When moving to a new country, it is important to maintain your own sense of identity, but in order to get the most out of the experience it is also a good idea to know how things are run in your destination.
This means you will not be surprised by the way that you are greeted or offended if people act in a certain way. A little bit of research into the etiquette and customs of a place will help you to fit in and make new friends.
If you are relocating to Germany, then read on to find out about some of the idiosyncrasies unique to this clean and highly efficient country.
It is considered rude in Germany not to greet people when entering a small place of business, whether this be a shop, cafe, waiting room or even train compartment. Even if the people in the room are busy, it is still general practice to issue a 'guten tag' to everyone.
When leaving, follow this through with a simple 'auf wiedersehen', whether you have spoken to anybody one-on-one or not. This feels unnatural for many British expatriates and can feel like an unnecessary drawing of attention to yourself, but Germans will not see it this way.
Such formalities should be observed and you can always expect Germans to be polite to you when they meet you. On the first few occasions, do not expect them to be warm as this will come later with more familiarity.
Forms of address
Stick to the formal titles of associates until you are invited to use first names and you will not offend anybody. Put Frau (Mrs) before a woman's surname or Sie (Ms) is they are unmarried. Avoid using the term Frauline (Miss) as this seen as outdated and patronising. Men should be referred to as Herr (Mr).
Etiquette dictates that you start using an acquaintance's first name if they ask you to, as refusing is seen as unfriendly. Expect to shake everyone's hand upon meeting them – make this firm and brief to give a good impression of a strong character.
Germans can come across as reserved and it is likely that you will have to make the first move if you want to make friends with neighbours or work colleagues. Bear in mind that the social convention dictates that the person who extends an invitation usually pays. This can be seen in trips out for a drink, to a restaurant or a visit to the cinema.
When visiting friends gifts of flowers and a bottle of wine are usually brought. Both of these items should be selected carefully, as they carry more significance than you might expect. Bring a mixed bunch of flowers so that a romantic or alternative meaning cannot be assumed. Wine should be of a good quality, otherwise your host may be offended.
The ability to relax and be undisturbed is so highly prized in Germany that it is enshrined in law. On Sundays it is illegal to partake in noisy activities, such as listening to music, making repairs or even mowing your lawn.
Other days of the week when such behaviour is forbidden are between the hours of 1pm and 3pm and 10pm and 7am. Do not call people during these hours either, as you are likely to find your efforts ignored or an angry response on the other end.
Failing to conform to this may not just make you unpopular, but land you in trouble too.
We all know about the British obsession with queuing, but this does not extend to Germany, despite its apparent love of order. Many Germans object to being asked to queue and are not above pushing past people to get to a cashier, on a bus or into a restaurant.
If you want to get anywhere in German you need to adopt this mentality and stand your ground. Otherwise you will always find yourself at the back of a group without a hope of making it to the front.