Travel Tips: What Not To Do In Germany

15 August 2023
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Japanese House
Unsplash: Alexander Bagno

I get it. It’s very scary to be in a different place and not know its rules, regulations, and what-not-to-dos. Especially if this new place is called Germany, then not knowing basic German rules can be very, very daunting. For one, no one wants to disobey German law because disobeying German law, whether you’re a visitor or a local, is just disrespectful. At the same time, no one can afford to be rude. Because being rude could result in unwanted repercussions. And does anyone have time for that? Not really. Not in this economy, nein.

But what people do have time for is knowing the what-not-to-dos in Germany. That’s because it’s also very important to know the what-not-to-dos as much as knowing the what-to-dos, be it in Germany or Mars. Are you ready to discover what to avoid doing in Deutschland, the land of cars, castles, and lots of rules?

Japanese House

Unsplash: Julia Solonina

  1. Don’t jaywalk. Simply wait patiently while the red light is on like everyone else is doing because crossing the street against a red light could result in a fine (about 5 €).
  2. Don’t ignore recycling. Make sure to properly separate, dispose of, and recycle your trash accordingly. You can check the bins for some instructions on what goes where.
    • Use the brown bin for anything biodegradable
    • Use the blue bin for clean paper and cardboard items (flatten cardboard boxes before recycling)
    • Use the yellow bin for any soft-metal and plastic containers
    • Use the gray or black bin for the rest of your trash that doesn’t belong in the brown, blue, or yellow bin
  3. Don’t wear shoes indoors when visiting someone’s home. Your street shoes (Straßenschuhe) should be left in the front hall of the house where the other shoes are kept.
  4. Don’t ever, under no circumstances, should you ever joke or make any sort of reference to Hitler or the Nazis. This type of behavior is regarded as rude and disrespectful and insulting and may lead to a police arrest (often carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison) and costly fines.
  5. Don’t make any type of noise during quiet hours (Ruhezeit period), especially on Sundays and public holidays. Typically, on weekdays, it is prohibited to make loud noises from 10 pm until 6 or 7 am. However, if you end up making any type of noise around those times, just make sure that you are not exceeding the normal volume of up to 50 decibels range.
    • No vacuuming
    • No hammering
    • No loud music
  6. Don’t be late. Don’t ever be late for anything. Don’t be late for your appointments. Don’t be late for your social gatherings. Don’t be late for your scheduled flat visits. Don’t be late.
  7. If you are going to be late for any reason, make sure to call the people you are meeting with and let them know.
  8. Don’t walk or stand in bike lanes. Walking on paths meant for cycling only is a traffic offense, as well as very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. For safety reasons, bike only in the bike lane and walk only on the sidewalk.
  9. Don’t ask for tap water in restaurants. And when buying your water bottle (because there is no free tap water) make sure to specify what type of water you want: sparkling (Sprudelwasser) or still water (stilles Wasser).
  10. Don't expect all shops and restaurants to take debit or credit cards because some German shops only accept cash.
    • Having some change (maybe about 50 cents € or 1 €) with you is also very helpful because you need it to use the bathroom. Ja, you do have to pay to use the bathroom. That’s just how it is and the payment goes towards the maintenance of the bathroom, anyway.
  11. Don’t forget to buy a ticket when using public transportation. Not having a valid ticket when using public transportation like the train, the tram, or the bus, could get you a fine of up to 60 €.