About Germany

30 things to know about German people

Moving to Germany? Check out our list of things you should know about German people and their culture before you arrive.

German people

By Expatica

Updated 11-2-2024

We proudly present you with a practical summary (with some practical jokes in it) of what our interview partners from the past six months have told us about Germany and the Germans. Yes, you will find some stereotypes in here. You might even get annoyed by them, or laugh out loud instead.


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Things to know before moving to Germany

  1. Germans will know that you are a foreigner. They just do.
  2. Germans are very traditional, very hierarchical.
  3. Germans are rule-oriented in every aspect – make sure you wait at traffic lights – and prepare yourself for a lack of flexibility in rules and regulations. In Germany, rules are a way of life.
  4. German punctuality means arriving at least 10 minutes before the appointment.
  5. The German language is a lot of trouble. And don’t worry about messing up the tenses or articles. They’ll understand you, but they’ll also correct you.
  6. Stereotypes about Germans might be true, but they have to be tested every time. Not everyone is ‘German’ to the core. Maybe just a few.
  7. Things are usually in order and work, but, surprise surprise, you will discover that Germans are not always efficient and they do make mistakes here, too.
  8. There is much more trust between people and a greater sense of society. People will return your lost keys or wallet.
  9. Learn to love pork – in all its incarnations. Learn to love Wurst and Sauerkraut. There’s no chance you can escape them.
  10. Germans are cautious about new things.
  11. Germans usually do one thing at a time.
  12. German literature is something to be proud of, and deserves close affiliation.
  13. For many, the weekend begins at 2pm on Friday. You don’t believe that? Good luck calling an office on Friday afternoon.
  14. Germans are eco-friendly. Learn how to recycle. Before you know it you will be happily recycling everything from glass bottles to paper towels.
  15. Learn not to interrupt or jump into a conversation. They wait to speak until the other person has finished.
  16. Get used to the idea of going grocery shopping in more than one shop. Supermarkets don’t have everything in them; the local butchers or bakery might though, or certain supermarkets will carry different brands.
  17. There is lots of paperwork waiting for you in Germany – more than you can imagine.
  18. Dogs are nicely treated and allowed in most of the hotels and restaurants.
  19. Germans are hard working but they know how to celebrate life, although celebrating is as regulated as everything else in Germany – there is time to be happy and friendly and time to party, like at Karneval.
  20. Most Germans speak English, and when they tell you they speak only a little bit of English, don’t believe them – their English is probably perfect.
  21. Rentals often include a rental fee, as annoying as that is.
  22. On Sundays shop are closed but the museums are open.
  23. Germans are a mailing and calling country. If you need to contact a person, don’t email, just pick up that phone and call.
  24. Sauna = naked! That’s a rule!
  25. Germans are not spontaneous. Make appointments with them to do pretty much everything, including going for a coffee break. That might be an exaggeration for some people, but for others, maybe not.
  26. Especially for Americans out there: there is no personal space, people stand very close to each other.
  27. Germans might overstep their boundaries in regards to commenting – it has to do with that sense of community we talked about earlier.
  28. They love their cars, they are holy for them. An average German washes his car up to 10 times a year.
  29. German men tend to be very shy and don’t take a first step – women may feel unnoticed – while women tend to wear jeans and are a bit more aggressive than elsewhere in the world, at least according to some of our male interview partners.
  30. Germans separate their private and work life – don’t consider calling your colleague after working hours.

Famous Germans who changed history

Several famous Germans have made notable contributions to German and world culture or played an important role in history. They improved lives across the world, shaped Europe, and also changed the future with their inventions.

Johannes Gutenberg (1398–1468)

Originally a goldsmith and inventor, he is also the father of book printing by inventing movable type printing in Europe. His major work, the Gutenberg Bible, is acclaimed for its high aesthetic and technical quality.

Martin Luther (1483–1546)

A monk, priest, professor, theologian, and church reformer, Martin Luther’s questioning of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church inspired the Protestant Reformation. This deeply influenced the doctrines and culture of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions, as well as the course of Western civilization.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

A composer and organist whose works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments brought the Baroque period to its ultimate maturity. Without necessarily giving it new forms, he enriched the prevailing German style and also made a deep impact on the development of church music. He is one of the greatest composers of all time.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832)

A poet and novelist, his most enduring work – the two-part dramatic poem Faust – is one of the peaks of world literature. Goethe’s other literary works include Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, the epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as the semi-autobiographical novel Elective Affinities.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

An influential composer of the Classical era, his output of over 600 compositions includes works widely acknowledged as pinnacles of classical music. Mozart is among the most endearingly popular European composers. Many of his works are also part of the standard concert repertoire. He is one of the greatest composers ever.

Otto von Bismarck (1815–1898)

A European statesman of the 19th century and as Prime Minister of Prussia from 1862 to 1890, he engineered the unification of Germany. From 1867, he was Chancellor of the North German Confederation. When the German Empire was declared in 1871, he served as its first Chancellor. Bismarck was subject to personal cult in Germany for a long time after his death. Due to his ruling in the brief period of Imperial German colonialism, the Bismarck Archipelago on Papua New Guinea is named after him.

Karl Friedrich Benz (1844–1929)

An engine designer and automobile engineer generally regarded as the inventor of the gasoline-powered automobile. Other German contemporaries, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, also worked independently on the same type of invention, but Benz patented his work first and, after that, patented all of the processes that made the internal combustion engine feasible for use in automobiles. In 1886, Benz also received a patent for his first engine, which he designed in 1878. In 1885, Benz also created the motorcar (Motorwagen) the first commercial automobile.

Paul Gottlieb Nipkow (1860–1940)

A technician and television pioneer, he invented the electric telescope for the electric reproduction of illuminating objects; in fact, these were the basic apparatuses for television broadcast. Nipkow proposed the first practical television principle based on a scanning disc that transmitted live moving images with tone graduation or greyscale in 1884. Nipkow became famous for being the creator of television. In 1935, the first public television station in the world was named after him.

Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)

A theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician, he received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his philosophy of reverence for life expressed in many ways. Most famously, he founded and also sustained the Lambaréné Hospital in Gabon.

Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967)

A conservative statesman, his political career spanned 60 years, beginning as early as 1906. He is most noted for his role as the first Chancellor of West Germany from 1949 – 1963. Adenauer was also chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1950 to 1966. He was, in fact, the oldest chancellor ever to serve Germany.

Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

A famous German theoretical physicist, Einstein is widely considered to have been one of the greatest physicists of all time. He first elaborated the theory of relativity and specifically the mass-energy equivalence, E=mc2. He earned the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.

Konrad Zuse (1910–1995)

An engineer and computer pioneer whose greatest achievement was the first functional tape-stored-program-controlled computer, the Z3, in 1941. The Z3 is the first computer in the world. Zuse also designed the first high-level programming language, the Plankalkül, published in 1948. His was a theoretical contribution since the language never came in to use within his lifetime; it did not directly influence any early-implemented languages, however.