Culture and etiquette in Germany

What makes Germany uniquely German? It’s a hard question…especially in today’s globalized world. But making an effort to understand the country’s culture and its broad national characteristics will make your stay here more enjoyable.

A big part of a successful stay anywhere is simply enjoying the country and its people. One giant step towards realizing that goal in Germany is to get a good grasp on German culture and characteristics. In talking about German “culture”, we don’t mean just opera, concerts, two-kilo novels and ponderous philosophers; we’re using the term broadly, to include things such as eating and drinking, sports, holidays and just chilling out and having fun.

Germans are understandably proud of their achievements in the arts and you will have no shortage of those “high-culture” offerings during your stay. But here we want to focus on the broader picture.

Perhaps the best way to approach this topic is just to ask what makes Germany uniquely German. This can be a hard question to answer these days, as Germany has been both influenced and altered by a good many other cultures over the last half century. But there are still elements that make life in Germany different from what you’ll see in most other places. One of the great slanders thrown at Germans is that they don’t know how to have a good time. In fact, Germans love having fun – at the right time and place.

That’s a key feature of the German character, the ability to compartmentalize: Germans are strong believers in the adage that there’s a right time and place for everything. When they work, they work hard. When it is time to play, they love to play.

And as you’ll soon learn, if you haven’t already, they do have a lot of time to play: standard work contracts here provide 25-30 days of paid holiday, to be broken up or taken in one lump as you prefer.

A popular strategy is to maximize the amount of consecutive free days by scheduling vacations around weekends or the many legal holidays on the calendar. Thus, May and June – when a string of legal holidays occur – are the most popular vacation times for Germans.

German Culture