German Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Try to get straight to the point at hand. Germans generally do not need much small talk to warm up the conversation. They often appreciate it when others are direct.
  • Provide sincere answers to serious questions, and avoid introducing humour to lighten a stern conversation.
  • When making plans with your German counterparts, make sure to give all relevant details to ensure clarity.
  • Expect a German to be open and honest when they disagree with you. They are generally courteous, but are unlikely to deliver their opinion in an indirect way through ambiguous hints and understatements. 
  • Try not to take personal offence if a German informs you of a mistake you made. They would generally expect you to do the same for them in order to help each other improve and grow as an individual in all aspects of life.
  • Ask a German’s permission before taking a picture or video of them.
  • Exercise discretion when discussing the arrival and settlement of refugees and migrants in Germany, and be aware that you may not be able to presume somebody’s position or education on the matter. Avoid making comparisons with Australia’s migration as it occurs under a different context and scale. See ‘Demographic Shifts’ under Core Concepts for more on this.
  • Approach conversations about the World Wars and the Cold War sensitively. Most Germans are open to discussing their history. However, some may prefer not to revisit the past, while others may simply be tired of speaking about it.


Don'ts

  • Avoid shouting across rooms or drawing attention to yourself in public. Unruly behaviour may be viewed as a lack of self-control.
  • Do not press a German to revise their decision on a matter if they have already given you their response. For example, insisting that they do something after they have already politely declined can be seen as intrusive, even if it is coming from a good place (e.g. asking them to accompany you somewhere or help themselves to more food).
  • Avoid cancelling on a German at the last minute or being late. If you anticipate delays, give your German counterpart a fair warning of your tardiness.
  • Avoid clouding what you mean out of modesty or shyness. Germans prefer straightforward honest answers to questions. Directness and clarity is highly valued.
  • Do not talk about the actions of the Germans in the World Wars as if your German counterpart was there. For example, avoid saying “You Germans did this...” as if they need to claim personal responsibility. Your German counterpart was likely born after these events and had no part in them.
  • Never compare a German to Hitler or the Nazis of World War II or express anti-Semitic sentiments (even jokingly). There is a strong policy against Nazi symbolism and hate speech.
  • Do not refer to the era of the Third Reich as “Nazi Germany”. That is not what it was called.
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