Formality – the tricky Sie or Du

Closely aligned to this formality is the obligation to use the “Sie” form of address with people you don‘t know that well. This holds true for both work and social situations. Most Germans still feel somewhat uncomfortable using or being addressed by “Du” with those they are only casually acquainted with. It‘s always safest to wait until your German colleague or acquaintance (especially if they are older than you) suggests that the two of you can switch over to the “Du” basis. These days, it can happen within weeks rather than months or years, as was often the case in the past.

After you have developed friendly relationships with people here, you may find yourself invited to their homes. Germans like hosting others and the rules of etiquette are rather uncomplicated. For instance, it is always advisable to bring along a small gift when invited to someone’s home. Flowers, a bottle of wine, or some small souvenir from your homeland are considered most appropriate. Do inform your hosts beforehand if you have any special nutritional requirements. Germans, as a rule, tend to be very fond of pork, and alcoholic beverages can be a key element of most dinner parties. That said, everyone is happy to adjust the menu to welcome guests, so simply let them know beforehand to avoid embarrassment and enable them to have some fruit juice ready along with the welcoming sparkling wine, for example.

Another subtle difference that can cause uneasiness, especially when you’re invited to someone’s home, is the matter of the toilet door. In complete contrast to many other societies, Germans prefer keeping that door closed when not in use. Leaving it open can be very offensive to some Germans.