The Germans have a long and proud history that dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. For centuries, they have been one of the most influential European nations, playing a major role in both politics and economics. Today, Germany is a thriving country with a rich culture that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Nevertheless, what many people know today about German culture is based a lot on general stereotypes. Germany is seen as a disciplined, orderly nation that values rules and efficiency above all. And, while it might be true to an extent, there is much more to German culture than just these clichés.
In this article, we will explore some interesting facts about Germans and their culture that you may not have known before. Let’s look at everything from the Germans’ love of beer to their strong work ethic. So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn about one of the most fascinating cultures in the world!
German Life Is All About Reason and Logic
The Germans are known for their love of reason and logic. In fact, this is often seen as one of the defining characteristics of German culture. Germans believe that through reason and logic, they can understand the world around them and make rational decisions.
This is reflected in their approach to life, where they often take a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to things. This is well reflected in German business culture as well as literature, art, and even everyday life.
You can see this well in the Germans’ approach to spontaneity: it doesn’t exist. Instead, German people plan everything down to the smallest details: make shopping lists and trip itineraries, book holidays months in advance, buy insurance for almost everything, and generally seem like they are prepared for any outcome of any situation.
This focus on reason and logic can be traced back to the Enlightenment era, when German philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Jean-Paul Sartre started to question the traditional ways of thinking. They believed that humans could use reason and logic to understand the world and that through rational thought, they could improve society as a whole.
This thinking has remained a central part of German culture ever since.
Rule-Following Is in People’s Nature
There is another side to the German love of logic and reason: they are also very rules-oriented, and this applies to all parts of life, including business, legal, and social.
In Germany, following rules is seen as a positive thing. It shows that you are a responsible and reliable person, and exceptions almost don’t exist. In the German opinion, rules allow a society to run smoothly and efficiently, just how it should be.
Of course, this can lead to some frustrating bureaucratic experiences (like getting your visa paperwork in order) or even fines. Many foreigners are often unpleasantly amazed by the way the native speakers act: it’s not uncommon to attend a neighbor’s party and then go back home and call the police because the music is too loud for the evening hours.
Punctuality Is a High Priority
If there is one thing Germans are most known for, it’s their punctuality. In Germany, being on time is not just a social nicety: it’s considered a matter of respect.
This punctuality extends to all spheres of life from social engagements to business meetings and even catching public transport. If you have a meeting with a German, it’s important to be on time, or even better – early. If you are late, don’t expect the Germans to wait. They will start the meeting without you and continue on their schedule.
Moreover, if you’re not on time, you will be seen as unreliable and irresponsible.
This punctuality extends to all aspects of German life. Germans take great pride in being efficient and organized, and this is reflected in their punctuality. They believe that if something has a time, it should start and end on that time, with no delays.
This can be frustrating for foreigners who are used to a more relaxed attitude towards time, but after some time living in Germany, you will appreciate this efficiency and organization.
You Shoudn’t Overshare
Germans are not known for being particularly open or friendly, at least at first. In general, Germans tend to be more reserved and formal than other cultures. Small talk is very rare, and it’s not uncommon for people to greet each other with a simple “hello” or “good morning” without starting a conversation.
This reservation also extends to personal questions. Germans will usually not ask personal questions unless they know you fairly well. This can seem like coldness or unfriendliness, but that’s just how German society is.
You don’t talk about personal stuff like birthdays or holidays in the office; discussing work-related things are okay, but if you want to share a funny story about your kids, leave it for your next conversations with friends.
Efficiency Is Key, Pleasantries Are Spare
You will notice that Germans are very efficient in the way they communicate. They will get straight to the point without going around it for twenty minutes, like in many other countries of the European Union. This efficiency is also reflected in written communication: emails, letters, and even text messages are usually short and blunt.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Germans are rude. They just value efficiency and think that pleasantries are a waste of time. In their opinion, if you have something to say, just say it. There is no need for niceties.
The stereotypical German efficiency also extends to the German language itself. If you already know a little about this language, you are aware that there are many compound words meant to save time used for conversations. Instead of saying a whole phrase, you can often limit yourself to one or two words, and the message will still be clear.
German People Love Beer…
Germans love beer, and they have a long tradition of brewing. In fact, Germany has the oldest existing brewery in the world: Weihenstephan Abbey Brewery, which was founded in 1040. Nowadays, there are over 1,500 breweries in Germany, and German beer is exported all over the globe.
Germans take their beer very seriously. There is even a Beer Purity Law (Reinheitsgebot), which stipulates that beer can only be made with water, malt, and hops. This law was first enacted in 1516, and it’s still adhered to by many brewers today.
German culture is simple: there can’t be too much beer. Oktoberfest has been around for over a century, and it is still popular today. Visit it if you get a chance, and see for yourself that for many Germans, beer is a huge part of their culture.
Germans take their food just as seriously as they do their beer, and they have a rich and varied cuisine. Some of the most famous German dishes include sausages, pork, beef, and potatoes. Germans also love their bread, and there are many different types of bread that are popular in and outside the country, the most known being pretzels.
Germans are not afraid of fat or carbs, and you will often see them eating large amounts of food. This is a stark contrast to the Mediterranean diet, which is popular in many other European countries. But, don’t worry – German food can be healthy, and if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you will be able to find many interesting food choices.
Schnitzel, sauerkraut, and currywurst are some of the most well-known dishes of the German cuisine, but depending on the region you’re visiting, traditional dishes can vary. For example, in West Germany, you will be able to taste the Frankfurter Grüne Soße (a cold herb sauce), and in the Northern regions is Fischbrötchen, a type of sandwich made with fish (typically herring, sprat, salmon, or mackerel).
Hiking Is the National Sport…
Germans are so well known for their love of hiking, we can say that hiking is basically the national sport of Germany. There are countless trails throughout the country, and Germans take advantage of them by going on hikes year-round.
Hiking in Germany can be a great way to experience the country's diverse landscape. The trails range from easy to difficult, so there is something for everyone. And, while most Germans prefer to hike on their own or with friends, there are also many organized hiking tours available.
…But Soccer Is King
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Germany, and Germans love to watch it (and play it) as much as they love to hike or drink beer. The German national soccer team is one of the best in the world, and they have won the World Cup four times (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014).
And, we can’t forget the fact that a third of all German people are part of a sports club or organization!
Moreover, the German football championship, Bundesliga, is often considered the second most attended professional sports league in the world. Attending sports championships is not a joke for the Germans – during the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA Champions League, huge TVs are set everywhere from cafés and restaurants to city squares so that anyone can enjoy the game.
Recycling Is a Lifestyle
Germany is a world leader in recycling, and it’s not uncommon to see people sorting their trash into different bins. This might seem like a hassle, but Germans take pride in their recycling habits.
In fact, recycling is so ingrained in German culture that it’s considered normal behavior. And, Germans don’t only recycle paper and plastic. They also recycle electronics, glass, and clothes – basically, everything possible.
There are many reasons for Germany’s success in recycling, but one of the most important is the fact that the country has laws and regulations that encourage (and sometimes require) people to recycle. Huge fines await those who can’t adhere to the recycling rules.
Germans Don’t Care About Nudity
Nudity is no big deal in Germany. You will see people sunbathing naked at public saunas, gym showers, and pools, and it’s not uncommon to see naked people walking around the beaches. Moreover, it’s often forbidden to enter a sauna in your underwear!
This might be surprising for those who come from more reserved cultures, but Germans simply don’t see nudity as a sexual thing. It’s seen as natural and normal, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. So, don’t get surprised if you see your neighbors sunbathing naked on their balcony.
Of course, there are places where nudity is not allowed, such as public buildings or public transport, and there are rules in place to control that. But, in general, Germans are much more relaxed about these things than other cultures.
Everything Is Closed on Sundays
If you’re planning to do some shopping on a Sunday in Germany, you’re out of luck. All stores are closed on Sundays except for pharmacies, gas stations, bakeries, and (on some occasions) supermarkets.
This might seem strange at first, but Germans just value their Sundays as a day of rest. And, even though you can’t go shopping, there are still plenty of other things to do on a Sunday. You can visit one of the many museums or galleries that are open, take a walk in the park, or just relax at home with family or friends.
Most German households will have a number of things planned for Sunday, such as playing board games, going on a cycling trip, or (you guessed it) hiking.
Germany Has a Rich History of Art and Music
Germany is well known for its rich history of art and music. In fact, some of the world’s most famous composers who marked the birth of the Western Classical music came from Germany, including Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner.
German art and music have been greatly influenced by the country’s many traditions and regions. For example, the Romantic period in German music was heavily influenced by the folk music of the rural areas. And, during the 20th century, there was a strong focus on expressionism in German art.
Some of the most famous works of German artists include the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich and the sculpture of Arno Breker. As for German composers, some of the most famous pieces include Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Many of these works have been performed all over the world and are considered to be some of the best examples of art and music ever created.
German Is More Than One Language
The official language of Germany is German, but it’s not just one language – it’s actually a group of several language varieties.
Standard German (or High German) is the version of German that is used in schools and government institutions. It is based on the dialect of the southern German city Frankfurt am Main. But, there are also many other German dialects, such as Low German, which is spoken in the north of the country, and the Bavarian dialect, which is spoken in the south-east.
In total, there are around 50 different German dialects! So, if you ever travel to Germany and hear someone speaking a different version of German than what you’re used to, don’t worry – it’s just one of the many regional varieties.
Germans and their culture may surprise many people, and there’s much more to them than just the stereotypes of discipline, orderliness, and efficiency. From the relaxed attitude towards nudity, to the rich history of art and music, Germany is a fascinating country with a lot to offer.
If you’re interested in learning about it more, mastering the German language, or simply preparing for your next trip to Germany, make sure to check out our blog or practice a bit with our app. With just a few stories and articles, you can broaden your knowledge of German culture – and get to understand German people a little more.