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cultural differences germany

If you’ve never been to Germany, you may be wondering what you can expect when you get here.  Depending on where you come from, the cultural differences can be mildly amusing to downright unbelievable.  We’ve put together a list of the top cultural differences that visitors to Germany may encounter.  This list focuses primarily between the differences between the United States and Germany.

 

Toilets are not free in Germany

In Germany, you generally have to pay to use the toilet.  Whether it is a rest area on the autobahn or in the middle of the city, the majority of the toilets you encounter will not be free.  We’ve all seen the signs in our home countries: “Toilets for customers only” and it’s the same here, although more strictly enforced.  Generally speaking, if you are at a restaurant or store as a customer, you can use the toilets free of charge.  Often times, the business will have a dedicated toilet attendant stationed outside with a small table where users can place coins on.  The “fee” for using the toilet is sometimes (in more touristy areas) written on a sign but not always.  Generally it is customary to leave between 20-50 cents to use the toilet in Germany.

 

Eating & Drinking

This section will be most helpful to Americans, who over the years have gotten accustomed to a number of things that aren’t really usual in the rest of the world.  The German restaurant experience holds many cultural differences, primarily  being: free water, refills, tipping and paying for your meal.

 

Free water

In the United States, it is customary to have an ice cold glass of water placed on your table before you order your meal.  The water is free and the diner can have as much as they want.  In Germany, a drink is only brought to your table after you order it.   If you order a water in Germany, they will bring you a glass bottle of water and it costs roughly the same amount as a soda.   If you want free water, you may be able to get it by specifically asking for tap water (“Leitungswasser”), although you should be prepared to get a strange look and the smallest glass of water you’ve ever seen.

 

Holding your fork and knife

You may be surprised to learn that Europeans hold their utensils differently than people from the United States.  It is customary in Germany to place your fork in your left hand and knife in the right.  You may be asking yourself, what other way is there? Well, it’s called American style.  Items are cut on the plate, then the knife is put down, the fork is then moved to the right hand and used to eat.  Germans are efficient at many things and eating is one of them.  I believe most Germans would consider the fork switch to be very time wasting!

 

Sparkling Everything

Germans love sparkling beverages.  They love them so much that your server may even bring you sparkling without even asking.  Be sure to specify whether you would like normal or sparkling when ordering water.  Your server may also ask you “With or without Gas” if you didn’t specify, but don’t count on it!

 

Free Refills

For those unaccustomed, a refill is when the server comes by your table mid-way through your meal and takes your empty glass away only to return it full to the brim.  This does not exist in Germany.  Soft drinks are not as popular in Germany and you must specifically request another soda (for which you will also be charged).

 

Paying for your meal

Paying for your meal is a straightforward process but may be different than in your home country.  When you wish to pay, just ask your server for the cheque.  They will come to your table, hand you the bill and wait.  The payment and tip (if any) is handled directly at the table.  Simply tell the server how much you would like to pay (tip included).  Example:  The bill is 27 Euro, you hand the server a 50 Euro bill and say “30”.  The server will hand you back a 20 Euro bill.

 

Tipping

Tipping is a bit different in that it is not required or expected.  In fact, tipping large amounts of money can be considered culturally ignorant and should be avoided.  Although you should not tip if you received bad service, remember that the service expectations in Germany are far, far lower than in other countries.  An example might be a waiter only checking in on you once during your meal — this is not uncommon, nor considered bad service in Germany.

A tip of 5-10% of the total bill is a normal amount to tip in Germany for good service.  It is also common in Germany to round the bill up when paying.  Example: If your bill comes to €18.75, it would be common to round that up to an even twenty euro if you had good service.

For more information about tipping in Germany, please see our Money Matters section.

 

German is closed on Sunday

There isn’t much open on Sundays, after all, it’s meant to be a day of family time and a bit of rest for over worked souls.  Agree with it or not, it’s a fact in this country.  Nearly all shops, supermarkets and businesses are closed on Sundays. Restaurants are typically open, but you’ll want to check beforehand.  The exception to this rule is that small convenience stores (called “Spätkauf” or “Spätis“) are allowed to operate as well as businesses inside larger train stations.

While not a law, Germans also keep noise levels down on Sunday.  It’s best not to mow the lawn or do any kind of drilling or hammering on this day.

 

The Germanic Stare

Perhaps owing to their storied history, Germans are well known for their staring antics.  While generally harmless it can be a bit uncomfortable to encounter first hand.  Germans will stare at you for a few different reasons, the most common reason is that you are different.  Whether you are dressed differently, sound different or just look different, you may get a stare. The people doing the staring are generally the elderly, but not always.

You also may be getting stares because you’re doing making a cultural snafu.  Are you taking an entire seat on the U-Bahn for your backpack? Stare.  Are your feet up in the train? Stare.  Do you have curry wurst all over your face? Stare.  Are you with a group of other people (and probably being way louder than the rest of the room)? Stare.

 

Drinking in public

Visitors to Germany are welcome to drink in public.  Want to walk down the street with a beer? No problem.  Feel like sitting in the park while having a beer? Ok.  You also won’t need one of those ridiculous paper bags around it.  As long as you’re not causing trouble or heavily intoxicated, no one will care.

 

Counting with your fingers

Yes, Inglorious Basterds got it right [NSFW].  If you start counting with your index finger, you’ll be spotted right away. Germans start counting with the thumb, then index finger and so on down the line.

 

 

That’s it for now.

We hope you’ve learned something new about Germany and feel free to leave a comment if you’ve encountered any strange cultural differences while in Germany.

May 17, 2016 0 comment
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Berlin Blogs Museum

 

Want to skip the major tourist attractions and get a sense for the real Berlin?  We’ve got you covered!  On this page you can read about a few of our favorite Berlin blogs and websites which can help visitors gain a deeper understanding about the city.  Whether your interests lie in food, art, politics or something else entirely, these blogs can help enrich your experience while visiting the German capital.  Don’t just visit Berlin…experience it!

 

Stil in Berlin

food / style / art / life

Stil in Berlin is a beautifully designed lifestyle blog written by Mary Scherpe, a Berlin resident. The blog is updated regularly and includes helpful information on the best places to eat, shop, and discover new things in the city.  It’s a really helpful guide to Berlin for visitors looking for a more authentic Berlin experience.  Stil In Berlin also has the distinction of being one of the longest running Berlin blogs (started in 2006).

 

 

Slow Travel Berlin

food / literature / photography / experiences

Slow Travel Berlin was founded by British guidebook author, travel journalist and photographer Paul Sullivan.  Paul created STB to act as a repository of information about the city from a range of different perspectives.  STB offers visitors articles on food, literature, photography and even personal experiences from other locals.

 

 

iHeartBerlin

fashion / art / entertainment / travel

iHeartBerlin is one of the most popular Berlin based blogs and updated regularly by a number of Berlin residents. The website covers a wide range of themes from partying to fashion, stories of other locals to city information.  iHeartBerlin also includes a helpful “Upcoming Events” section which can be useful for both residents and visitors to the city.

 

 

Berlin Reified

food / experiences / life in Berlin

If you’re looking for unique food experiences in Berlin and surrounding cities, look no further!  Berlin Reified is a food based blog written by Berlin resident Sylee Gore and includes information about food culture and life in Berlin.  This rates as one of my favorite food based Berlin blogs and for good reason, it’s helpful, interesting and fun to read!

 

 

The Needle

expats / life in Berlin / food / politics

The Needle is a popular Berlin blog written by Joseph Pearson, a Berlin based writer and historian.  It’s probably best known for its yearly “Moving to Berlin” section that helps expats plan their move to Berlin.  The Needle publishes articles about life in Berlin, food, politics and more.

 

April 3, 2016 0 comment
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Today we are showcasing our favorite products and travel accessories for international trips.  The travel accessories on this page are actual products we use and recommend.  If you have a question about a specific accessory be sure to write a comment at the bottom of the page.  We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

This page of travel accessories contains affiliate links to Amazon.com, you can read our affiliate policy here.

Backpacks and Luggage

When it comes to storage requirements we use TravelPro suitcases.  TravelPro is famous for being the brand used by most pilots and flight attendants.  You may have even seen them in the Up In The Air film starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick.  These suitcases are some of the most reliable out there and used throughout the travel industry.

Everyone has a different packing style, whether that be lightweight (just bring what’s absolutely needed), or the bring two suitcases (bring an extra one of everything — just in case) sort, we will make a few recommendations for suitcase sizes that should fit most people.

If you only want to carry-on your luggage when flying to Europe or within Europe, you need to be aware that the carry-on luggage dimensions are a bit smaller in Europe.

We use the 22″ TravelPro for short trips and carry-on and the larger 29″ TravelPro for trips longer than a week.

Mark your luggage

We try to be as efficient as possible at the airport when picking up our bags and one of the ways we achieve this is by marking our luggage with a luggage tag and/or luggage straps.  These accessories make it easy to identify your bag/suitcase where you’re standing at the baggage claim, or preparing to leave your bus or train.

Uniquely identifying your luggage or bag also ensures that no one else mistakes your baggage for their own.  Arriving in Europe to have someone else accidentally walk off with your bag would be a very unfortunate thing.

Luggage Tags

View all baggage tags on Amazon.com

Luggage Staps

View luggage straps on Amazon

Travel Adapters for Germany

In order to charge your gadgets, you’re going to need an adapter or two.  Most electronics these days are dual voltage meaning they will work on both of the common voltage systems in use in the US and Germany.  We recommend staying away from the adapters that offer every solution in one “brick” as they aren’t as durable as the single adapters.

Power pack

A power pack is essentially an enclosed battery that can be connected to your mobile phone or laptop to charge it while on the go.  This can be very useful when you’re using your mobile phone to navigate the city and sights and find yourself in desperate need of a charge.  Power packs are very affordable these days and come in all different shapes and sizes, we recommend the Amazon Basics power pack for international trips.

Headphones

A good set of headphones can make a huge difference in comfort when traveling internationally.  Use them on the airplane to cancel out ambient noise and better enjoy the in-flight entertainment options.  If you’re want to block out everything, the Bose noise canceling headphones are the most popular, followed by the ear buds of the same brand.

Portable luggage scale

We all know you can use the bathroom scale to weigh luggage while at home, but what happens when you’re at your hotel in Europe?  Your bags are packed and your plane leaves the next day.  You nervously lift your suitcase debating the weight and wishing you didn’t buy so many things at Mauerpark flea market.  Don’t stress, just get a travel scale and weigh your luggage on the go. Cut down on airport day stress and avoid extra baggage fees at the check-in counter.

March 13, 2016 0 comment
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In the last 100 years, few cities have had such a tumultuous history as Berlin.   It can be hard to explore Berlin without running into something with significant historical context relating to the war. You can expect to see bullet holes sprayed across buildings, Russian graffiti from the Battle of Berlin (Reichstag) and famous Nazi era buildings.
In this collection, we showcase the top World War II sites in Berlin.

 

Haus der Wannsee Konferenz

Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The Wannsee Conference House (Haus der Wannsee Konferenz) was the location of a historically important meeting between senior government officials of Nazi Germany.  The officials met in a villa by the Wannsee lake for the purpose of discussing “the final solution to the Jewish question”.  The “final solution” was the Nazi’s code name for the genocide of all European Jews. Read More

 

Gleis 17 at Grunewald Station

Gate 17 - WW2 - Jewish Deportations

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

Gleis 17 (English: Track 17) at Grunewald Station was the place where over 50,000 Berlin Jews were forced into railcars then sent to ghettos or concentration camps during World War II. Almost all of the Jews that were deported from Berlin were eventually killed by the Nazis.  Read More

 

Reichstag

Reichtag-Berlin

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The Reichstag building was constructed to house the parliament of the German Empire. It was opened in 1894 and used until 1933, when under unknown circumstances, it was severely damaged by fire.  During the Battle of Berlin, Russian soldiers fought to take the Reichstag because of the cultural significance of the building.   Read more

 

Flak Towers of Berlin

Photo Credit: Richardfabi

Photo Credit: Richardfabi

The Flak towers were huge fortified structures that survived the war, some only to be partially or completely removed afterwards.  The primary role of these towers was as a gun platform which protected Berlin from Allied bomber raids. There were several Flak towers in Berlin, one each at the Berliner Zoo, Friedrichshain, Humboldthain.

 

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

World War II Site- Sachsenhausen

Photo credit: mustseeberlin.com

Sachenhausen was a concentration camp used during World War II to hold political prisoners and other “enemies” of the Nazi regime.  It was in use from 1936 until the end of the third Reich in May 1945.  The grounds are now open to the public as a museum and reminder of the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Read More

 

The Führerbunker (Hitler’s Bunker)

Führerbunker in Berlin

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The Führerbunker was the place Hitler and other high ranking Nazi officials worked at the end of World War II as the Russians were closing in on them.  This location is also the place where Adolf Hitler and wife Eva committed suicide.  After the war, the still-standing bunker was demolished.  Today, the site of the bunker is a parking lot and only a solitary sign notes the significance of what took place there.  Read More

 

Olympic Stadium

World War II Sights in Berlin

Photo Credit: Hoffmann

The Olympic Stadium was built between 1934 and 1936 by the Nazi government for propaganda purposes.  Today visitors can walk the grounds and see vestiges from World War II.  This includes the large olympic Bell, which has a partially obscured swastika.

 

Moltke Bridge

Molkte Bridge - Berlin

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The Moltke Bridge is a bridge over the Spree River in Mitte.  The bridge saw intense fighting during the Battle of Berlin in April 1945.  Units of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army fought their way down Alt-Moabit to capture the bridge (heading towards the Reichtag), but the bridge was partially blown up by the Germans.  The Moltke Bridge only partially collapsed, allowing the Russians to pass and win the Battle of Berlin.  Read More

 

Niederkirchnerstraße

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

Niderkirchnerstraße formally known as Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, was an important street for the Nazis.  The street contained buildings that housed the headquarters of the Gestapo and SS. These buildings were mostly destroyed by Allied bombings and today a museum exists in its place.  The museum aptly named Topography of Terror is meant to inform visitors about the how the Nazi regime came to power and the devastating consequences that followed.

 

Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe

Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe (also known as the Holocaust Memorial) is a large, outdoor memorial less than a minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate. It consists of over 2700 concrete blocks with various heights that are arranged in a grid pattern and meant to give visitors an uneasy feeling when walking through them.  This location is for the remembrance of the millions of Jews killed under the Nazi regime during World War II.  Read More

 

Soviet Memorial at Treptower Park

Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park, Berlin

Photo Credit: mustseeberlin.com

The Soviet War Memorial is a World War II memorial and cemetery inside Treptower Park.  Built to commemorate 5,000 of the estimated 80,000 Russian soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin.  It is a must see for anyone interested in German/Russian history. Read More

 

More About Berlin

Learn more about money matters, language and transportation in Berlin.

March 7, 2016 0 comment
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If you want to get away from the hoards of roaming tourists, this might be just the place for you.  Berlin’s Georgen-Parochial is right in the middle of the popular Friedrichshain district and dates back to the early 1800s.

This cemetery contains hundreds of old family plots, mausoleums and other interesting things to see.  Keep your eyes open for damage from World War II which can be plainly seen in some areas.

A large portion of this cemetery is modern graves, if these don’t interest you, stick to the outer areas of the cemetery (near the wall).  There you will find the older, more extravagant graves.

 

Exploring the cemetery

Graffiti covered wall of the outside cemetery wall

Tree lined path in cemetery

 

 

Johann Carl J. Albrecht holds claim to the oldest marked grave in Georgen-Parochial II cemetery. To find this grave, enter at the Friedenstraße entrance near the southern tip of the cemetery and turn right on the first path.

One of the oldest graves, dating back to the 1850s

Cemetery dirt path between trees

 

Large parts of the eastern portion of this cemetery are overgrown with vegetation, while other parts are perfectly maintained.

Semi-modern gravestones surrounded by vegetation.

 

A sign listing a row of urns (Urnenhain) in old world -Fraktur typeface.

Wood cemetery sign that is showing it's age.

Small flowers starting to bloom around graves

Path marker with the number 36

Tall, black grave dating back to the early 20th century.

Mid-20th century grave with portaits of husband and wife.

Two old watering cans sitting on the curb

 

 

In modern Germany, you don’t buy a plot, you usually lease it for 20 years. Your relatives have the option of renewing the grave for an additional amount of time (and money).  If the plot is not extended, the contents of the grave are removed and either buried deeper or in another location. They also take out the headstone, pulverize it into small rocks and use it for various other purposes. We noticed that some of the paths in this cemetery had tiny pieces of headstones jutting out of the dirt, no doubt to fill in the low spots.

A small mountain of discarded head stones, waiting to be pulverized.

Closeup of discarded headstones

 

Many of the older plots have ornamental fences in varying stages of decay.

Large family plots with metal fences

 

A number of fences have fell victim to time and nature.  They may have started out as a tiny tree to provide shade over a grave but have since completely taken over elements the plot.

A tree grows through the old fence.

 

Tree which has grown around a iron fence.

Closeup of tree that has absorbed the fence.

Small modern graves

View of family plots and the cemetery building in the background.

 

The Mausoleaums

This cemetery has a ton of interesting mausoleums.  This one, located near coordinates 52.521639, 13.445260 is the tomb of the Enders family, although only one name is listed inside: Carl Adolph Enders. The mausoleum is locked but the door is somewhat broken allowing a peak inside.

A view from outside of the Enders mausoleum.

Inside the mausoleum lists Carl Adolph Enders as one of the occupants.

 

The tiled floors must have looked amazing when it was built, they probably just need a good scrub to bring them back to life.

A view inside one mausoleum showing the floor opened.

A view inside one mausoleum and looking to the right, showing a fence.

 

A collapsed mausoleum

 

Inside a collapsed mausoleum showing old bricks

 

A mausoleum from the early 20th century.

Familie Otto Mundt mausoleum

 

Large family plots

In addition to the numerous mausoleums, this cemetery holds dozens of large scale family plots. It is apparent that Georgen-Parochial II cemetery is the final resting place of some extremely wealthy Berliners.

Family plots with large building like headstones

A pathway showing large family plots.

 

A huge headstone from a wealthy family.

A flower ornament made from iron which is part of the plot fence.

New construction meets old world bricks.

 

Even cemeteries didn’t escape damage from the world wars.  Across this cemetery, you can clearly see evidence of bullets and/or shrapnel damage to headstones and monuments.

Bullet holes on mausoleum wall.

Path inside cemetery with large family plots nearby

Impressive family monuments

 

 

We are lucky to have a glimpse of history behind the headstone.  The brick makers name is clearly engraved on numerous bricks. We can see that the bricks came from Mögelin Rathenow.  Mögelin lies east of Berlin in the state of Brandenburg.  The Mögelin brick factory was founded in the mid-17th century and continued making bricks until the First World War, when the factory was closed.

Grave dating back to 1892 with exposed brick which came from Mogelin Rathemon.

Old family monument aged with time.

 

 

The old and the new

The cemetery is surrounded on nearly all sides by modern development.  In certain parts, you can see the developers didn’t waste a spare inch when designing their buildings.  Some of the neighboring buildings incorporate the cemetery memorials directly into their own walls.

New buildings meet the old cemetery

New construction directly against cemetery structures, not an inch was wasted.

Impressive family monument

New construction directly behind cemetery.

 

 

How to get there

Note: There are no cemetery entrances along Auerstraße or Richard-Sorge-Straße.

U-Bahn stop: Weberwiese (Line U5)

Tram stop: Klinikum in Friedrichshain (Line M5, M6, M8)

March 1, 2015 0 comment
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