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What to expect in Germany

Filed in Blog, Germany by on August 22, 2017
by Ethan T.

Traveling abroad comes with all sorts of differences, challenges and quirks. I spent a month in Leipzig, Germany, and another week in Berlin, and here are some of my top things to expect when in Germany.

1. Be on time (especially for the train)

There’s a stereotype about Germans being strict about their schedules, and in general, Germans are highly punctual. If you’re going to a class, it means show up ten minutes before class starts. Most importantly however, is that public transportation runs like a clock. If a train is supposed to leave at 8 o’clock then it will leave at 8 o’clock. I hoped a few times that they might run a little behind schedules, and, well, I missed a few trains that way.


This is döner, a staple of German fast food. You can find it everywhere, and it’s inexpensive. It’s made with lamb or chicken, which you get to see being grilled.

2. Everything has a price

And that includes the restrooms. Here in the States, water is served for free at every restaurant — not true in Germany. Water costs just as much as soda and beer at German restaurants, and in fact it can actually cost more. This meant that I drank far more Coke than I’d like to admit. Something about paying for water just feels odd. Oh, and back to the restrooms. When I first arrived at the train station after landing in Berlin, I scrambled to find the nearest restroom. They aren’t as plentiful as they are here, and each one takes a euro to get into. That took some time to get used to.

3. Döner

Germany has all of your favorite American fast food places if you’re in need of some McDonald’s or Subway, but for a more German fast food experience, there’s a treat called döner. It’s cheap and everywhere. It’s essentially a gyro, but better, and it’s rare to walk five minutes in a city without seeing a döner shop. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE: There’s a menu item at every döner shop called lahmacun, which is a standard döner wrap, except it’s wrapped in a pizza instead of typical wrap. It’s a game changer. Sure, you could buy groceries if you’re staying in Germany for an extended period of time, but since döner is everywhere and you can’t find it in the U.S. (I’ve tried), you might as well eat it as often as possible.

4. Germans aren’t rude, but…

…They just don’t really talk with people they don’t know. Smiling and saying “Hi” while passing by someone will get you all sorts of looks and will immediately identify you as a tourist. This doesn’t mean that everyone’s rude in Germany; they just don’t really talk to strangers like Americans do. Even waiters don’t really want to talk with you. In fact, unlike American restaurants where a waiter comes by the table every few minutes, you’ll go half an hour at a time without seeing a waiter in Germany. They won’t make small talk with you. They’ll take your order and move on. It can come off as cold but, again, it’s just a cultural difference.

5. Graffiti is a lot more common

There really aren’t any “bad neighborhoods” in Germany, especially in Leipzig, but there’s a lot of graffiti. This can come across as kind of odd to an American, as there’s a far more negative stigma of urban art in the U.S. than there is in Germany. Once I got used to buildings having extra color to them, I began to really appreciate the graffiti and found a lot of it to be quite appealing.

Leipzig's Wall of Fame

Leipzig’s Wall of Fame, one of the city’s graffiti hubs. While most places in the city don’t look nearly this colorful, graffiti is far more common in Germany than in the U.S.

About the blogger

Ethan T. is studying abroad on the Germany Language and Culture program in Berlin and Leipzig, Germany.

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