Breisach, Germany by Smash Transit

5 Quirks to Know Before Moving to Germany

Germany has a unique and distinctive culture. Even if the country is one of the political and economic leaders, a lot of Germany’s cultural quirks really set it apart from the rest of the world. Here are some uniquely German things to know and understand before moving to Germany.

Germany by Adam Groffman for Smash Transit

Cash is King

Plastic has little power in Germany. Locals prefer using cash for just about everything. And if that doesn’t work, then you’ll need a debit card (in Germany, it’s an EC card). Even the surprisingly easy-to-use digital formats of paying like Apple Pay aren’t going to work here. Be prepared to memorize your bank account number for online transactions, too.

Berlin, Germany by Smash Transit

Recycle Everything

Germans are famously green — and that’s a good thing. Recycling is so ingrained into the culture here, even if you’re new, it’s easy to pick up the habit. You’ll find large recycling bins on the street for glass containers sorted by color (green, brown, white), which are used collectively by the local community. And don’t forget to sort your biodegradable products, too — there’s a separate bin for that!

Germany by Adam Groffman for Smash Transit

Square Pillows

Sleep with a German and you’ll quickly learn that there is a unique style to the German bed. Large mattresses are available, but more often than not you’ll find two smaller mattresses pushed up against one another with separate duvets. For just that extra bit of quirkiness, German pillows are obnoxiously large square shapes — about three times the size of a normal head and far too wide for normal comfort.

Berlin, Germany by Smash Transit

Sundays Are for Relaxation 

In many countries, Sundays are for shopping — but not so in Germany! Here, it’s all about the Sunday stroll. Almost all shops are closed, including grocery stores, which essentially forces you to simply enjoy the day. Go for brunch, read a book, take a walk, or go out to explore nature. There are some exceptions, with occasional Shopping Sundays when stores are legally allowed to open — it’s every few months. You can also always find at least one grocery store open in a city — it’ll be the one located in the large train stations.

Schluchsee, Germany by Smash Transit

Bag Your Own Groceries

Speaking of groceries…In Germany, grocery stores operate a little more frugally (or efficiently – depending upon your viewpoint). You’re expected to bag your own groceries, and to do so quickly! There’s surprisingly little space at the end of the register, so if you’re buying more than you can bag quickly, be prepared to just load back in your cart and bag it at a small table or shelf you’ll find against the wall. Oh, and bring your own grocery bags, too. Gotta be green, remember?!

German Visa by Smash Transit


A few things about water in Germany. First, if you’re ordering water in a restaurant — it’s going to come carbonated. Many Germans just don’t seem to have the taste for still water. Second, water is never free. You won’t receive still water for the table at a restaurant. And, even if you ask for it, you’ll likely be charged or they might simply refuse to offer it. Water fountains in public places are also extremely rare. Rather, you’re expected to buy your own water in shops or restaurants.

Berlin, Germany by Adam Groffman for Smash Transit

Want more? Check out this article on my blog.

Have you ever thought about moving to Germany? Have you maybe done it already? Any suggestions or questions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Adam Groffman
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Adam Groffman

Master of Fun at Travels of Adam
Adam is a globetrotter and travel writer based in Berlin, Germany, who covers travel tips for music, festivals, art, nightlife, and gay travel in the best cities of Europe and the world. When he’s not out exploring the coolest bars and clubs, he’s usually enjoying the local arts and culture scene of a new city. You’ll find him most often on Twitter — say hi! Follow him on Instagram for more as well.
Adam Groffman
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