So you want to move to Germany? How Germans think

So you want to move to Germany? How Germans think

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American in Germany Georg Behrendt details his experiences of living in Germany in this fourth part of his series on moving to Germany. He looks at the German way of thinking, restaurants, service and environmentally friendliness.

When in Germany, remember that this is a country different from America; it has its own thoughts, feelings and emotions. Germany just like the States has its great deficiencies and screw-ups. Never get frustrated, have patience and learn; you will be the better off for it. Moreover, try not to become one of those people that constantly say ‘Well back in the States it is better because…’ I too would then tell you to go back home.

German mentality
I re-read this and now I have to pre-empt this section. What I write is true and factual. However, the negatives I mention are pointed to the 50+ populace and the populace that have not experienced anything other than Germany. The experienced German traveller understands manners and politeness.

German mentality or way of thinking I have come across within the last two plus years. You may want to be aware of and consider it while living here. Do not be offended or insulted, just deal with it with understanding.
Germans will be the first to tell you why something cannot be done or happen. They think straight ahead and do not consider a little to the left or right of a condition. In other words, they are very structured and not flexible. But if you make the time you might be able to show them a better way or more proficient way to do things.

Photo © ND Strupler

I must add to these seemingly adverse comments of mine, that there are also many Germans who will help you at no charge once they get to know who you are…..most of these particular Germans have spent much time in the States or Canada. One man lent me a EUR 40,000.00-euro machine to work with my product. He said use it until I can sell it… it will make your life easier. It has been close to a year now and we are still using it…thanks to him.

Another thing is that I find most Germans tend to be extremely private in nature. They do not want to talk about the money they have or make. On the other hand, they want to know all about you.  So the quickest way to shut down that double standard is to ask them about their salary or what their property is worth. Then, and only then, do they get the clue that double standards do not work with Americans.
Most Germans do not like to be shown a different or better way to do a project. They tend to block any changes, ideas, or alterations to the current thinking. This is partly because they have to keep people working and not machines and the other reason is the same old concept as we have in the older people in the States: It has been this way for the last 80 years so why should we change now.

German women:I will not even try to go there because I will be killed. Trust me though, they are unique and not always in a good way.

Germans in general tend to be rude (older generation and country people). They will walk in front of you, bump into you, step on your foot and look at you as if it was your fault. They tell you what to do and do not ask if you could do something.  For instance, ‘Get me a cup of coffee’ instead of ‘Would you please get me a cup of coffee,’ ‘Come, let’s go!’ instead of ‘Are you ready? Then let’s go.’




Drinking and eating

Germans are great drinkers and can handle beers much better than Americans or Canadians. Yes, the beer is beer and not coloured water as in the Can-Am area of this world.

There are many restaurants in Germany just like, if not more, per capita in the States. Germans love to eat and drink.  However, not to worry, most Americans are still fatter than the average German. Germans seem to love to eat.  I find that Americans eat and then go out. When Germans get to where they are going, they have something to eat and drink, and then when they get home, they eat and drink again. It is sort of comical and nice, but damn you can gain weight fast too.


In general, restaurants are good and the normal restaurant is inexpensive. In addition, in small towns they will close Mondays. Another German attitude is that most all restaurants have all their lights on bright. Then do not seem to understand the cosiness that is involved in the business. Bars in restaurants seldom, if ever, place salty items on the bar to munch on, even though it would increase the liquor sales 10-15 percent.

Tips: Germans have a totally different system then we do. The wait staff earns EUR 10 to 15 an hour. Germans as a rule do not tip. If they do, most we would consider cheap tippers. My advice is to tip and tip in American style. The server will love you for it and from then on you will get great service.


Customer service (customer no-service)

This is a new concept in Germany … It used to be that if you bought something it was yours and that was it.  Well it is slowly (very slowly) changing to what we are used to having. Many times, you will find that you have to push the point to get the service. A perfect example of this is when a friend of mine took his mobile phone in for repair. He asked them to fix certain problems and upgrade the software. After 30 days-- yes an excessive amount of time-- they called and said it was ready. He asked what was done to fix it and the service agent said he had no idea (right there it raises a large red flag) but her it is, sign for it and it is yours. Guess what? Nothing had been done to the phone….nothing.  So be very cautious and demand service if you have to; get in there face and explain that they work in a service department and you would like service. Watch out for useless charges.  If you get an invoice or charge for administrative costs, do not be German and pay it. Ask why and for what! The German attitude for things like this is: Oh, it must be so, because they ask for it.  No!




Environmental matters in Germany are strict. Germany is one of the few countries that really take environmental conditions to heart and try their best to have a green attitude.  Items are sorted into paper, glass-metal-plastic, food waste, and miscellaneous trash. Also in smaller towns, like where I live, there are burn days. Two days in the spring and two days in the fall where you are allowed to burn leaves and other items. The fire lit for these cases can only be a meter wide; you also need fire-extinguishing material near, like a water hose.


The north central portion of Germany is fantastic…if you are a hunter. wild deer (rae) and wild boar abound. The catch is that if you own a weapon you need to have special certification to own it which involves special courses and tests.

Business hours

In large cities these are about the same as in the States, but if you live in a medium size to small town (Dorf), be prepared to have the businesses take a break from noon until 15:00 hours. Wednesdays, the medical industry and many others will close at noon. In addition, many businesses will close at noon Fridays. Plus, something America has not had for over fifty years, one person does one job. If Frau Schmidt is the purchasing department, and she is sick or goes on vacation, guess what? Nothing happens in that department until she returns. There seems to be a total lack of cross-training or understanding why two people should know the same job.



Over the next few weeks Georg Behrendt will offer his perspective on a variety of topics including transport, the German language, post office system, technology, medical care and dress and style. Stay tuned...  Georg Behrendt is happy for readers to contact him via or leave your comment under this article. Georg is happy to respond to any questions either way.



Photo credits: slavin fpo;ND Strupler;Stübner;figlioDiOrfeo

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3 Comments To This Article

  • pim posted:

    on 18th September 2012, 07:44:35 - Reply

    I lived in Germany for a year in NRW during my university years('06-'07) and what I liked the most of german people is that when you asked them for a favour and they couldn't help you they would tell you right away, thus not losing your time waiting for a response, even if it might be harsh. They wouldn't say "yeah sure, I'll get back to you" and then it wasn't going to happen. On the other hand, if they could help you they would and never flake on you.
  • Levi posted:

    on 22nd October 2011, 21:38:13 - Reply

    I am also a non-German living in Germany, and I laughed most of the way through this article... mostly because it is actually very accurate in many many ways. But also because I, too, have discovered that I often come across as critical and condescending by focusing on the (MANY MANY) differences between Germans and our culture. The truth is, however, as Georg has written, it is mostly the older folks, especially rural people and those with little exposure to anything besides the little "dorf" where they grew up. I have found that yes, on the one hand it can be incredibly difficult to get a German to loosen up and smile.... but on the other hand, once they do you will discover that they have the biggest and softest hearts you can imagine. And while they are incredibly crusty, rigid, negative,critical, nitpicking, resistant to change, and defensive people (generalizing of course) I have discovered that they are this way because it is the culture in which they have grown up. If you were always criticized and verbally taken apart, you would also grow a thick skin and begin relating to everyone else around you in the exact same way. If you were raised in a society where change was equated with uncertainty and instability, you would come to fear it too. If you were raised under a government which dictated to you every aspect of your life, beginning with mandatory schooling at the age of six (yes, mandatory, this is enforced by threat of police visits and possible removal of parenting rights) then you would come to view authority as the final ultimate word and you would submit yourself to something if you have never known any other way of seeing the world. I could say so much more if I didnt have to hurry all of a sudden, but lets just sum it up. Germans are EVERYTHING they are stereotyped to be, but Germans are also some of the most beautiful hearted people you will ever meet and the criticisms we heap on them is not anymore deserved than their stereotyping of us Americans in some of the demeaning ways I have heard.
  • Michael posted:

    on 3rd October 2011, 18:16:01 - Reply

    I am German. I do not want to comment the rest of your article, but your statement that "Germans as a rule do not tip" is grossly wrong. Tipping IS the rule, I personally know nobody who wouldn't do it. There's one exception to the rule though: You don't tip if you know the guy who served you is the owner of the restaurant. Or in self-service situations. I personally know a waitress in a rather fine restaurant in Bavaria who get only 7 EUR per hour and wouldn't survive if Germans didn't tip.