Germany has a reputation for efficiency and punctuality, and learning a little of the local etiquette and customs should stand travellers in good stead;
Don’t abuse the Autobahn
Imagine nearly 13,000 kilometers of clear, well-maintained roads with absolutely no speed limit! That’s the reality of the autobahn system with covers 12,845 kilometres (7,982 mi). But a word of warning, although technically you can drive as fast as you want, it doesn’t mean that you have to. In fact there is an advisory speed limit in place of 30 kilometres per hour (81 mph) and reduced speeds around junctions etc. And the local cops are pretty hot on spotting boy (and girl) racers, so make sure your vehicle is roadworthy and all your documents are in order! And in case you wondered, it is illegal to take part in rallies and races on German roads.
Don’t take your dirty car into town
We’re not talking a wash and wax here, but the highly exciting topic of exhaust emissions! Basically if your vehicle doesn’t meet the strict criteria on emissions you’ll be barred from entering the cities and regions that have an environmental zone (umweltzone) in place. Low emission zones currently exist in 47 cities and 11 states including Berlin, Stuttgart and Cologne. Other European countries including Italy, Sweden and Austria have also followed suit.
Don’t you hate it when pedestrians just wander across the road with little regard that your traffic light is on green? Well that’s not an issue in Germany as its illegal for pedestrians to use the crossings when the red pedestrian light is on. And if you’re caught crossing on a red, you run the risk of a fine and copping for all the costs should there be an accident.
Don’t expect free tap water
Water is free right? Not in German restaurants it isn’t! Water is treated like any other beverage within the food service industry and if you ask for water there are only two options – still or sparkling. Tap water is pretty much off the menu, unless you want to appear cheap and rude!
Don’t be late
German people have a reputation for efficiency, planning and forward thinking. Don’t knock it – Germany is the financial powerhouse of Europe and is absolutely thriving thanks to this mind-set. And Germans are really hot on punctuality. Don’t arrive early if you visit a private house and if you’re going to be late, phone ahead to explain and apologise. If you’re in Germany on business stick to your schedule, don’t cancel or move meetings at the last moment, which is a sign of poor planning.
Don’t forget your EHIC
Make sure you have a valid and up to date European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which you can obtain absolutely FREE of charge. Should you need medical treatment whilst on holiday, the card entitles you to treatment at the same cost as locals. The card is only for emergency situations and won’t entitle you to non-urgent treatment! And on another note, it’s not a substitute for proper travel insurance, which you’ll need to buy as well, even for short trips.
Don’t skip your work permit
If you plan on working or studying in Germany for longer than three months you need to register with the German authorities, before the 3 months are up. EU citizens don’t need to apply for a residence permit anymore.