Making generalizations about any society is difficult, but if you are a newcomer in Germany you will likely notice many small and seemingly large cultural differences. An honest and sincere effort to familiarize yourself with Germany’s “dos and taboos” will help you integrate more quickly.

A large portion of the German rules of etiquette are as good as universal. Some of it involves simple common sense. No custom is so infinitely subtle (as in some cultures) that you have to be constantly hyper-alert so as not to offend others. German thoroughness comes to bear here, too: You‘ll find that Germans say Danke! (“Thank you”) and Bitte! (“Please/Gladly”) quite a bit. A lot of this very obvious politeness can be formulaic, but if you offer your thanks and pleases with a bit of feeling, you‘ll often find you get a smile with the reply.

Let us start with the area of personal relationships. Those close relationships can take some time to develop. In fact, many Germans – especially those who are older and more traditional – always keep those outside of a tight circle at arm’s length. For that reason, you‘ll find that many people here will always address acquaintances or colleagues as “Frau Müller,” “Herr Schmidt” – even people they‘ve known for years, often folks with whom they‘ve shared the same building for many years.

Speaking of addressing people, one key point of good etiquette here is wishing everyone in your building or in your office Guten Morgen / Guten Tag / Guten Abend (Good Morning / Afternoon / and Good Evening). You should also use those greetings (without the names generally) when entering small shops and businesses although not at supermarkets or department stores. Not to do so is seen as being a tad impolite and will probably influence the kind of service you get. These basic greetings are also still accepted behavior when getting into an elevator where you work, and then you should add a “Wiedersehen” (Goodbye) when you or someone else steps out of the elevator.