself having to purchase a kitchen – however, it has become more common in the past 10 years for there to be a kitchen already installed.
Introductions, where do you begin? When being introduced to someone, it is common to shake hands as a greeting and to introduce yourself by saying your last name. Germans will feel embarrassed if you introduce yourself with your first name. It is also common to shake hands when saying good-bye. When being introduced to a mixed crowd, always shake the hand of the woman first – erst die Dame – Ladies first. And be careful not to cross your arm over another couple shaking hands – this is bad luck in Germany!
Introductionscontinued! – Always address Germans formally with Frau (Mrs./Ms.) and Herr (Mr.), or should the person have a title such as Dr. be sure to use it. The formal “Sie” and the informal “Du” (as in French vous and tu) sometimes cause confusion. Germans are very careful with offering someone the “Du” form, and the offering is always done by the older person. Adult women are always addressed as “Frau” whether married or not. The term “Fräulein” is out and is never used.
Prost! A toast to your new life in Germany – be careful, a possible faux pas is lurking – When toasting, be sure to look the person with whom you are toasting directly in the eye, otherwise, it is 7 years of bad luck, and bad manners. “Zum Wohl” means “cheers” or more literally “to your health”.
Sundays are for rest. There is a multitude of things you are not supposed to do on a Sunday, mow the lawn, vacuum, any kind of handyman jobs and you are not allowed to hang your laundry outside on a Sunday – historically to keep churchgoers who walk to church from being exposed to this unpleasant sight!. This can be expanded into the topic of “Ruhezeiten”, or quiet times in Germany, are every day from 13.00 – 15.00, including Saturdays, all day on Sundays, and every day after 22.00. You are not allowed to “make noise” during this time (e.g. mow your lawn). However, you are allowed to have a party (i.e. make noise) once a month!! It is customary to announce your intentions to make noise to your immediate neighbours or better yet, invite them to your party!.
Happy Birthday! …. Now that you know how to say cheers and when you may party, the next important point is: Birthday celebrations, in Germany it is the responsibility of the birthday boy/girl (this also applies to adults!) to organise the celebrations. This means you give (i.e., pay) for your own birthday party/dinner. Often times, the one celebrating a birthday will bring cake and drinks into the office to share with colleagues.
Now, of course, all of these points are general and it will depend where you are living in Germany. Often Berlin is thought of as much more liberal than say a small town in the South but it’s always good to know the general rule.
Grocery shopping in Germany can be different to other countries, especially if you are used to long opening hours and convenient weekend shopping as it is offered in other places.
Germany still adheres to a more traditional model, including speciality stores, butchers, bakeries and outdoor farmers markets instead of only 24/7 convenience stores and big Malls. The speciality stores have the great advantage of having very knowledgeable staff and a wide range of specific and fresh products.
Opening hours are government regulated, this is particularly evident in regard to shops being closed on Sundays and on all public holidays such as Easter & Christmas. The exception to the Sunday rule are bakeries, they are usually open from 7 – 12 pm and the ‘Verkaufsoffener Sonntag’ which occur around 4 times a year, usually in the lead-up to Christmas, shops will be open from 1 – 6 pm. In a pinch, you can pick up limited goods from Gas Stations or in some neighbourhoods ‘Spätis’ which are typical for Berlin, small shops that are open late and on weekends which stock, drinks, sweets and snacks.
Sunday Shopping 2019: 08.12.2019 & 22.12.2019 (this applies to all participating supermarkets and shops) These can be googled with the term ‘Verkaufsoffener Sonntag Berlin’.
Supermarkets are generally open from 7 to 9 pm (in some places later), the major chains in Berlin are Edeka, Kaisers, Rewe, Real and Kaufland. Then there are the so-called Discounters, these include Aldi, Lidl, Netto & Penny – these are defined by their focus on less effort put into the display of the goods, sale of many no name or own-brand products and cheaper prices, they also offer weekly specials from furniture, clothes, plants to stationary.
Organic food is very popular in Germany and widely available, the word for this in German is BIO. Regular supermarkets all carry their own-brand line of BIO products, as do most of the Discounters. However, there are also BIO only supermarkets around, for example, Denns, LPG & Das Reformhaus.
There are also countless open-air markets around Berlin, these are called Wochenmarkt, here you can buy fresh produce daily, from Fruit and Vegetables to meat, fish and speciality foods such as Turkish or Asian. Open-air markets are usually once a week. Wochenmarkt days and times in your area can be found here: https://www.wochenmarkt-deutschland.de/maerkte/berlin/wochenmaerkte-in-berlin/
A couple of very important notes – you will need a 50 cent or 1 Euro coin for the shopping cart. Bring your own bags, bags are available but can cost up to 1 Euro and it is better for the environment to bring your own bags. Pfand, this is a small deposit imposed on glass and plastic bottles, usually around 25 cents to ensure you recycle the bottle, the deposit is refunded upon return of the bottle. One more tip, this is from experience – there is a product called Dishwasher Salt (Geschirrspüler Salz) in Germany, it is for the dishwasher ONLY. Be careful not to buy it and use it as regular salt.
If you are looking for country-specific products, some supermarkets carry small international sections and there are some speciality stores around Berlin.
Hi there! I’m Juli, I have German roots but I grew up in New Zealand and have been living in Germany since 2004. I love sharing my passion for Berlin and all it has to offer with new ‚Berliners‘ and through my work as a freelance Relocation Consultant with IRC I have the opportunity to do so.