German Travel Quirks

In our time traveling in Germany, we have learned a few things about German culture and just general German quirks that we didn’t know before we travelled.  So for the benefit of those who are as unaware as we were:

1.  The first floor (floor #1) of a hotel, is not the ground floor.  It is the second floor (or first floor with rooms).  So when They tell you that you are staying on the second floor, it’s really the third floor of the building.

2.  German’s love breakfast.  Typical Breakfast includes bread with jam or meat and cheese, possibly an egg (soft boiled, hard boiled or scrambled) and maybe a piece of bacon.  Croissants are also popular.  A glass of juice and a cup of coffee/tea as well.  It is normal to actually take time to sit and eat breakfast.  This is something that I think we don’t cherish enough in North America, and has taken getting use to.  Pancakes, Waffles, Omelet’s, French Toast, Eggs Benedict and other foods such like that are not generally associated with breakfast here.  Bakeries are big, IHOPs do not exist.

3.  German’s generally drive standard.  Renting or finding automatic vehicles is difficult and/or expensive.

4.  Drinks are expensive.  Juice and Pops are generally about €3,00 per class (about $4.00 Canadian) and are not refillable. They don’t come with straws or ice.  You do not get a glass of water at your table with dinner and asking for one is often rude and unexpected.  Instead you need to order mineral water (carbonated or still), which costs the same as Juice or Pop.  Tap water is drinkable, but not tasty.  And of course, it is all the same price as Beer.  Great for the beer drinkers.  Not great for those of us who just want a cold glass of ice water.  German’s are not hydrophiles as we are in much of North America.

5.  Public transit is amazing.  This isn’t an unknown fact, just a fact that bears stating.  The rail station is outstanding and if I could travel by train from Vancouver to Germany, I would, because it is much more comfortable and quiet and roomy and the scenery is better.  The U-bahn and S-bahn systems are easy to navigate and super reliable.  Walking and transit are used commonly and expected in big cities.  And when trying to navigate them by car, I can see why.  It’s probably a good thing that walking is so common – given all the baked goods German’s consume!  Biking is common too, but nothing like you see in the Netherlands.

6.  German’s are eco-friendly.  As in WAY more eco-friendly than we are in North America.  All the European Airlines we took as us to reuse our plastic cups.  Bottled drinks are less common than drinks on tap and in glasses.  The toilets have a big flush/small flush feature to converse water.  In the hotel rooms the key is inserted by the door to turn on the light.  You remove it when you leave, which guarantees that you don’t leave lights on.  Every hotel asks you to make note if you need new towels or sheets in order to save on unneeded washing.  Recycling bins are easily located in town.  Soaps provided by hotels are all biodegradable.  The hallway light in hotels are motion sensored, so the halls are dark until you enter them.  Smart cars are more commonly seen and trucks are next to non-existant.  As well, as mentioned, public transit is awesome, and people like to walk/bike.  Lots of great stuff happening here to reduce their carbon footprints.

7.  Waitstaff will not come ask you how your meal is going during your meal.  This is viewed as rude.  They don’t like to interrupt.  In addition, they don’t bring you your bill without you asking for it, and when they do, you are expected to pay right then.  It is uncommon to pay with credit cards – most places prefer (or only accept) cash.  They will give you exact change.  Tipping isn’t expected, but it sometimes common to round up to the nearest Euro and add an extra euro or so.  It’s really nice to have a meal and not get a bill that has taxes and then a tip (and somehow dinner gets way more expensive!)

8.  Taxes are included in the price.  What you see is what you pay.  THANK YOU.  This, like the tipping issue, makes it easier to budget while travelling.

9.  In a restaurant, you seat yourself.  If there is no where to sit, it is okay to ask if you can join another party at a big table. Some restaurants only have big long family style tables.  Just because you share a table doesn’t mean you are expected to make conversation.  But you can always try (a great way to practice your German!)

Overall, Germany is awesome.  We’re already thinking about where and how we are going to return (hopefully soon!)  The German people are wonderfully kind and hospitable and social and welcoming.  We look forward to getting to know them and their country more this week, and in the future near and far.

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