Last week an article was published in Bloomberg Business week entitled, How Not to Embarrass Yourself in Germany. This article was spot on and would have been very helpful information to have when we first arrived.
1. Titles: Always use titles like Frau, Herr, Doctor and Professor. Do not use first names unless invited. Germans will often correct you right away if you forget to follow this rule.
2. Birthdays: When it is your birthday it is your responsibility to provide food and drinks. We were actually given this information as soon as we arrived. We were also warned not invite a large group of people to dinner for your birthday unless you are willing to pick up the tab.
3. Punctuality: Always be on time. Be direct and detail oriented. This is true in conversation as well. State what you need and move on.
4. Smoking: Never light a cigarette off of a candle. A common superstition says that doing so kills a sailor. Not much to say about that one.
5. Bathrooms: It commonly costs about 30 cents to use a public restroom. We have found that the cost actually ranges from 30 cents to 1.50 euro. Another than in restaurants just about all public restrooms are not free. I was shocked when I did not have any change on me and had to use the restroom at a gas station.
6. Meetings: Expect business meetings to be longer than in other countries. Phil has experienced this first hand. Germans believe that it is important to have long meetings to discuss every possible outcome of a task. This way they are prepared for everything and do not have to have a meeting later when something goes wrong.
7. Dress: Make sure to dress in business casual attire. Khakis are thought of as sloppy. I find it strange that here jeans are considered more dressy than khaki pants. This brings up another point. Germans are vocal about what they think of your clothing. About two months ago I was laughed at in line at the grocery store for wearing flip flops. Americans can be spotted a mile a way. They are the only ones wearing Khakis, polos or flip flops.
8. Jaywalking: Never jaywalk, even if there is no traffic anywhere to be seen. They are very searious about this one. The fine is usually around 40 euro.
9. Hands: Keep your hands on the table when eating. To sit them in your lap is considered rude. Growing up in a home that practiced, "no elbows on the table", I commonly keep one hand on my lap. Phil and I have both been called out by other Germans for eating, "American style."
10. Water: Expect to pay for water at all restaurants. Ordering tap water is impolite. When I was home visiting family it was so nice to have free water whenever we went out. I was also amazed at how large the glasses are in the States. In Germany you pay about $3 for each tiny glass that you drink. For this reason Phil and I usually travel with a water bottle. We actually made the mistake of requesting tap water on several occassions when we first arrived. We were denied water each time and were given some pretty strange looks. Now we know why.
Although some things have been challenging it has also been a lot of fun to learn about another culture and how they interpret life.