23 Ways Germany Is Different to Australia

Image Credit: Promex

As an Australian living in Germany, I’ve discovered in my time here just how different my adopted homeland is from my native homeland – and not in the ways you might expect.

Here are just 23 of them:

1. The language.  Yes, I know this is pretty obvious, but even when you get your head around the German language, how you say things and even to whom, are still very different.  Never ask someone you don’t know how are they as in Germany this question will offend them whereas in Australia, it is just being polite.

2. Cash is King.  In Germany, don’t try using your credit card to pay for your meal at a restaurant or for your groceries as most times they don’t accept them.  You will need cash or an EC card (debit card).

3. You can pay separately.  Most Australians know the pure ‘joy’ of a dinner out with a large number of friends and how when you get the bill you have to calculate how much everyone owes and then try to collect all the money.  Here in Germany, they let you pay separately without bitching and moaning about how much extra work it is to let you do so.

4. Don’t leave a tip on the table.  In Australia, we just leave the tip for the waitress/waiter on the table, but here in Germany that is considered very rude.  In Germany, you include your tip when you pay.  So if your meal costs €8.80, you can give the waitress €10 and tell her ‘Stimmt so’ which basically means keep the change.

5. The prices.  The cost of living in Germany is way cheaper than in Australia. Groceries, restaurant meals, cinema prices – everything is cheaper.  A bottle of Coke costs roughly $4 (€3) in Australia where it is €1.50 in Germany and that includes the deposit on the bottle.

6. Recycling. Recycling is an art form in Germany. There is none of this placing all recyclables in a single yellow-lidded wheelie bin here. Depending on where you live, recycling will be one of the hardest things you will ever attempt to do – and you will get it wrong. Here in Hamburg, my recycling consists of taking a walk down the street and dividing my recycling into paper, plastics, white glass, green glass and brown glass.  Also, any bottles of soda or beer that I buy are recycled separately at the supermarket where I receive the deposit I paid on the bottle back in the form of a receipt that gives me that amount off on the cost of my groceries.

7. You will be yelled at.  Don’t take it personally. Germans, for the most part, believe it is their right to tell you exactly what you are doing wrong, usually the recycling, and will explain in harsh tones how to do it correctly.

8. Jaywalking is verboten! In Australia, jaywalking is a national past time.  No one cares if you cross when the lights are red, but here in Germany, jaywalking is a scandalous act and you will be told in no uncertain terms to think of the children.

9. Sex shops have window displays.  In Australia, sex shops are usually on the first floor with a tiny sign pointing up a narrow staircase.  We like to pretend that they don’t really exist.  Here in Germany, they have window displays containing dildos, condoms and a range of racy lingerie.  Apparently, when it comes to sex shops no one thinks of the ‘damaging’ effect this might have on the children.

10. Don’t walk in the bike lane. Here in Germany bike lanes, for the most part, are on the footpath and are indicated by red brick.  Whatever you do, do not walk in the bike lane.  Cyclists will have no qualms about running you over.

11.  The most powerful sound in Germany is the bike bell.  Related to the above point, people move faster than they have ever moved in their life when they hear a bike bell and they do this without first looking for the bike.  If you hear a bike bell, move, then look.

12. What you think of as German is not actually German.  What is the first thing you think of when you think of Germany? I bet it involves lederhosen and big steins of beer.  However, these images are only from a small section of Germany- Bavaria and the rest of the country likes to pretend for the most part that Bavaria isn’t part of the Germany, the same way Australians like to think of Tasmania as separate (they even have the same jokes about Bavaria that we have about Tasmania).

13. Beer.  I know we like to think that Australians are champion beer drinkers but we have nothing on the Germans, nothing. Don’t even try to match a German drink for drink.  Just don’t do it.

14. Legal drinking age.  In Australia, it is 18 for all forms of alcohol.  In Germany, it is 16 for beer and 18 for hard liquor.  Therefore, it is no big thing to see teenagers buying large crates of beer at the supermarket.

15. The weather.  Unlike most parts of Australia, they actually have all four seasons in Germany and they really do have a huge effect on your mood.  There is nothing like the pure joy of seeing the first signs of spring after enduring a German winter.

16. Christmas makes sense.  I’m sorry, but the way we celebrate Christmas in Australia is just batshit insane. The fake snow and songs about how cold it is when it is 40C and you are dying of heat exhaustion is pure madness, as is the huge roast Christmas dinner that your grandmother bakes.  However, here in Germany, the roast dinners, Christmas carols and all the Christmas lights make sense.  It is usually snowing, freezing cold and dark. You need all the Christmas cheer you can get just to make it through the season.

17. The food.  Nothing beats German food.  It is hearty and there is usually plenty of it.  Your waistline will expand.  Just accept it.

18. The BBQ.  Now the BBQ is an Australian institution.  There is nothing more Aussie than a BBQ.  However, the Germans have something similar – the grill and the love that Germans have for grilling can almost rival the love an Australian has for BBQing. They even have a season called grill season, I kid you not, where every German will venture out to the park and grill.

19. Football (Soccer).  In Germany, they have no love for rugby league nor AFL.  Here football (soccer) is king. To be able to even attempt to fit into German society you have to know something about football and have a favourite team. Football is played for 9 months a year so if you want to talk to people at the pub then you have to at least have an option about Dortmund’s chances this year.

20. Punctuality. Unlike Australia, when being on time is being 20 minutes late, Germans are punctual and will regard any lateness as a sign of your moral failing.

21.  Public Transport.  It works here, it is on time and it is cheap. That is all you need to know.  Embrace it.

22.  The wildlife.  In Germany, the wildlife does not try to kill you.  You do not have to fear for your life if you stray off the path in the woods. In fact, it is kinda unnerving that going for a walk in the forest (bush) does not entail some kind of risk to your life.  Where is the fun in that?

23. Location. Location. Location.  Germany really is smack bang in the middle of Europe. It takes less time to fly from Hamburg to London then it does to drive from Sydney to Newcastle. From Germany, you can easily travel to anywhere in Europe.  Distance is almost irrelevant here.  Make the most of it.

Written as part of the Scintilla Project.
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23 thoughts on “23 Ways Germany Is Different to Australia

  1. So, so true! I could add the following

    When cooking your dinner, be prepare to wave or have a conversation with your next door neighbour as they are living very close to you. Mind you, this is in a housing estate, not an apartment block.

    The nature is green, not brown and dry. With the abundant rainfall, the forests in Germany gets green very fast after the winter has past. In Australia, the forests usually stays brown. Occasionally, it is a wet brown rather than a dry brown if a rain shower passes by.

    • Actually when I lived in Australia, I could chat to my neighbours when cooking dinner, but fortunately here I can’t see my neighbours from my kitchen window, which is nice.

      Totally agree about how green everything is in German though. It makes a nice change from the Australian bush.

  2. I think the decal I see on the back of fords, holdens and utes with the aussie continent or flag and the words “Fuck Off: We’re Full” with some minor adjusting could work very well in Germany.

    One of my memories of Germany and Austria were complaints about the Balkan europeans and Turks moving in.

    • As an ‘immigrant’ I take a pretty poor view of a country tells immigrants that they are not welcome. I hate that this has become a ‘popular’ view in Australia not only amongst sections of the population but our politicians as well.

  3. Oooh have to disagree with the food. I love a good schnitzel, but German food on the whole is not a patch on, for example, Greek or Italian or Thai. Too much processed meat, too much potato, not enough greenery!

  4. What a great post! I had no idea that things were expensive in Australia even though i’ve had many Aussie friends and roommates until my brother moved their for a year. If I have to hear how expensive the bananas were one more time, I swear it’ll be too soon.

  5. Very interesting and partly exposing comparisons and list.
    As a German I’ m often not aware of many of our characteristics and sometimes oddness ;-)

    Some items in the list are true of Hamburg, but not (so much) of other places in Germany, e. g. no. 9, 10, 11, 21,….

  6. thanks for sharing! Most of the comparisons to Germany by English-speakers are based on the US or UK, so I really enjoyed hearing the Aussie perspective. I had no idea it was so expensive there, but it’s been almost 10 years since I visited…

    I quickly got used to the sex shops, since I passed a Beate Uhse at least 2x per day near my office. But it made me do a double-take when I saw a man trying to wrestle a large pram through the door. My prudish American side was shocked by taking a baby in there, but when I thought about it more I thought hmm…pretty cool he’s sharing in the childcare and keeping romance alive in his relationship.

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  8. So funny to read! :D I’m german and I was never aware of the fact, that we’re recycling in such a difficult way xD

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