Germany – Travel Culture
Germany is similar to any other foreign country with its own set of standards and rules of etiquette. Learning some of these, along with some useful German phrases and a good dose of adventure will help to make your visit more enjoyable. The following are some ideas to help you in your travels.
Punctuality is very important in the German culture. If you are meeting someone or if you have reservations for dinner, five minutes early is considered on time. Manners also have significant meaning in their culture. Please wait to be shown where to sit so as not to offend your host and make sure to shake hands when you are introduced.
If you are looking for help, it’s always polite to try to ask if the person speaks English in their own language….”sprechen sie Englisch?” instead of “do you speak English?” This shows respect for their native language and often gets a more positive response. You can greet people using their language as well, and the time of day often determines the phrase…”Guten Morgen” for good morning, “Guten Tag” is good day and “Guten Nacht” for good night. Of course, the all important phrase of where is the bathroom? is “Wo ist die Toilette?” also often called the WC.
Germany is a member of the European Union and uses the Euro as their currency. Today the exchange rate is $1.09 per 1 Euro, which makes the US dollar quite strong against the Euro. Last year at this time it was trading at approximately $1.35 per 1 Euro, so Americans are getting more for their travel dollar in Europe this summer!
Tipping in Germany is appreciated but not as perfunctory as in the US. Serving staff do get paid a salary and sometimes the tip is included in the dinner bill, so check before leaving extra. A 5-10% gratuity is standard for table service if not included in the bill. Tour guides and bus drivers also appreciate gratuities of 4-5 Euros/day and 2-3 Euros/day respectively.
You will find most hotel accommodations to be spotless and leaving a small gratuity for housekeeping is kind, but not the reason for the cleanliness. That is a matter of pride and culture and one reason that I appreciate visiting Germany. The service found in the hotels and other tourist areas is often of high quality for the same reason, German pride. If you’re going to do something, you do it well.
Electricity is the same as in most of Europe, 240 Volts instead of our 110 Volts. A two round pronged adapter called the Schuko CEE 4/7 will work in Germany as well as most Western European countries that are not in the UK. Remember that you will need a converter for any appliance NOT rated for 110-240 volts, so please make sure to check the markings on your plugs.
One more pleasant surprise in Germany is the somewhat mild weather. It doesn’t get extremely hot in the summers nor extremely cold in the winters except in higher altitudes. You can enjoy the Christmas Markets in mild 30-40 degree temperatures and the summer breezes in the 70’s on a river cruise.
Whenever you travel to Germany, following these guidelines and remembering to be respectful of their culture and traditions will help you to have a more enjoyable vacation.