Hilarious German Faux-Pas I Did in Germany and Learned Not To Repeat


If you are European, you probably have no considered too much about offending a country especially if you’re just visiting for a few days. The laws are pretty much the same, right?

Germany has a lot of local unwritten rules as well as the standard  Gesetze  (laws)

Germany has a lot of local unwritten rules as well as the standard Gesetze (laws)

This may be true, but in Germany there are some rather unusual laws that you ought to know of.

Germans are very strict on following the rules. Just like you wouldn’t drunk drive your car, no drunk driving is allowed on your bicycle, it’s forbidden to run out of fuel on the Autobahn, (obvious reasons), and no piano tuning at night. Just incase you were tempted!

Despite the merging of cultures, there are still traditions and unwritten rules that you only learn by living in the country itself. Moving to Berlin in 2015 has taught me a lot but has also made me realise there are some cultural aspects and things you need to know, which you can only learn by living in the country.

In Germany, I thought there were only the usual rules about jay walking, and more about social etiquette such as not mentioning any taboo subjects.

I think this one is obvious.

I thought my English ways meant that I couldn't possible offend anyone, more likely it was going to be the other way round.
A Faux-Pas: have you ever offended or made mistakes without meaning to, making it really obvious you are a foreigner?

What is a faux-pas?

The keyword here being etiquette and culture

Some faux-pas are universal and some absolutely must be adhered to, others are personal taste or opinion, and some are plain politeness. 


We all know how important it is to be polite and not to appear like a Brit on tour who has no idea what “Polizei” means.

So if we categorise them, let’s say an absolute faux pas is RED

A medium faux pas is ORANGE.

And a “let’s not care too much about it” faux pas is GREEN.

If I talk about transport etiquette, this could be a whole article entirely.

In England, a faux pas would be skipping the queue. This, if done anywhere in the UK will cause the ultimate offence. With this I mean ANY queue. In the UK there are strict queuing principles which must be followed. The best example of an orderly queue as at an Ed Sheeran concert where a perfect queue was formed without them even being told to do so..

Another faux pas in the UK would be not thanking the bus driver when you get off the bus.

A further faux pas, arguably, could be putting milk in before the tea (some British people do this though, absolute sinners). This one is much less offensive, though!

Faux pas in Germany

Peeling bottles off Pfandflaschen 

Because why would you do such a thing when you can get 0,08-0,25 cent per bottle?!

Putting Pfandflaschen in the Maschine which are not empty

Because rules are rules and why would you not finish your drink?

Entering a waiting room and not saying hello or goodbye

Because why wouldn’t you be polite to strangers?

Leaving the tip on the table

Because why would you get up and give the waiter anxiety thinking you’d done a runner and not paid? Having style and leaving a mysterious amount instead of announcing how much you want to tip infront of your peers/friends is surely more sexy?

Getting on the bus on the back

Because there are rules. In Germany you get at the front and get off at the back. Under no circumstance should you get on at the back, because this will make people think you’ve not paid for your ticket. In Munich these rules are stricter, for definite. In Berlin I’ve gotten on the back plenty of times without feeling bad.

Crossing the road when children are present and the light is red 

Children are the future and you should be an example to them (ein Vorbild).

I, however, think that it’s unto the parents to teach them right and wrong, and if we are in a rush we shouldn’t be blamed for running across. Sometimes there is a 10-15 second gap where it is absolutely safe to cross but the green Amplemännchen does not appear. Sigh.

What’s your experience of a faux-pas in Germany? The best stories sometimes stem from embarrassing moments.

Red traffic light for pedestrians must be obeyed just like for cars :)

Red traffic light for pedestrians must be obeyed just like for cars :)