15 things to know before visiting Germany
Contrary to its stereotype of being stiff and dull, Germany is a European hub of culture, colour and vibrancy. A trip to Germany will see you awaken your creativity, party until dawn and eat so much delicious food you’ll need to go home on a stretcher.
Before you embark on this magnificent adventure, here are 15 things to know about Germany:
they take their nightlife very seriously
Erotic cabaret bars, outdoor riverside parties and clubs that used to be swimming pools: Germany’s nightlife hasn’t gained worldwide fame for no reason. It’s nightlife scene is arguably one of the best in the world – largely because there really is something for everyone. For Germans, partying is part of the national culture, and saying that Germans party with no curfew is no exaggeration. A morning in Berlin will still see party goers pouring into the streets after a 24-hour sesh. We all wish we had that kind of stamina…
breakfast is a big deal
Milky tea and a slice of bowl of cereal? Nah. Avocado toast and a flat white? Amateur. In Germany, frühstück isn’t just a meal, it’s an event. Germans are into their savoury platters, traditionally consisting of an array of meats, cheeses, eggs, fruits, yoghurt and various savoury spreads – all with an assorted breadbasket, of course (and yes, often all on one huge plate!). If you woke up later than usual, pair it with a pils and voila: you’re officially living the German dream.
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they host oktoberfest every year
If you’re a beer aficionado and you haven’t been to Oktoberfest, then are you really a beer aficionado? This bavarian beer festival has gained worldwide status for being any beer-lovers paradise, and a must-visit for anyone seeking a German cultural extravaganza. The festival attracts visitors from the world over, who come to don traditional bavarian attire, munch flavoursome wurst, and dance to the tune of the oompah band. As the saying goes, there ain’t no party like an Oktoberfest party (okay, I made that up – but seriously, just go.)
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they do adulthood differently
Germans are real, raw and unphased. They do things their own way and aren’t bothered about the rat-race of life, with many Germans graduating from university, settling down and buying property in their later years rather than in their 20’s. In a country where partying has no age limit and stereotypes are broken every day, it’s the place to be if you feel like you’re experiencing a quarter-life crisis, or you simply feel overwhelmed by the stress of adult life. As the German saying goes: Make haste with leisure.
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Prepare to be blown away by the christmas markets
If you’re a self-confessed Christmas junkie, Germany during wintertime will not leave you disappointed. Over the Christmas period, the whole of Germany transforms itself into a magical fairytale winter wonderland, with lively Christmas markets suddenly appearing all over the country. At the bustling traditional markets you can find just about everything to get you in the yuletide mood, including German confectionaries, arts and crafts, and hot food. We wouldn’t expect anything less from the birthplace of the Christmas festivities itself…
creativity is a way of life
You can see it in the graffiti found around Berlin, Hamburg and Munich: creativity oozes through the streets and electrifies the vibe. Some of the world’s best innovation, creativity and technology have come out of Germany, with many artists, musicians and designers flocking to get in on the country’s trend-setting attitude. Art and culture thrive in Germany, so whatever your interests are, they will always be something to get stuck into.
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beer is no joke
Germany is the undisputed beer capital of the world, due in part to the Reinheitsgebot – aka the German beer purity law, which only permits water, barley and hops to be used in German beer production, meaning German beer stays pure and local. There is no time of day where it’s inappropriate to drink a beer in Germany. Germans even have different beers for different times of day, and you don’t need to search far for a quick beer pit-stop; as in most cities, 24-hour corner shops stock a decent variety. In the summer, beer gardens are the no. 1 place to be for good vibes and exquisite beer.
the lakes are something else
If you thought that being land locked would stop Germans from doing their best Baywatch impressions, you’re wrong – lake culture is a huge part of German life. Everyone – from the trendiest hipsters to lakeside veterans – heads to any of Germans many stunning lakes for some beachside fun as soon as the weather gets warm enough. In many cities, you can even get to the lakes by public transport. With music blasting on the lively beaches of some lakes, and pretty boats bobbing on the water in picturesque towns at others, Germany’s lake game is seriously strong.
Germans aren’t rude, just straightforward
It’s a common misconception that Germans are rude. While this is wildly untrue, you’ll soon learn why that stereotype came about. Germans are notoriously straightforward people, often catching you out of the blue with blunt questions or all-too-honest answers (yes, they will tell you if that shirt looks ugly on you). If your waitress doesn’t smile while she puts your food down, don’t take it personally – and once your time in the country is up, you’ll realise that while politeness takes on a different meaning in Germany, Germans really are some of the warmest, kindest and most open people you’ll ever meet.
quirky attractions make up the country
As a creative hub, Germany has no aversion to the quirky and obscure. Some of it’s must-see weird landmarks include an upside-down house (yes, that’s literally what it is) in Lauterbach, an elaborate wall of huge funnels in Dresden, and a gnome museum in Gräfenroda. After all, what’s a trip to Europe without a little WTF?
history is part of the culture
Germany’s troublesome past is inescapable, and the remnants of this tumultuous history can be seen everywhere you go. The country doesn’t try to mask its history, so be prepared to learn a thing or two when you go. Museums, memorials and exhibitions dedicated to the country’s more recent history are everywhere, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the country’s past without even realising it. Whether you’re a history buff or not, the country takes pride in overcoming it’s darkest period – and information on the wars is easily accessible nationwide.
There are 300 types of bread
Yep, you read that right. 300. Different. Kinds. Germany produces more bread than any other country on the planet, and forms the base of German cuisine – making it the perfect destination to make all your carb wishes come true. You can expect an assortment of breads to accompany just about any meal or snack you encounter, so make sure the skinny jeans you pack for Germany are easy to unbutton…
cycling = standard
Cycling is a way of life in Germany. Cars are far outnumbered by bikes in the cities, as they are (arguably) the best mode of transport to see the sights and soak up the culture. All German roads are decidedly cycle-friendly, and the country has strict rules when it comes to cycle safety, so be wary of cycle routes on pavements or you may find yourself being yelled at for blocking the way. The country also has an array of romantic picturesque cycling routes in its vast countryside, on which you can glide past fairytale like forests and glistening lakes and take in the stunning German landscape.
Germany oozes multiculturalism
In spite of Merkel’s recent claims that multiculturalism is a ‘sham’, multicultural communities in Germany continue to thrive. In any major German city you’re likely to hear an array of different languages and accents, and the diverse nature of the country is reflected in its eclectic street food scene. For a real German experience, head to one of the country’s Turkish restaurants, which have become part of the German identity. There are even huge variations in German culture itself, so keep an eye out for those subtle differences in accent, food style and way of life.
The Carnival of Cultures will surprise you
Rio, London and…Berlin? That’s right, Berlin has it’s very own colourful carnival of cultures – and it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Taking place in the summer, the carnival spills into the streets of Kreuzberg and celebrates the city’s diverse hybrid cultural identity. Characterised by vibrant rituals, songs, music, outfits and food, all of Berlin’s ethnic cultures are represented. With over 1.5 million visitors involved in the festivities, it’s not one to be missed.