10 Essential Things To Know Before Your Trip To Germany

Read our handy travel tips before flying to one of the biggest countries in Europe
Cochem in Germany
Cochem in GermanySCStock/Shutterstock.com

With a population of 84 million people and a diverse landscape of tall mountains, sandy plains, forested hills and agricultural plains, Germany has many stories to tell. While many people think of it as the home of Oktoberfest, lederhosen, swish luxury cars, the Autobahn and a key player in the Second World War, the country plays a big role in shaping global cultural norms due to its plurality of lifestyles, regional identities and faiths.

If you’re catching a flight to this magnificent place then here are some things to keep in mind.

Carry Cash

Scanning groceries at a Cologne supermarket
Scanning groceries at a Cologne supermarketfrantic00/Shutterstock.com

Germans still use cash to pay for things even as card payments picked up speed after the COVID-19 pandemic. Small towns, local markets and mom-and-pop businesses transact via cash, the latter of whom will communicate their preferences on the shop windows and doors. Carry coins in case you want to use public toilets.

Book Trains In Advance

Train station in Cologne
Train station in Colognenattawit.sree/Shutterstock.com

Tickets can be expensive if you book last-minute so pay in advance and reserve a seat as well. German trains are comfortable and generally arrive on time. Book the “familienbereich” (family area) when travelling with kids. Due to a dearth of security gates you could be forgiven for thinking that you can ride for free on Berlin’s train network but that is not the case. Validate your ticket in the “entwerter” machine which will stamp the date and time. Failure to do so will incur a fine.

Be Punctual

The departures board at a tram station in Cologne
The departures board at a tram station in CologneBalkansCat/Shutterstock.com

Being on time is considered a sign of respect and professionalism so Germans tend to take a dim view of latecomers. Punctuality permeates across all levels of German society, from public transportation and government services to workplaces. One of their favourite sayings is “Fünf Minuten vor der Zeit ist des Deutschen Pünktlichkeit” (five minutes early is German punctuality).

Shops Close On Sunday

A rack of vintage clothes to buy at a flea market
A rack of vintage clothes to buy at a flea marketChiccoDodiFC/Shutterstock.com

Most supermarkets and retail stores close on Sunday to comply with the law but also for people to indulge in a day of rest, which is ingrained in their cultural norms. Stores located near train stations are usually open while museums, tourist attractions, bakeries and cafés operate on limited hours. Live this day by visiting flea markets, getting breakfast and hiking.

Recycle Your Waste

Colour-coded bins show you where to throw your waste
Colour-coded bins show you where to throw your wasteNick Starichenko/Shutterstock.com

Germans care about the natural world so it’s no surprise that they take waste reduction and recycling seriously. Separate your plastic from your organic waste and use the colour-coded recycling bins to guide you on where to throw them. Most public bins are divided into paper, plastic and glass but watch out for additional categories. Ensure that you rinse and clean plastic bottles before putting them in a recycling bin and ask for help from a resident or the internet if you have doubts. The country also offers refundable deposits on cans, bottles and mugs.

Learn Basic Phrases

Attempting to speak German shows citizens that you care about communicating like them
Attempting to speak German shows citizens that you care about communicating like them Bartolomiej Pietrzyk/Shutterstock.com

While Germans are very good English speakers it’s good to learn basic German greetings and sentences when you visit. Attempting to speak the language shows citizens that you care about communicating like them. “Danke schön” (thank you very much), “Bitte” (please), “Entschuldigung” (excuse me), “Tschüß” (goodbye), “Guten tag” (good day), “Auf wiedersehen” (goodbye), “Sprechen sie Englisch?” (Do you speak English?) and “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (I do not speak German) are a good start. Also, download a language app to learn phrases and translate on the go.

Don’t Jaywalk

The green all-clear sign to cross the street in East Berlin
The green all-clear sign to cross the street in East BerlinWandering views/Shutterstock.com

You will be told off for jaywalking even if there is no car in sight. It is against the law to jaywalk and sets a bad precedent for children, along with the risk of getting hurt. Wait for the lights to give you the all-clear before crossing a street.

Drinking In Public Is Legal

Drinking beer in Munich
Drinking beer in Munichberni0004/Shutterstock.com

Downing alcohol on your lunch break and in public is completely normal in Germany. Whether you are sitting on the sidewalk or in a park, you do not have to be discreet about it. Having said that, public drunkenness and being loud will earn you stares and even reproaches from locals so sit contently and sip your beer. Once you’re done leave your bottle next to the bin so that someone can claim a “pfand” (deposit refund).

Pay For Public Toilets

A public toilet in Dresden
A public toilet in DresdenTupungato/Shutterstock.com

The pay-to-pee system allows Germans to use clean and tidy public washrooms without worrying about what they may encounter. Restrooms cost anywhere from INR 44-89 so carry some coins when you travel.  

Keep Your Voice Down

A sign on keeping quiet on a German train
A sign on keeping quiet on a German trainJulian Hopff/Shutterstock.com

Germans value their privacy and personal space and hence don’t engage in much small talk. Their blunt and straightforward nature may take some getting used to but it’s refreshing to encounter. Be courteous and keep your voice down in public places, such as cafés, restaurants and shops. Even in trains during rush hour, passengers prefer to whisper and be as quiet as possible for the sake of other commuters. Keep conversations to a minimum and avoid loud music or phone calls while on buses, trains and trams.

Getting There

There are direct flights to Frankfurt and Munich from most Indian cities. Flights to Berlin include a layover.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller