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German Idiosyncrasies

When my daughter (Tammy) was in her pre-teens and even into her teens, she was inquisitive about the most unusual things. She would ask questions about how things work; I’m talking about things nobody else in their right mind is ever curious about:) I have always affectionately referred to those as Tammyisms! And now that I think about it, that has escalated into her adult life too! So, I kind of refer to a lot of these German idiosyncrasies as “Germanisms”! I’m trying to keep this post relatively short, but the videos have a lot more info and are entertaining!

I suppose every country has its’ unique rules, customs, and traditions. And perhaps they only seem unique to those of us who weren’t born and raised there; I’m quite sure foreigners would also find what they might consider unique in the U.S.!

A couple of these have already been mentioned in previous posts, but they may be worth mentioning again…..not so much because they are really unusual, but because anyone new to Germany might need to be aware of them! Others will not necessarily aid in your acclimation to the country but are just interesting to think about.

Some would be considered “Customs or Traditions” while others are actually “Laws”!

Whether you refer to them as Buggies or Carts: In Germany, you will not find empty grocery carts abandoned on parking lots or worry about one putting a ding in your vehicle! They are always returned to the cart corral. Why? Because you must place a coin in the slot to free the cart from the others and return it to retrieve your coin! At first I thought it was a bit weird, but I like the idea of all the carts being corralled.

A Little Potty Talk: It would be extremely unusual to find a restroom on the same level as a restaurant; they are almost always upstairs or downstairs. There’s a charge to use public restrooms, even in train stations and department stores there’s usually an attendant or a coin-operated turnstile. The normal rate is 50-euro cents, but some places charge up to a euro. Airports are the rare exception to the pay-to-pee rule. I assume (in theory) that the charge goes towards the expense to keep them clean. Due to Germany’s attitude towards conservation of water, most toilets have two flush buttons; the larger button is for larger matters, while the smaller button is for smaller matters.

On this same topic, every toilet you come across will have a toilet brush next to it. This isn't for the cleaning staff to use; it is for you to use. It is extremely rude to leave a mess in someone's toilet whether at home or away.

Oh, and be aware that restrooms are called Water Closets! Especially in public areas, you will see signs with just a "WC" that indicates restrooms! That's likely to be true all over Europe; not just in Germany! Okay, time to move off the potty talk!

An Eco-Friendly Country: You are not allowed to wash your vehicle at your own home. Because Germany is very “eco-friendly” and they worry about the chemicals that will end up in the earth, your car must be washed at an authorized car wash where they properly dispose of (or don’t use) any harsh chemicals. Speaking of which, there are over 1000 toxic ingredients banned all over Europe, but still in use in the U.S., which explains why I have been unable to purchase Goo-Gone anywhere in Germany:)

The “Oldest Profession”: Prostitution is legal in Germany, as is owning a brothel or pimping! Germany employs over 400,000 sex workers and caters to over 2 million customers on a daily basis. This generates a revenue which is estimated to be around 6 billion euros per year, which is roughly the same amount of money that giant companies like Adidas and Porsche makes. It is a protected profession and Germany even offers benefits to sex workers! Of course, the statistics sited here are pre-pandemic numbers.

Quiet Time: Germans are quite serious about their “quiet time”, which means you can’t tune your piano after dark, nor mow your lawn or use a power drill on Sunday! Quiet time is usually from 10:00 PM until 6:00 AM, as well as all day on Sundays and holidays.

The Drinking Age:16 for beer, and 18 for spirits!

Show Your Face!: In Germany, you are not allowed to wear a mask while protesting or have your face covered while driving in your car! I’m guessing the pandemic has affected this law!

Fuel Up: It is illegal to run out of gas on the freeway!

Jail Breaks: It is not a crime to attempt or succeed at breaking out of jail! It is considered a normal human instinct!

Want to see even more crazy German laws?

More Germanisms

There are no college tuition fees, even for internationals!

More than 5500 WWII bombs are discovered and defused annually in Germany (that’s an average of 15 per day)

Approximately 800,000 Germans (or 1% of Germany’s population) are genetically immune to HIV!

Real Pedestrian Right of Way: Unlike their American counterparts, Germans do not cross the street other than at a crosswalk! And they ALWAYS wait for the light to turn green before crossing! And although it’s supposed to be true in the U.S., in Germany pedestrians actually ALWAYS have the right of way!

The Thumb is Number One! : When counting, the thumb is always the first digit and represents number one, followed by the index finger (2), middle finger (3), ring finger (4), and finally the pinky finger (5). Even though most Americans probably start with the thumb when using their ten digits to count, most do not include the thumb when indicating (with their fingers) how many they want. So, in Germany, if you were ordering one beer, you would signal the bartender with your thumb, not your forefinger; if you were to hold up an index finger anywhere in Western Europe to represent one, they might misunderstand and think you actually meant two. Definitely don't use your pinky to indicate ONE; you could get FIVE!

Think Twice Before Using that Middle Finger! It is not wise to flip ANYONE off in Germany….or to display any other rude behavior!! Germany has laws to protect everyone’s honor and reputation that shouldn’t be violated. Every year it seems to be over 200.000 cases that are filed in court. No one really goes to jail but is fined.

A couple examples of fines for ill behavior: An American woman in Frankfurt found out the hard way when she called the police ‘Nazis’ at the airport. Another person flipped off a traffic camera! His speed would only have resulted in a small warning fine of 20 euros, according to the Highway Code. But with a single, rather costly, movement of his hand, the 26-year-old driver managed to increase his fine 75-fold!

Stiff fines for DUIs, excellent public transportation, and the fact that any average sized-German town is likely to have at least 5 pubs within walking distance of your home all contribute to their low DUI rate!

DUIs: The United States has a high rate of road accident fatalities through alcohol at 31 percent while the rate in Germany is only 9 percent, which is commendable on the part of Germany considering the legal drinking age is 16, you can drink on public streets and in parks (not necessarily legal, but commonplace!) and that “day drinking” is much more common in Germany than the U.S. However, their extremely stiff fines for DUIs, excellent public transportation, and the fact that any average sized-German town is likely to have at least 5 pubs within walking distance of your home all contribute to their low DUI rate! There’s just never any reason to drink and drive in Germany!

Here Are More Things You Might Not Know About Germany!

Predominance of Apothekes (Pharmacies), Optic Shops and Ice Cream shops: How do they survive? We live in a relatively small community and speaking only of the area inside the City Center (not the surrounding community), it’s unlikely you will walk more than two blocks in any direction without finding one of each of these! We have never understood how there’s enough business in small communities to support so much competition.

I’m going to end with one of my favorite Germanisms! We are often out walking early in the morning or evenings after stores have closed, and notice shipments for the stores that have been left at their door! Are you kidding me? It’s just a trusting country! The delivery firm and the store owner both trust that the delivery will still be there in the morning when the store re-opens for business! Amazing!


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