1. Eye Contact- Every culture has a standard ‘staring time.’ That is, you can stare at a stranger on the street for a certain amount of time before it’s socially unacceptable. In America, it is approximately 0.5 seconds, but in Germany it is 3 seconds. I have found people staring at me for what seems like forever, but it is totally normal here!
2. Restaurant Etiquette- When you walk into a restaurant in Germany, you seat yourself. If there are no open tables, you should probably leave because people can keep their table forever with no pressure to leave. It is perfectly acceptable to sit at a table with open seats, even if there are other people at the table. Why should seats go to waste in a busy restaurant just because there are a few strangers next to you?
3. Voice Level- The above point emphasizes the need for a lower voice level. If you are sitting at the same table as strangers, you need to keep your voice lower so as not to disturb their conversation. Germans even move their heads closer together so they don’t have to raise their voices. The same applies on all public transportation.
4. ‘In Group’ vs. ‘Out Group’- In the German language, their is a clear distinction between formal and informal address that is not present in the English language. All adults must address their colleagues as ‘Sie’ instead of ‘Du.’ Only when they build a deep relationship can they switch to ‘Du.’ Once they do, they consider each other part of their ‘In-Group,’ or the group of people with whom they socialize regularly and can totally relax around. It is a BIG deal to join someones In Group.
5. Helpfulness- Germans are SO helpful. They are eager to help you with their language, give directions, and recommendations. They are more direct in their speech, as they value candor, which is actually very helpful to a foreigner who can’t always read into the subtext. They say what they mean and mean what they say.