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Secrets of etiquette: how to behave in Germany
Secrets of etiquette: how to behave in Germany

Germany is an amazing country. But what do we know about her? Delicious sausages, excellent beer and good cars, as well as German punctuality and love of order. We invite you to get to know this country better. How to behave on the road and at the table? How to address people? And how to negotiate with partners from Germany? Find out under the cut.

Secrets of etiquette: how to behave in Germany
Secrets of etiquette: how to behave in Germany

Punctual, accurate, thrifty, disciplined and accurate to the point of pedantry - this is how the people of Germany are considered all over the world. And it is not unreasonable. The Germans are really extremely rational. They take everything seriously and strictly follow various instructions. Including the rules of etiquette.

Of course, as in other European countries, the influences of globalization are strongly felt in Germany. Young people are less and less following the national canons of behavior. Nevertheless, Germans always notice and respect the ability of a foreigner to behave in their country.

Speech etiquette

Germans find their language difficult and try to be polite when speaking.

In German, as in Russian, there are two forms of address:

  • on "you" - du;
  • and on "you" Sie.

The first is used in communication between relatives and friends. Turning to "you" indicates a close trusting relationship. Sie is said to people who are older or higher in status. It is also a common appeal to representatives of intellectual labor - doctors, lawyers, etc.

Choose the right form of address so as not to sound rude. If you are not sure what to say - "you" or "you" - listen to the interlocutor. If he tells you du, feel free to follow his lead.

As for their proper names, Germans often refer to each other by their surnames with the addition of the prefixes Herr ("master") and Frau ("mistress"). For example: "Good afternoon, Mr. Schultz!" (Guten Tag, Herr Schultz!). But this is the language of official communication. This is how people address each other at work or at school (students to teachers). In everyday life, prefixes are rarely used.

Frau is an appeal to a married woman. Unmarried people are usually referred to simply by their first name. Previously, the expression gnädiges fräulein was used, but it is deprecated.

In Germany, they are proud of all kinds of titles. If a German defended his doctorate, then Dr. Schultz's appeal will be incredibly flattering to him (the Herr prefix is usually not added in this case). Ranks matter when making formal acquaintances. The first is the one whose title is higher.

Basic phrases

In German Translation

Guten Morgen!

Guten Tag!

Guten Abend!

(or just Morgen, Tag and Abend for informal communication)


Sei gegrüßt! (Grüß Dich - informal version)

Good morning!

Good day!

Good evening! ("Morning!", "Day!", "Evening!" - for informal communication)


I greet you ("Greetings" - informally)


Auf Wiedersehen!

Gute Nacht!


Bis Abend (bis morgen)!



Bye! (informal communication)

Until the evening (until tomorrow)!



Danke schön! / Vielen dank!


Many / many thanks!


Gerne geschehen! (Gerne is a shorter form)


Please! It's my pleasure! (as an answer to gratitude)

Please! (as request)



Tut mir sehr leid!

Sorry! / Sorry!

I'm sorry!


In many German cities (especially provincial ones), the tradition of greeting strangers is preserved. For example, going to a small store or taking a queue at a hospital.


Handshaking is common in Germany. Both men and women shake hands when meeting, meeting, and even when parting. At the same time, it is considered impolite, when giving a hand for a handshake, to keep the second in your pocket. It is also bad form to hide your hands in your pockets while talking.

Women in informal communication can greet each other with a kiss on the cheek (or rather, just by touching the cheeks). But that's only if they know each other well.

We are taught from childhood that it is ugly to point at something and, even more so, at someone with a finger. This is quite normal in Germany. Germans can raise their index finger up or poke it somewhere to get the interlocutor's attention.

The “fist” gesture also has a different meaning in this country. We have it as a threat, but there is a hint that the addressee's brain is no larger than a fist …

Never show a Nazi salute in Germany. This is punishable by law and is considered the height of ignorance.


Germans love order. And it starts with cleanliness. No wonder many foreigners, having returned from Germany, to the question "What surprised you the most?" answer - "Gloss!"

In Germany it is not customary to litter on the streets. Garbage is generally taken seriously: in large cities it is sorted and sent for recycling. Do not miss the trash cans, but when walking the dog, clean up after it. For the latter, there are special machines with plastic bags in the parks of large cities.

By the way, the Germans are very sensitive to animals. Do not stop the car and do not miss … the frog - this is in their eyes incivility, bordering on barbarism. There is even a road sign to help frogs cross the road safely during migration.

Traffic sign common in Germany
Traffic sign common in Germany

Road etiquette is a separate topic in Germany. It is almost impossible to meet a person crossing the road in the wrong place or at the wrong traffic signal. And it's not about big fines (although they are really big). It's just that this behavior creates inconvenience to other road users, which means it is disrespectful. It's the same with parking: leaving your car in the wrong place is not just getting a fine, but showing your disdain to society.

If you are a driver, then do not use the signal of the car to drive up a car that is barely trudging in front or to "wake up" the driver who is gaping at a traffic light. This can be construed as “coercion to commit a violation”.

Away and at the table

The Germans clearly distinguish between private and public life. The first is family, friends, hobbies, recreation, and more. The second is work, business, politics, etc. Mixing one with the other is unacceptable.

Therefore, if you were invited to visit, it means that you were honored, you entered the sphere of a person's personal life. To refuse an invitation is ugly. To be late - even more so. Legends are made about the punctuality of the Germans. Young people are not so pedantic, but the majority also value respect for their time.

You should not come into the house empty-handed. Flowers or sweets are quite suitable as a gift to the mistress of the house when you first appear in it.

Red roses in Germany speak of the romantic intentions of the giver. Carnations, lilies and chrysanthemums are a symbol of mourning.

You should be careful with wine as a gift. If the owner himself is engaged in winemaking, then such a present can be regarded as an allusion to the scarcity of his wine cellar and may offend. If you bring wine with you, choose French or Italian brands.

Gifts are usually given and opened as soon as guests arrive.

We know from American films that guests are usually given a tour of the house. This is not accepted in Germany. The invitees are taken to one room for lunch or dinner.

The Germans value discipline, so they usually eat by the clock. From 7:00 to 9:00 - breakfast, from 12:00 to 13:00 - lunch, from 15:50 to 17:00 - coffee break and from 19:00 to 20:00 - dinner. The treat depends on what time you were invited to visit. If the meeting is scheduled for 4 days, then, for sure, there will be coffee and some pastries on the table.

Before eating, it is customary to wish you bon appetit - Guten Appetit or Mahlzeit. When there are many people at the table, this phrase is pronounced by the owner of the house, it means - everything is served, you can eat.

If the feast takes place in a restaurant, it is important to remember a few more subtleties:

  • keep your hands (not your elbows!) above the table, not on your knees, even if you are not eating;
  • a knife and fork crossed on a plate means that you have not finished your meal yet;
  • knife and fork lying to the right of the plate parallel to each other - signal to the waiter to remove the dishes.

As for the tip, it is usually 10% of the order.

The German drinking culture deserves special attention. Residents of Germany love to drink, light alcohol (beer or wine) is constantly present on the table. But it is not customary to make you drink. If you want to treat a German, but he refuses, then this is by no means modesty or politeness. Don't insist (“Do you respect me ?!”) - he just doesn't want to.

Beer is the national pride of the Germans. Therefore, if you want to win them over, demonstrate your ability to drink beer.

First, Germans never drink beer from a bottle or on the go. It is believed that this does not allow you to feel the taste of the foamy drink.

Second, not all mugs are created equal. Each grade has its own glassware.

Mass (1 liter mug with handle) - for light "Helles".

Narrow glass with a capacity of 0.2 liters - for Kölsch.

A low cylindrical glass made of thin glass - for a dark Altbier.

Tall glasses expanding towards the top (0.5 liters) - for wheat varieties.

Thirdly, in Germany, unlike in France or England, beer foam is never shaken off. After all, this is another criterion for evaluating the taste and quality of the drink.

In Germany, every beer has its own glassware
In Germany, every beer has its own glassware

Clinking glasses say Prost! ("Hurray!") Or Zum Wohl! ("Good health!"). At the same time, they try to look their counterpart in the eye.

In a large company, you shouldn't start drinking until everyone has received their glasses. (Eating before the food is served to everyone is also considered impolite. The exception is when your dish was brought earlier in the restaurant and it may cool down, while others' food is still being prepared. But in this case, you should ask those present for permission to start the meal.)

Business Etiquette

To say that the Germans are serious about their work is to say nothing. They do not allow frivolity, irresponsibility and chaos in the conduct of business.

This shows up even in small things. The Germans are straightforward, do not understand allegories and do not accept innuendo. They demand precision in everything. So, when discussing the price, it is not enough to say just “two thousand”. It is important to indicate the currency - “two thousand euros”.

Also, to avoid ambiguity, businessmen in Germany say “Yes” or “No” unambiguously. Unlike the Japanese, who, in order not to offend their partner with a refusal, evade an answer, the Germans directly say Nein if the deal does not suit them.

how to behave in Germany
how to behave in Germany

For the same reason (in order to avoid misunderstandings) all presentations, contracts and other official documents should be provided in two languages - German and the language of the counterparty. (The business card can be handed in English - this is the language of international business communication, and in Germany it is well known.)

The German love for order in business communication means that you should:

  • Come to meetings on time. While small delays are still acceptable in private visits, in business they are not. When you are late for objective reasons (delayed the plane, stuck in a traffic jam, etc.), you should definitely notify your partner by phone.
  • Observe the dress code. A suit, shirt and tie will demonstrate your status and approach to business.
  • Remember the chain of command. Familiarity with superiors is not accepted in Germany.

Business meetings should be arranged in advance and only if you have a really good reason. During negotiations, it is customary to get down to business immediately, without unnecessary talk "about the weather." Germans are meticulous and methodical partners, so always think carefully about your conversation plan.

The neatness of German businessmen may even seem excessive and odd. For example, when they leave the workplace for a short time, they will certainly set a password on their computer or take a laptop with them. This does not mean that your German colleague does not trust you. It's just that, most likely, it is written in his service manual.

As you are to me, so am I to you / Wie du mir, so ich dir German proverb

The main rule of etiquette in any country is mutual courtesy. Follow the rules of conduct adopted in Germany and you will be a welcome guest in this state.

Write in the comments, what other secrets of German etiquette do you know.