Germany vs the UK: 6 Cultural Differences

Oktoberfest by James Bratton

This article was written by James Bratton, published on 8th October 2015 and has been read 5657 times.

James is studying for a BA in Business Studies and Modern Languages at Newcastle University. He is currently working in Munich until January before going to Madrid. Here are the cultural differences that he just can't get used to...

Since moving to Munich in August, I have been able to enjoy this beautiful city during one of the hottest summers on record, with weekends spent relaxing by the Isar and in the English gardens. I am having a brilliant time here but I’ve had to adjust to a few important cultural differences in the last few months...

1. Where is my English tea?

After trawling the supermarkets for a box of PG tips or Yorkshire Gold, I reluctantly had to buy some fruity tea as a poor substitute for a good old cuppa. Here you can buy green tea, fruit tea, black tea, every kind of tea except for regular English (yes I want milk in my tea). I was forced to go to a specialist tea shop to buy a small box of PG tips for €6 just to make it through the day. Needless to say I’ll be stocking up next time I’m home.

2. Illness

After being brought up to expect to go to work unless you physically can’t move to get there, the attitude to illness here has been somewhat surprising. After coming home from work with a cold and a sore throat my landlady was shocked that I’d even left the house and demanded that I go to the doctors immediately. After being mocked for having ‘man flu’ throughout the winter months in England, its refreshing to be treated with such sympathy, with colleagues suggesting that I go home to keep the rest of the office healthy!

3. Stop apologising

‘I’m sorry’ is probably the most commonly used phrase in the English language, highlighted on a recent trip back to England where I apologised to the server in Tesco for not having a Tesco Clubcard. But as an Englishman abroad here in Munich, I’ve had to keep my ‘I’m sorrys’ to myself. No longer do I apologise for wanting to take a spare seat on the train or to ask someone to pass the salt across the table. And it feels great.

4. Obey the red man

The way I see it, the red man at traffic lights in England is more of a suggestion, a polite reminder that cars might be coming your way and to proceed with caution. Yet here in Germany, the red man is the law, and anybody daring to cross the road on red will be met with disapproval from all sides. I now find myself standing like everybody else at a crossing with no traffic, waiting valuable minutes for the green man to let me carry on with my day.

5. Why are you in my bike lane?

The transport for bikes here in Munich is fantastic, with the entire city accessible and safe on two wheels. Yet beware the unknowing pedestrian who wanders into the bike lane. During my first few weeks here I was subject to the common cry ‘This lane is for bikes only’ and now proceed with extreme caution everywhere I walk, to avoid a cyclist giving me my first experience in a German hospital.

6. Where does everybody go on Sundays?

Having been pre-warned by family members about Sundays here in Germany, I was sensible enough to buy my food on a Saturday. Yet I was still shocked on a Sunday to look out of my window and see no cars or people, just peace and quiet. Where does everybody go? What do you do on a Sunday when everything’s shut? I still haven’t quite got my head around this one yet, and it still makes me sad every Sunday when I can’t go to Tesco and buy some chocolate. But I’ll get there.

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