Good to know before you arrive!
Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Quiet Time is from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and all day on Sundays/holidays. Noisy appliances (like lawn equipment/machinery) are not permitted during this time.
Punctuality is important in Germany, whether it's a social or business engagement; you will typically want to arrive five minutes early:)
Twenty-Four Hour Clock; this will be easy for most US military personnel because it's the same as military time. So, in the above example of "quiet time", it is from 22:00 until 06:00.
Sidewalk care is your responsibility, whether you own or rent. You are responsible for lawn maintenance and snow removal (unless it's provided by your landlord). Between 07:00 and 20:00 the sidewalk in front of your home must be cleared and salted; if someone slips and falls in front of your residence you can be held liable.
German Banks: If you are here as a result of the U.S. Federal Government (military or civilian), you will be required to have an account at a German bank, which is how you will pay your German bills. If you use your American ATM cards at German banks you are likely to incur a processing fee; when using your German bank's ATM card at German banks there are no fees. Some German businesses may accept your American ATM card, but many do not; most prefer payment with an EC (Eurocard), which is the same principal as a debit card.
Dining: Unlike in the U.S., restaurants are required to post a menu (including prices) outside the restaurant near the front door. When we were here 2008-2012, you could easily just decide at the last minute to dine outside of your home, and it was not at all unusual to seat yourself at the empty end of a table where others were already dining at the other end... or to have others join the empty end of your table. There were also no time restrictions; it wasn't like in the U.S. where they want you to leave when you're finished so they can "flip the table". HOWEVER, this time around - at least in Bavarian towns - you might not be seated at all without a reservation. Reservations have definitely become a requirement, which also means most restaurants cannot allow you to occupy that table all evening because other people with reservations later will be occupying the same table. That doesn't mean you have to eat fast and get out; depending upon the fare offered, most restaurants allow sufficient time to enjoy your meal and visit with others at your table. We have also noticed it is now far less likely to see people being seated at the empty end of an-already-occupied table (even before COVID was an issue)
Shopping: Sundays in Germany are the perfect time to go sight-seeing, exploring, and spending quality time with friends and family, because it is NOT going to be a shopping day! On weekdays most German stores open around 7:30 or 8:00, and close around 19:30, although German law allows them to stay open until 20:00. On Saturdays, larger stores may stay open until early evening (like weekdays) but smaller stores are likely to close by 14:00. The only stores open on Sundays are gas stations, and those at airports and rail stations...EXCEPT on "Shopping Sundays" ...which happen maybe 2-4 times a year. The frequency and dates of Sunday Shopping are city-specific, designated by the individual towns.
"Seriously, there is no country in the world who does recycling better than Germany! Don't believe me? See for yourself!”
Recycling: Seriously, there is no country in the world who does recycling better than Germany! Don't believe me? See for yourself! They make it very easy with designated bags and pickup days for paper, plastic, and bio-waste.....and easily accessible bins for tin cans and glass. You can be fined for not recycling so you might as well help them maintain their #1 status! The only downside is probably the lack of closet space and/or garages for storing bags or bins of recyclables, but you will figure it out and will be happy about doing your part to save the earth!
I have only scratched the surface of cultural issues that would be helpful to know when you arrive in Germany. However, for much more in depth information, there is no resource I can recommend (for anyone who is PCSing here) than the Find It Guide! It's the most complete publication available for free at every U.S. military base in the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, and Bavaria. You can find them at the commissary, PX, movie theaters, post offices, shoppettes, and more. But if by some chance you have not come across one, you can access it online.
Aside from learning the language, it is extremely easy to adapt to the German culture...and maybe fall in love with it, opting for theirs over what we are accustomed to. I'm only speaking for myself, but it feels (to me) like they make more time for family, preserving the environment, planting and maintaining gorgeous gardens, admiring works of art, getting more exercise, insuring equality, protecting the sick and the elderly, and eating less junk food! Easy to acclimate!