Travel Tips For Germany

I guess since I live here I should post something about Germany. Here's a list of the travel tips that our visiting friends have found most useful. They apply to Germany, although some may apply to other places as well.

  1. Never rent a car at the airport. Renting at the airport adds about 20% to the cost of the rental. It's much better to hop on the U-bahn and rent at an off-airport site.
  2. When eating at a German restaurant, if they give you a copy of the menu only in English, always ask for an extra copy in German. Very often the English translations will be incomprehensible or over translated (such as "cabbage in vinegar" instead of "sauerkraut"). The dishes on the German menu will usually be recognisable enough that in the cases where the English makes no sense, the German menu can provide a clue.
  3. When eating at a German restaurant, asking for water will get you bottled water, often sparkling. Asking for tap water will get you a blank stare. "Leitungswasser" (Ly-toongs-vasser) is the word you're looking for. It means tap water.
  4. Don't overestimate distance. When trying to get a flight into Germany from the US, especially on reward miles, it can be hard to find a reasonable flight to the exact airport you want. Be sure to check near by airports. We live near Munich, but when looking for flights, we look at Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt. With the Autobahns and the trains, distance is not really much of an issue.
  5. Crime in Germany is pretty minimal. Don't panic. Walking around in the middle of the night alone is actually pretty safe, depending on where you are. Ask the locals to be sure. There's no need to plan your whole trip around safety, or skip an attraction because it involves a dark alley. In Germany the worst that is likely to happen is a polite mugging, and those are pretty rare. Pickpockets are a little more common, but only in the really major cities. Berlin is the only one I worry about. Maybe Hamburg.
  6. If you're American, say so. Germans don't generally like foreigners of any kind, but they consider (still!) Americans to be the only good foreigners. And just because you're speaking English, don't expect that they can tell you're American. Most Germans can't tell the difference between an American accent and a British accent, or even a French accent. Being on the other side, I can see why. I can usually only pick out the very obvious accents in German, such as Bavarian and Polish.
  7. Don't talk politics. The Germans tend to be very liberal. Plus, their image of America comes almost entirely from our media. They have all seen Bowling For Columbine. Unless you like being told that you're government and social politics are stupid, just skip the topic altogether or play dumb.

That should do it for now. If I think of any others I'll add them later. (See my next post.)

Comments:

Hi Dan,

Thank you for this great post, it's hilarious to read how we germans are seen from the outside :).

I'm sorry to read about germans disliking foreigners in general, that's probably more true for the countryside and less true for bigger cities such as Munich, Hamburg and especially Berlin.

Polish is a language of its own and not german, but I understand how german, polish, netherlands and even swedish and norway can sound similar to an english-speaking ear.

I have a couple of more tips for travelling of my own, I might distill them into a blog entry some time...

Posted by Constantin Gonzalez on July 27, 2004 at 11:27 PM PDT #

I absolutely agree that big cities are much more tolerant of foreigners. However, regardless of whether you're in a big city, I find it's better to be thought to be an American than a Brit. I think the problem is that the Germans dislike the Brits for disliking the Germans for that whole WWII thing. As an American, I have found the Germans to be very friendly and (perhaps too) helpful.

When I said Polish, I meant speaking German with a Polish accent. I know a few Poles who have moved to Germany, and their accents are unmistakable. Rather like a French accent when speaking English.

If you liked these, wait for the next batch I have queued up. ;)

Posted by Daniel Templeton on July 27, 2004 at 11:40 PM PDT #

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