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The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Germany

The Culture Guide: 5 Things You Should Not Do When Visiting Germany

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is a popular adage that applies to wherever in the world you travel. However, the converse is ALSO true. When you venture to a new part of the world, it’s just as important to be aware of what NOT to do.

 This is especially true in Germany, where being orderly is a way of life. In fact, Germans have an expression of their own: “Ordnung muss sein,” which means, “There must be order.”  

If you’re venturing to Deutschland, it’s important to honor its social etiquette—starting with these five critical “don’ts.” 

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1. Jaywalk

When you’re crossing the road, do you usually look left and right to confirm that the coast is clear, and then go for it? While you may be able to get away with this at home, jaywalking is a big no-no in Germany. 

Even if there isn’t another car or person around, wait until the traffic signal is green. Crossing on red will earn  you a steep fine and the disapproval of anyone who happens to see you.  

While you’re at it, steer clear of bicycle lanes unless you’re riding. Walking in the bike lane is also a traffic violation—and dangerous, too. 

2. Ignore recycling requirements

Germany has long held the distinction of being the world’s recycling leader. It doesn’t take this reputation lightly. You shouldn’t either. The vast majority of homes in Germany have different recycling bins for pretty much everything, and glass is even sorted by color.

Speaking of bottles, Germany also has a rigorous bottle return system. When you buy certain types of glass bottles, cans, and containers, you pay a deposit ("pfand"). When you return the empty container to any store that sells drinks (not necessarily the one you purchased from), you get your money back.   

3. Drive in the Autobahn’s middle lane

The Autobahn may be famous for its lack of speed limits. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. In fact, one of the reasons people can drive at higher speeds on this world-famous highway is because driving is strictly regulated.

Unless you’re looking to experience some international road rage, steer clear of the middle and left lanes, which are reserved entirely for passing. And make sure to maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. 

4. Be late

“Fashionably late” is not a thing in Germany. Germans are relentlessly punctual, and expect others to be punctual, too. Lateness is viewed as wasting other people’s time, which is viewed as rude and unacceptable. 

If you have reservations, an appointment, or are expected at someone’s home, leave yourself some wiggle room in case you encounter traffic or issues with public transportation. 

5. Ignore “Quiet Hours”

Certain times of day are designated as “quiet hours” in Germany, and Germans are very invested in keeping the peace during these times. This means refraining from doing anything that could potentially disturb your neighbors—from talking loudly to mowing your lawn. Have a loud washing machine? Even that may get you in trouble. 

While “quiet hours” are held at specific times, Germans are generally restrained in their daily lives, as well. Oktoberfest revelry aside, if you behave raucously in Germany, you’ll almost certainly get some serious side-eye.