Things To Avoid in Germany: 11 Things You Must Not Do

A German flag outside the Platz der Republik.
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There is a stereotype that German people love rules and order. And, when visiting Germany, you’ll find this stereotype to be quite accurate. Therefore, there are certain things to avoid in Germany if you don’t want to land yourself in a sticky situation.

Germany is a great destination all year round – nice and hot in the summer yet with festive, snowy winters. The country is revered for exclusive nightlife, too, especially Berlin’s impossible-to-enter techno club Berghain. With so much on offer, you really don’t want to slip up and ruin your trip.

Luckily, we’ve curated a list of the top things to avoid in Germany. From not arriving late to your dinner reservation to (absolutely) never jaywalking, memorize this list, and you’ll have a trip of a lifetime.

Rely on Uber

An Uber driver on a busy road.
An Uber by Unsplash.

Usually, Uber is a great transportation option. Cheaper than taxis, tracked for safety, and ordered quickly via the app – what’s not to love!

But in Germany, we don’t recommend that you rely on Uber. The company has been in legal trouble for many years, coming under fire for failing to comply with Germany’s regulations. While Uber currently offers services in major cities like Berlin and Frankfurt, you can expect delays in finding drivers and limited services compared to other European cities.

Instead, use the national train system Deutsche Bahn and transportation systems like Berlin’s U-Bahn. Most importantly, don’t assume you will get an Uber to the airport only to find out that there are none available at the last minute!

Be late to any reservation or arrangement

A open pocket watch.
A pocketwatch by Unsplash.

Being late is one of the most important cultural things to avoid in Germany. Whether it is to a coffee date, a dinner reservation, or a meeting, being late is always tarred with a critical brush.

Of course, sometimes, lateness cannot be avoided. But, in emergencies like transportation strikes or vehicle breakdowns, a polite call to update the company or individual is the best way forward. If you are going to be late, acting proactively to warn others will help you save face.

Spend a weekend in one city

A girl walked towards Brandenburg Gate.
The Brandenburg Gate by Unsplash.

There is nothing wrong with squeezing in weekend city breaks! But if you want to experience the country properly, don’t just visit Berlin or Frankfurt for three days and call it a day.

Limiting your experience of Germany to a one-weekend city break is one of our major things to avoid in Germany. Even in one city, you’ll be pushed for time to see all the things you want to.

For example, Berlin’s attractions are scattered and spread out far across the city. You’ll be left with decisions like do you want to Charlottenburg Palace or the East Side? Spend an afternoon at the museum under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe? Or, spend the afternoon exploring the Reichstag Building?

Stay longer, and you don’t have to choose! Germany has too much culture and history to do the country justice with a single short break.

Carry valuable in your pockets

A man pulling a phone from his pocket.
A phone in a man’s pocket by Unsplash.

Carrying valuables in your pockets might be a universal no-go, but we are still including it in our things to avoid in Germany.

At the airport, around tourist attractions, on public transport, and at stations – these are all places where you need to pay particular attention to your pockets. Like many countries in Europe, Germany experiences expert pickpocketers and does have seasoned thieves.

Purchase a money belt or a coat with a secure inside zipped pocket. Alternatively, just leave your valuables in the hotel safe and only bring out what is absolutely necessary.

Valuables, especially a valid form of identification, are particularly valuable in Germany, which leads us to our next point.

Carrying your valid license while driving

A girl driving a car.
A woman driving by Unsplash.

You MUST carry your valid license while driving. Germany might seem quite relaxed with road laws and no speed restrictions on the autobahn, but the regulations are not relaxed on license carrying.

Traffic police carry out routine checks and breathalyzer tests. If you are pulled over and fail to provide your driving license, you’ll receive an on-the-spot fine and be demanded to stop by a police station to display it.

Save yourself (and your pockets) the unnecessary stress and avoid driving without carrying your license.

Fail to have an emergency plan when hiking

A man stood in the forest.
A man in the forest by Unsplash.

Germany might seem like somewhat of a metropolis. However, the country is also home to some of the most remote and stunning national parks.

When trekking in the country or through areas like the Eifel National Park, remember to have an emergency plan and method of contact. While the German countryside is beautiful, it also has its fair share of dangers, including poisonous snakes and wolves.

In case an emergency arises, you need to make sure you have first aid supplies, a working phone, and a reliable plan of action. The last thing you want is to be bitten by a snake and stranded in the countryside with no assistance. Failing to have an emergency plan while hiking is one of the most important things to avoid in Germany to stay safe.

Raise your voice

A man and woman arguing.
Two people fighting by Unsplash.

British travelers can probably relate to this addition to our list of things to avoid in Germany.

Raising your voice in Germany is extremely culturally taboo. So, if you lose your cool and shout, be prepared for many condemning looks from passers-by. Those around you might even shun you. If you raise your voice in a restaurant or club out of anger, you can expect to be escorted out by security.

Of course, it isn’t just anger that could get you in trouble for raising your voice. Raising your voice in loud laughter or just talking loudly on the phone in public places are also things to avoid in Germany. While you might not catch the attention of security, you will likely receive judgemental looks or be asked to keep the volume down by those around you.

Emotions and conversations are okay but deafening those around you are most definitely not! Needless to say, don’t even dream of making a call while on public transport.

Walk or stand in cycle lanes

A city scene with cycle path.
A yellow bike lane by Unsplash.

Like in Amsterdam, much of Germany has dedicated cycle lanes. If you don’t want to get run over or seriously told off, walking in these cycle lanes is one of the things to avoid in Germany you should remember.

Remember to stick to the pavement when walking and pay attention to where you are standing. Stopping to check your Google Maps in the middle of the cycle lane is considered just as socially criminal as walking in them!

Luckily, cycle lanes are easy to spot. The routes are painted with yellow road markings and often feature yellow bike symbols at regular intervals along the stretch. As a general rule, if you see a yellow line, reverse and get out of the way – before someone else tells you to.

Discuss the World Wars outside of relevant tours and attractions

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe by Unsplash.

Of course, Germany has many historical tributes, memorials, museums, tours, and attractions that educate visitors and locals on the atrocities of the World Wars. In these environments, polite and educated questions and discussions are typically welcomed.

However, outside of these environments, avoid discussing the World Wars and remain culturally sensitive.

For Germans today, the wars were outside of their lifetime and non-reflective of their lives and values. Many people find references to the war or any form of association (accidental or not) with the Nazi party extremely offensive. Alternatively, people might have upsetting generational stories that they do not want to discuss.

Regardless of why it is problematic, discussing the World Wars outside of relevant environments is not the most difficult of our things to avoid in Germany. Remain culturally sensitive and polite, and you should have no issues.

Dare to jaywalk

A man crossing the road.
A man by a road by Unsplash.

Many countries have strict jaywalking policies, and Germany is definitely one of them.

Tempted to dash across while there is a space in the traffic? Don’t even think about it. “I wanted to catch the 3:52 U-Bahn” is just not going to cut it with local police officers – or surrounding people either.

If you are lucky, you’ll get off lightly with a few beeped horns, death stares, and condemning words in German. If you aren’t as lucky, you’ll get hit with an on-the-spot fine when you happen to get spotted by a police officer. The fine is typically between five and ten euros, so it is more of a financial inconvenience unless you are really traveling on a budget.

But still, your purse deserves better than an unnecessary hit. Plus, it is much safer to cross by waiting for the green pedestrian light.

Argue with bouncers if they deny you entry

Berghain during the day.
Berghain by Unsplash.

Sometimes, no really is no. And when bouncers in Germany say ‘nein’ to entry, they really do mean ‘nein’. If you get turned away from a club, don’t try to argue your case or kick up a fuss. Instead, take it on the chin and walk away with dignity intact.

Why? German bouncers are known for being strict. If they have decided you aren’t entering, it is for a valid reason in their rule book. Trust us – you will not be changing their minds.

German clubs have strict entry policies, so do your research beforehand to avoid being turned back out into the cold. Often, smart casual dress is preferred – think trendy hipster rather than bodycon dresses. And, forget about entering while absolutely blackout drunk.

Things to avoid in Germany – the verdict

Most things to avoid in Germany are socially and culturally related, apart from emergency planning when hiking.

When traveling around Germany, avoiding these taboos will help you avoid offending those around you and massively improve your experience. Plus, who wants to waste money on fines with so many attractions around you?

Stay aware and culturally sensitive, and you will have an amazing time.

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Eibhlis Gale – Coleman is a freelance writer from the UK who is driven by a fierce love of adventure, unique cultural experiences, native animals, and good coffee. She is a passionate traveller and has explored Europe, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and Australia.