First of all, I want to make sure that we can at least skip over most of the romantic clichés of Germans and their home country. When planning a trip to Germany, there is no need to come dressed as the Bavarians with Lederhosen and Dirndl unless you are heading to the Oktoberfest, Cologne Carnival or just fancy making a complete fool of yourself. Still, the beer stereotypes remain true for the Germans, which means some weeks of intense beer studies would be good preparation for your stay here.
The weather in Germany… let’s not talk about the weather in Germany, just bring along your umbrella, gumboots, hats and gloves, medicine for the likely case of you getting a cold, and expect stormy autumnal weather, regardless of when you come and where you go. This country has some beautiful spots, and I am sure the Germans would spend all their holidays between Flensburg and Oberstdorf if the weather Gods were a bit fonder of us. However, due to the climate conditions, we do have a diverse flora and fauna as well as every kind of fruit and vegetable, though to be honest, I don’t care to much about this joyous fact of German life when I get drenched to the skin every time I leave the house.
As for matters of social etiquette, I quickly asked a British friend on the matter, and received this interesting reply: “For me, as a Britain, especially hard to get used to was the direct way of talking to people, with a lot less humour and politeness than would be found in a typical English conversation. I have found from experience that making lots of jokes in a conversation isn’t quite as easy or acceptable to do with Germans as it is back home, which is something that certainly takes some getting used to.” Furthermore, foreign friends keep telling me that either the Germans are too rude and direct or too cold and distant, which sometimes is also interpreted as behaving overly politely and formally. So, getting mentally prepared for a slightly weird social life might also be a good advice for all those who want to stay longer in Germany.
With regard to food, I asked some Chinese friends, actually they tell me all the time anyway. They hate German food – with good reason. They say it’s boring, salty, it comes in huge lumps instead of being cut into mouth-friendly pieces and cooked without love, which admittedly might be true for some of our dishes. Sorry guys. But even though German food draws no comparison with the Chinese cuisine, we do have some nice dishes here as well. A good way to try some is to ask a German friend if they can introduce you to their grandma in order to learn more about the German history and tradition. The chances are very high that this grandma will serve you some delicious German food! Easier though more expensive is going to an upscale German restaurant and ask for something delicious that is also edible for foreigners. And then please post here if you liked it or you got thrown out.
Last but not least, the language: German isn’t easy to learn, but there is a logic to it. That’s not very reassuring? With the right attitude and some German friends to talk to, mastering German is surely doable! Just a tip for English natives: Say you are from a country that nobody knows in order to avoid having to speak English all the time. I have also listed a few useful words:
Sie and Du: Important difference which also touches upon the German politeness mentioned above. The impersonal ‘Du’ is for people in your age group, friends and family. ‘Sie’ is formal and for all those who don’t fall into these categories.
Scheiße: Is a common swearword. Avoid it if possible, just know what it means.
Moin: Means „Hello“, sometimes just “Good morning” and is mostly used in North Germany. The origins are uncertain.
WG: Abbreviates the word “Wohngemeinschaft”, a shared flat, the place to be to learn colloquial German, particularly recommendable for students.
Gesundheit: Is the German counterpart of “Bless you”.
So I really hope this can help, but as we all know some mistakes you have to make yourself. Just try to enjoy your time in Germany and take everything with a smile. In case you encounter a rude German, don’t take it too personally: they don’t mean it, it’s the salty food that makes them act like this…