German Culture Explained

The Ultimate Guide to German Culture

Written by Owain Banfield
Written by Owain Banfield
14th May 2018 (Last updated on Friday 4th May 2018)

In this guide Compare My Move walk you through German culture, including looking at the differences and similarities between German and UK culture, as well as debunking some common stereotypes within the country. The guide will also provide you with some information on how you may be able to fit in once you are in the country and some of the subtle cultural differences from across different areas.

Experiencing a new culture is one of the most exciting and daunting things you can do in life. So ahead of finalising your plans and booking your removals to Germany, let's explore German culture. 

Cultural Differences Between Germany and the UK

There are a whole range of cultural differences between the UK and Germany, some major and some minor. Here we explore common differences you'll notice in your new life in Germany.

Food Culture in Germany

Probably one of the major differences you will experience when moving or visiting any new country is what they have on their plate. Although many of the ingredients of German food are the same as those that are popular in the UK, the proportions of those foods and the time at which they are eaten do differ.

For example, cereal with milk is widely accepted as the main type of breakfast in the UK. Whereas, if you look at a typical German breakfast you may expect to see a table full of rolls, honey, jam and even cold meats. Traditionally the German main meal of the day would be lunch which would consist of some combination of hot potatoes, vegetables and meat and dinner would be a cold bread-based snack. However, in more modern times Germans will often swap these meals over much like we do in the UK.

Drinking in Germany

Drinking in Germany is a serious business. When buying beer in the country, you'll notice it's some of the cheapest in Europe and many worry that the German approach to drinking is a social issue. The German love for drink is apparent in many of their festivals, not least throughout their world-famous Oktoberfest held in Munich.

The other major difference to drinking in Germany is that people can start drinking softer alcohols such as beer and wine at the age of 16, although harder alcohols like spirits cannot be consumed by anyone under the age of 18.

Working in Germany

The German people are world renowned for their hard work ethic. Although this may be a stereotype, it is certainly founded on what you might expect to find in your average German business.

For example, the approach to work in Germany is a lot more formal than the approach you find in UK businesses. There is a major focus on being direct and getting the job done with as little wasted time as possible, this lends itself to the common belief that Germans are obsessed with efficiency. For further reading, we cover working and wages in Germany in our guide to the cost of living in Germany.

Early Start, Early Finish

Working days will also often start a lot earlier than here in the UK due to widely available flexible working hours, with a 7.30am start being quite normal. However, the Germans do not traditionally work ridiculous hours and given an early start will often finish work earlier at around 3pm.

One final small and interesting cultural difference is that German workers will commonly take time off for small ailments such as colds, whereas in the UK we usually need to be very poorly before calling in sick.

Common German Stereotypes Explained

Every nation in the world is subjected to stereotyping and although these are often founded in some truth, they are often not completely true. In this section, we explore some common German stereotypes and truth or lack of it behind them.

Germans are Direct

We have already explored the Germans approach to work and the fact that they can be very direct. This forward approach to communication is also common in other situations such as socialising, which can often come across as abrupt and rude. This is found as especially true by Brits who often take the completely the opposite approach of being overly polite and often take a long time to get to the point.

If you approach German communication with an open mind then it should be clear that their intentions are not necessarily to be rude and therefore should not be considered as such. In fact, the Germans direct approach to communication is usually in an attempt to ensure that time is not wasted and to make it clear what is being asked.  

Food in Germany

Meat is certainly a massive part of German culture. In fact, you could argue that unless you love potatoes and bread then the German diet is an insult to vegetarians. The most famous meat-based aspect of the German diet has to be sausage, with the most well-known being the ‘Frankfurter Würstchen’ or ‘Bratwürstchen’. Most traditional and commonly eaten German dishes are made up in large part of meat.

Although this stereotype is well founded in many ways, cities such as Berlin are picking up on global trends in vegan and vegetarianism with many restaurants opening to cater for those that are not meat eaters.

Germans Love Beer

We have already explored the Germans love for beer, but it is well worth noting as one of the most common stereotypes of the German people. Little else needs to be said beyond the fact they do not try to hide their love for it.

Different Cultures Within Germany

Germany is a country of varying cultures and not just within their diverse multicultural cities. Sharing its borders with nine other countries including Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Czechia, Poland, France and Switzerland has resulted in many of these countries cultures spilling over into the neighbouring parts of Germany.

Northern German Culture

North Germany is culturally linked to Scandinavia, England and the Netherlands, and traditionally the area is majority Protestant. The area has unique culture through various Low German dialects, and food and drink particularly enjoyed in the area include blood sausage, schnapps, and coffee.

Cities like Hamburg are famous for creative industries.

South German Culture

One area which has a particularly unique culture is the south-eastern state of Bavaria. This is widely due to the areas catholic and conservative background.  The area has unique traditional dishes which includes many types of meat and Knödel dishes which often uses flour.

Alongside the region of Swabia, Bavaria shares food cultures with Austria and Switzerland. Southern Germany is the strongest area of Germany economically, and is famous for its huge variety of beers and wines across the region.

If you were wondering which region is best for you to live in, check out our guide on the best places to live in Germany.

How to Live Like a German

Reading this article has already put you in a great position to fit in in Germany. By making the conscious decision to take some time researching cultural norms you are already well on your way to knowing how to fit in.

Other small things you can do to fit in once in the country includes learning at least the basics of the German language and making the effort to socialise with Germans to learn about their way of doing things.

Compare My Move in Germany

We hope this guide has helped you understand the various cultural differences between the UK and Germany, so you're ready ahead of your move to get fully involved in a German lifestyle. For more information, check out our comprehensive guide to moving to Germany from the UK.

When you're ready, remember to use Compare My Move to save time and money on your international removals to Germany. Fill in a quick and easy form and get connected with up to 6 professional removal companies, saving up to 70% in the process.

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