Photo: Sebastian Siebert/Shutterstock

6 Australian Habits I Lost in Germany

Australia Germany Student Work
by Rachel Bale Apr 27, 2015

1. Firing up the barbie in the park

It’s a stereotype, but it’s true: Aussies love a good barbie. The practice of firing it up on a balmy arvo is a summertime ritual. Not so in Germany. In order not to offend the nostrils of other park-goers with the nauseating aroma of charcoaled meat (who can stomach it, really?), in the majority of public places grilling is ‘verboten’. If you want to get your grill on, you’ll have to head to one of the small handful of designated ‘grilling zones’ across the city. And you better play by the rules — offending others with your barbecue smoke may cost you a hefty fine if caught.

2. Being offended by second-hand smoke

Whilst the waft of barbecue smoke can be offensive to Germans, interestingly, toxic cigarette smoke isn’t. The Germans love their coffin nails alright. While Germany generally appears to be at the forefront of innovation and policy in Europe, when it comes to anti-smoking legislation, it falls far behind. With Germans constituting one of the highest proportions of smokers in Europe, it’s undeniable that they love their lung lollies almost as much as they love their pork. A thick layer of smoke hangs persistently in the air at bars all over town. Australians, who are well informed and therefore rightly concerned about the health risks of second-hand smoke, may find that maintaining a social life while breathing clean air is not an easy feat in Germany.

3. Wearing thongs around town in summer

If it’s hot, Aussies slip on their thongs. Minds out of the gutter, folks. We’re talking footwear here. That’s flip-flops to those who aren’t from the land down under. Sweaty, smelly feet aren’t fun for anyone and so the preferred footwear of choice for the majority of Australians in summer is a pair of thongs, preferably Havaianas, whether one is beachside or city side. Don’t bother bringing them to Germany though. No German would ever don a pair of thongs unless they were either at the spa or were on vacation at the beach. Wearing thongs around town immediately paints a big, white ‘Tourist’ sign on your back.

4. Running errands on a Sunday

In Australia, Saturday is the day to chill out, recover from the working week — definitely not the day to rush around. Sleep-ins, lazy mornings, and a good brunch is the general order of the day. In Germany, if you think your Saturdays are for relaxing, think again. Saturday is when things need to get done. You better ensure that the grocery shopping is done, you’ve been to the post office, and you’ve picked up the dry-cleaning all by Saturday afternoon, because the whole nation shuts down on Sundays. This long-standing tradition is thanks to the German law of Ladenschlussgesetz, which is responsible for regulating opening hours and protecting the ‘day of rest’. Setting aside Sunday as a day for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) with friends and family has been ingrained in the German psyche for over a century.

5. Expecting friendly customer service

“G’day, how’s it goin’?”

Engaging in friendly chit-chat at the checkout or in a restaurant is the norm in Australia. There are smiles and more often than not a comment about the lack of rain or the price of avos in supermarkets these days. Australians who come to Germany should not expect the same level of friendliness. Germans aren’t a friendly bunch. At the checkout, after a curt ‘Guten Tag’, there will be no further interaction until the total bill cost is announced. No inquiry as to how you are, how your day has been, whether you have much planned for the weekend… Germans simply aren’t that interested in you. Small talk is a waste of their time.

6. Breaking the rules

Rules are meant to be broken, right? Not in Germany. Germans are notoriously law-abiding. Even if you don’t know that you’ve broken a rule, chances are a German will let you know. Aggressively. Even if it’s two in the morning and there isn’t a car in sight, God forbid you jaywalk. The little red man means that you do not have right of way. If you step across the street, especially if there are children around, be prepared for the Germans nearby to become a little aggro. But Aussies can’t really be held accountable for their rule-breaking tendencies, can they? These are more suggestions rather than rules, aren’t they? Our nation was founded as a penal colony, after all. It’s in our blood.

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