5 Rules for Living in Germany

When moving to a new country, it's essential to embrace the new culture, regardless of how strange that culture can seem at first. This sounds easy, until you realize just how strange these new customs may be.

Before you move to Germany, here are five rules to live by. If you follow these, your first few months will be a breeze, and you'll be behaving like a local in no time.

1. Beer is an outdoor drink

Those of us who have passed the legal drinking age still have to contend with one restriction - open container laws. Most states have them, and the few places that don't, like New Orleans and Las Vegas, are famous for being places where people go to do things that are normally verboten

Germany is very different. Although there are some restrictions, generally you'll never get a second look for cracking open a beer on the street. If you are drinking on the go, be sure to leave your beer out near (but not in) a trash can. Glass and plastic bottles are recycled, and can fetch 10-25 cents each. Even if you don't want to take the bottle back to the grocery store for the deposit, there are definitely people who do.

2. Sit, don't stand

Nearly every male student new to Germany has the same debate with his flatmates a week or two after moving in. "It's not natural!" he may say, or "I've never done that, and I'm not going to start now". But within a few weeks, they cave.

3. Pedestrians don't own the sidewalk

You'll be walking down the sidewalk, lost in thought, when all of a sudden, you hear a frantic beeping coming from behind you. You turn, and just barely avoid being splattered by an oncoming cyclist. As they ride away, you watch bewilderedly as they shout obscenities back at you.

Who was at fault? Well, you were, actually, because you were standing in the bike lane. In some places, this is demarcated clearly by a red line or a painted bike symbol. But it's always the responsibility of pedestrians to yield to bikers in this space, which is left aside specifically for them.

4. Don't be Afraid to Mix

There are lots of great combos that fill our lives. Peanut butter and jelly. Chips and salsa. Spaghetti and meatballs. What about beer and cola? It may seem like a strange mix, but this (called Diesel) and other mixes like Radler and the non-alcoholic Spezi are menu mainstays in Germany. 

5. Always Carry Cash

It may be surprising to many who haven't lived here, but cash is still king in Germany. As America and some other European countries, like Sweden and Estonia, move closer to a cashless society, Germany remains stubbornly unwilling to adopt some of the practices that have made life so much easier for those who have changes with the times. Never assume that a restaurant or bar will accept credit, and if you go to a grocery store, always be sure to bring a card with an EC chip.