Life in Germany will ask questions that you never thought you would ask yourself: "Will my neighbors sue me if I cut the lawn today?" Or "how much money can I make to collecting empty plastic bottles?". Laws and rules ensure that the life of the Germans runs in order and efficiency. While some of them will have you scratching your head, listen to our advice and avoid doing the following things when you arrive in Germany.
If you walk around cities in Germany, you'll quickly notice that most pedestrians patiently wait for the lights light to turn green even if there are no cars in sight. Crossing the road at a red light may result in a 5 € fine and angry remarks by other pedestrians who do not hesitate to educate you about traffic regulation, especially when kids are watching.
Germany takes recycling very seriously. But what's great for the environment often causes confusion between tourists and newcomers to Germany. However, when you have a good understanding of it, it makes sense. Most households have some different colored dustbins for common waste, plastics, paper and cardboard, and organic waste. Empty glass bottles are taken to larger containers located in each neighborhood arranged by brown, white and green glass. Light bulbs, batteries, electronics, and second-hand items are also recycled separately.
Show the Nazi salute
Showing Nazi salute, or any other Nazi symbols, flags or slogans for that matter, is prohibited. It's not only considered a serious offensive but is completely illegal. Any violation can result in steep fines and up to five years in prison if you're arrested.
Throw out bottles
Germany's Pfand system is another stroke of genius in the effort of reducing waste. When you buy drinks in glass and plastic bottles or soda cans, an additional eight to 25 cents each bottle to added to your bill to encourage you to return the empties to the nearest store instead of throwing them into the bin. Beverage shops are obliged to accept empty bottles whether or not they originally purchased at the same store, which makes the system highly efficient.
Drive on the middle lane on the Autobahn
The prospect of driving on German Autobahn for the first time is often met with excitement. However, there are strict regulations in place that regulate driving. Know the speed limit, keep the distance from the cars in front of you and stay in the right lane. Driving on the left or middle lane of the Autobahn can cause serious road rage among other drivers as these are used to overtake slower vehicles in front of you.
Some stereotypes can make it hard to argue with. One of them is German people are punctual and at the same time expect others to do the same. Those who wasted time on the overall are considered rude and unacceptable. If you have an appointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes earlier and allow extra time for traffic or in case of late public transport.
Enter a home wearing shoes
When invited to someone's house, make sure it is okay to be wearing shoes inside before you enter. Most people in Germany don't wear shoes in their homes and take them off when visiting friends and family. You can even be given a handed of slippers to wear instead.
Walk in bicycle lanes
Don't walk in bicycle lanes. It is not only a traffic violation but also potentially dangerous for yourself and cyclists which are used to traveling across cities at high speeds. Don't be surprised by angry cyclists who are ringing their bells and abuse you if you ignore the rules.
Address strangers with their first names
Germans distinguish between a formal and informal "you." This depends on the situation whether or not your counterpart expects you to address them by their last name or the formal pronoun "Sie" if the first name and "du" are sufficient. In the business context or when you are speaking to complete strangers, stick to Sie. If you are invited to a dinner party with people of the same age, you will probably settle for the unofficial version. If you're unsure, it's polite and perfectly reasonable to ask how others want to be addressed.
Sing the first verse of the national anthem
Although it is not illegal to sing the first verse, it is considered highly offensive and insensitive towards Germany's past. It is important to consider the historical background of the so-called "Deutschlandlied." Written in 1841 by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, the song expresses his desire for a united nation-state. The song became the national anthem of the Weimar Republic in 1922 but was repurposed by the Nazis who sung the first verse afterward as their national anthem to spread nationalistic ideology. The Allies Parties subsequently banned the use of "Deutschlandlied" after the end of WWII, until 1952 when the new German government announced only the third verse to be the official national anthem advanced.
Get on public transport without a ticket
Germany has a great public transport system. The network of trains, trams, subways, and buses will take you everywhere. But the comparison to other countries, you can often go to the station and the carriage without going through the turnstiles or ticket checkpoint. Please note that this doesn't mean a ride on public transport is free. Tickets are usually checked by staff on the train who won't hesitate to present you a fine of up to 60 € if you board the train without a valid ticket.
Speak English and expect no one to understand
Most Germans speak decent English and will be able to follow your conversation easily, so it's best to keep rumors to yourselves until you are alone. Germans are very straightforward and have no problems sharing part of their thoughts when they catch you talking about them.
Disrespect quiet hours
In Germany, quiet hours are prescribed by law which effectively means: no loud music, drilling or vacuuming on Sunday. Or between 1 pm and 3 pm. Or from 10 pm to 7 am the next morning. Even putting a load of washing on during quiet hours can cause a series of complaints by neighbours and visit by public order officers. Each municipality can set up their guidelines, but they often agree that nobody should be annoyed by the noise on Sundays and bank holidays or during the night.
Be loud and obnoxious
The Germans certainly know how to put on a boozy festival, just look at the Oktoberfest in Munich or Karneval in Cologne. While their exuberant mood invaded the entire city during festivals, the Germans who often fell into their ordered life once it’s over, anyone who disturbs the peace with loud, obnoxious and drunk behavior will be frowned upon or even ask to turn it off.
Expect credit cards to be accepted
Cash still regulates in Germany. It is relatively common for adults without a credit card and only uses cash or debit cards for their purchases. While supermarkets, shops and some restaurants allow card payments - in some cases just debit - takeaways, bars, street vendors and most eateries will only take cash.