Six Mistakes to Avoid in your First Month in Germany

You'll have a lot of stress in your first month in Germany - finding an apartment, applying for your residence permit, signing up for classes, and adjusting to life in a new country. But by avoiding these six mistakes, your first month will be just a little less stressful.



No one would bat an eye if you crossed the street on red in the United States, but this is a serious faux pas in Germany, and one that could potentially lead to a fine if a policeman is nearby.

Even if the entire street is empty at night, don't be surprised to see people waiting for the light to change. The red Ampelmann has a strong effect on people in Germany.

Getting controlled on the train or bus

Over 200,000 people were fined for Schwarzfahren (riding without a ticket) in Berlin last year. Remember that even though there are no turnstiles there to prevent you from boarding, you're still expected to always have a valid ticket. 

This also means that you need to remember to validate your ticket before you board. Look for the machines marked bitte entwerten and stamp your ticket. 

Walking in the Bike Lane

Germans take biking very seriously - the state of North Rhine Westphalen even recently opened a 62 mile stretch of road exclusively for bikers. In the cities, bikes have their own lanes, which (depending on where you live) are either colored or marked with a bike icon. 

For recent arrivals, the bike lanes can be easy to miss, especially since they often run directly beside the pedestrian sidewalk. But watch out. If you walk into the bike lane and are hit by a cyclist, you'll be on the hook for their medical bills, and you may also be liable for other costs. 

Waiting until Sunday to do your Shopping

Germans take their free time seriously, and when they say that Sunday is a day of rest, they mean it. Don't expect to do any shopping on Sundays, and if its a holiday weekend, be sure to stock up.

Fortunately, there are some exceptions - if you live in a larger city with a big train station, the station grocery stores are allowed to stay open on Sundays. 

Forgetting to Stop at the ATM before Dinner

America is quickly becoming a cashless society, but this is a long way away in Germany. Although many stores now accept plastic, don't assume that any restaurants will.

Be sure to always have at least a little bit of cash on you where ever you go in Germany just in case, and never assume that your card will be enough.

Throwing your Recycling in the Garbage Can

Separating garbage and recycling doesn't come easy to us in the States, but somehow it's just engrained into the German psyche. If you move into a WG, don't be surprised if your roommates sit you down to explain how their system works. 

Because German cities also have separate trash cans, the process is easier than it might seem. It's really just a matter of getting into the routine, and before you know it, you'll even be composting like a champ.