Immersing yourself in German culture: 5 things immigrants should know 

Germany is a fascinating country with a rich history, unique customs and a strong sense of identity. As an immigrant, a basic understanding of the nuances of German culture will help you navigate your new environment more easily and make the most of your experience. Whether you are moving to Germany for an Ausbildung, to study, to work as a professional or for personal reasons, familiarising yourself with the local culture is essential for a successful and fulfilling experience.  

This blog post will explore five things immigrants should know about German culture. From the importance of directness to unique eating habits, we’ll dive into the key aspects of German culture that will help you feel right at home. 

1. Directness is key

Germans are known for their directness and straightforwardness, so don’t let this put you off! In an interview, a German employer may ask directly about your qualifications and experience without beating around the bush. However, feedback interviews in Germany are also not glossed over but conducted very honestly and directly. Be prepared for this and try not to let everything get to you directly, but to look at it from a distance. Germans don’t mean any offence, we’re just not very good at complaining about things. In addition, try to give clear and concise answers, Germans are also better at dealing with this. 

2. Punctuality is sacred

In Germany, punctuality is considered a virtue. Germans are punctual,  and you must arrive on time for appointments, meetings and social engagements. If you are meeting a friend for coffee, you should arrive on time. If you are running late, let your friend know in advance and apologize for your late show-up. Also, you should take your given work start time very seriously, otherwise you may end up being terminated in the long run if you are always late. But even if Germans are extremely punctual, you should learn that German trains usually are not. Taking a train earlier to make sure you are on time is very common in Germany. 

3. Formality is important

In Germany, formality is important in many situations, especially in a professional environment. When you meet a German colleague or business partner, you should shake hands and use the formal title and surname. Avoid using first names until you are specifically asked to do so. In general, the older person decides the formality: if the person addresses you formally, you also remain formal, but if the person addresses you using du (informal way), you can also switch to it. 

4. Eating habits are unique

In Germany, meals are sacred and there are certain rules that must be followed. Generally, you only start eating once everyone has been served, so you start together. In addition, Germans don’t like to waste food, so only take as much as you can really eat. Do not forget, you can always top up again. You also only get up when everyone has finished eating. Eating together is therefore very much about spending time together and having conversations, while your mobile phone stays in your pocket! 

5. Cultural events are a must 

Germany has a rich cultural calendar with many festivals and events throughout the year. In rural areas, you’ll discover the importance of summer festivals, while in the city you can enjoy more traditional cultural events such as theatre or museums. Otherwise, many people are already familiar with Oktoberfest, but annual festivals are also very common throughout Germany. Try to attend as many cultural events as possible to find your favourites and try out classic German things.  

In conclusion, German culture can initially seem daunting, but if you understand these five aspects, you’ll be well on your way to engaging with your new surroundings. Remember, directness, punctuality and formality are key, and don’t be afraid to embrace the unique customs and traditions that Germany has to offer. By immersing yourself in German culture, you will not only make the most of your experience but also create a sense of belonging in your new home.