STUDY IN GERMANY -
LIVing in germany
Social Conventions: Handshaking
is customary. Normal courtesies should be observed
and it is common to be offered food and refreshments
when visiting someone’s home. Before eating,
it is normal to say Guten Appetit to the other
people at the table to which the correct reply
is Ebenfalls. It is customary to present the hostess
with unwrapped flowers (according to tradition,
one should always give an uneven number and it
is worth noting that red roses are exclusively
a lover’s gift). Courtesy dictates that
when entering a shop, restaurant or similar venue,
visitors should utter a greeting such as Guten
Tag (or Grüss Gott in Bavaria) before saying
what it is that they want; to leave without saying
Auf Wiedersehen can also cause offence. Similarly,
when making a telephone call, asking for the person
you want to speak to without stating first who
you are is considered rude. Casual wear is widely
acceptable, but more formal dress is required
for some restaurants, the opera, theatre, casinos
and important social functions. Evening wear is
worn when requested. Smoking is prohibited where
notified and on public transport and in some public
buildings. Visitors should be prepared for an
early start to the day with businesses, schools,
etc opening at 0800 or earlier. It is very common
practice to take a mid-afternoon stroll on Sunday;
town and city centres at this time are often very
animated places, in stark comparison with Saturday
afternoons when, owing to the early closing of
shops, town centres can seem almost deserted.
Tipping: It is customary to tip taxi drivers,
hairdressers, cloakroom attendants and in bars,
and a 10 per cent tip in restaurants.
|Local Customs & Culture
Food & Drink: The main meal
of the day in Germany tends to be lunch with a
light snack eaten at about 1900 in the evening.
Breakfast served in homes and hotels usually consists
of a boiled egg, bread rolls with jam, honey,
cold cuts and cheese slices. Available from snack
bars, butcher shops, bakers and cafes are grilled,
fried or boiled sausages (Wurst) with a crusty
bread roll or potato salad. There are also bread
rolls filled with all kinds of sausage slices,
hot meat filling (such as Leberkäse), pickled
herring, gherkins and onion rings or cheese. In
bakeries, Strudel with the traditional apple filling,
a variety of fruits and fromage frais is available.
There is also an astonishingly wide variety of
breads. A set menu meal in a simple Gasthof or
cafe usually includes three courses: soup is the
most popular starter. The main meal consists of
vegetables or a salad, potatoes, meat and gravy.
For pudding, there is often a sweet such as a
blancmange, fruit or ice cream. Restaurants often
serve either beer or wine. Cakes and pastries
are normally reserved for the afternoon with Kaffee
und Kuchen (‘coffee and cakes’) taken
at home or in a cafe. Cafes serving Kaffee und
Kuchen are not only to be found in cities, towns
and villages but also at or near popular excursion
and tourist spots. International speciality restaurants,
such as Chinese, Greek, Turkish and others, can
be found everywhere in the western part of the
country. Waiter or waitress service is normal
although self-service restaurants are available.
Bakeries and dairy shops specialise in lighter
meals if preferred. Local regional specialities
cover an enormous range:
Frankfurt and Hesse: Rippchen
mit Sauerkraut (spare ribs) and of course Frankfurter
sausages and Ochsenbrust with green sauce, Zwiebelkuchen
(onion flan) and Frankfurter Kranz cream cake.
Westphalia and Northern Rhineland: Rheinischer
Sauerbraten (beef marinaded in onions, sultanas,
pimento, etc), Reibekuchen (potato fritters),
Pfeffer-Potthast (spiced beef with bay leaves)
and Moselhecht (Moselle pike with creamy cheese
sauce). Westphalia is also famous for its smoked
ham, sausages and bread such as Pumpernickel.
Nightlife: In all larger towns
and cities in western Germany and also in the
major eastern cities visitors will have the choice
between theatre, opera (Hamburgische Staatsoper,
Deutsche Oper Berlin and the National Theatre
in Munich are some of the most famous names),
nightclubs, bars with live music and discos catering
for all tastes. Berlin, in particular, is famous
for its large selection of after-hours venues.
Traditional folk music is found mostly in rural
areas. There are Bierkellers in the south and
wine is drunk in small wine cellars in the Rhineland
Palatinate, Franconia and Baden region.
Shopping: Special purchases
include precision optical equipment such as binoculars
and cameras, porcelain, handmade crystal, silver,
steelware, Solingen knives, leatherwear, sports
equipment, toys from Nuremberg and Bavarian Loden
cloth. Special purchases in eastern Germany include
musical instruments, wooden carved toys from the
Erzgebirge Mountains, and Meissen china (the workshops
in Meissen are open to the public). Shopping hours:
Shops can regulate their own opening hours within
these times Mon-Fri 0600-2000, Sat 0600-1600.
Smaller shops may close 1300-1500 for lunch. All
shops, except a few bakeries, are closed on Sunday.
RAIL: Several InterCity and
ICE connections are on offer running every 1-2
hours on the following routes: Berlin–Frankfurt/M–Karlsruhe,
and Hamburg–Berlin–Dresden with direct
links to Prague. The ICE-Business-Sprinter runs
non-stop on the following routes: Frankfurt/M–Hannover,
Karlsruhe–Hamburg and Frankfurt/M–Munich.
Seats on these services have to be booked in advance;
yearly ticket holders can use the Sprinters without
surcharge. Generally, reservations are advised
on all services. Children under six years of age
travel free of charge; those aged six to 11 pay
half fare; young people aged 12-26 pay 75 per
cent of the standard fare. For latest information
leaflets, contact German Rail in the UK.
German National Railways (Deutsche Bahn) operates
some 32,684 passenger trains each day over a 40,800km
(25,500-mile) network and many international through
services. Work on the 3200km (2000-mile) fast-train
network has already started and should be completed
by 2010. The network does not radiate around the
capital as the federal structure provides an integrated
system to serve the many regional centres. InterCity
Express, InterCity, EuroCity and InterRegio departure
and arrival times are co-ordinated with each other.
More than 50 cities, including Berlin, Leipzig,
Erfurt and Dresden, are served hourly by InterCity
trains – and increasingly by InterCity Express
trains; regional centres are connected every two
hours (west Germany), or every 2-4 hours in the
eastern part of the country, through the InterRegio
system. Details of up-to-date prices, and where
tickets can be bought, are available from German
Rail (website: http://www.bahn.de)
or the Tourist Office.
Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa introduced an innovative
project from March 2001 aimed at replacing internal
German flights with more environmentally friendly
rail transport. For travellers using Frankfurt
airport wanting to transfer to or from Stuttgart,
train and flight timetables will be coordinated;
one ticket will cover the whole journey and check
in/check out will take place at Stuttgart Station.
Boarding the train with just hand luggage, the
travellers can pick up their suitcases at the
flight destination or Stuttgart Station. This
offer is currently available for every airport
Lufthansa flies to from Frankfurt (except Tel
Facilities and services: Buffet
cars with some seating for light refreshments
and drinks are provided on InterRegio (IR) trains.
Most InterCity and EuroCity trains carry a 48-seat
restaurant, offering a menu and drinks throughout
the journey. The newer generation InterCity Express
trains combine both of the above-mentioned facilities,
offering a selection of snacks and menu in their
restaurant cars. First-class passengers are provided
with ‘at-your-seat’ service. The InterCity
Express also provides a service car with conference
compartment, card telephones and fully equipped
office (photocopier, fax, etc). Sleeping cars:
Many have showers, and air-conditioning is provided
on most long-distance overnight trains. Beds can
be booked in advance. Some trains provide couchettes
instead. Sleeping-car attendants serve refreshments.
Seat reservations should be made for all long-distance
trains well in advance. When reserving a seat
on InterCity, EuroCity and InterCity Express trains,
specify Grossraumwagen, which is a carriage with
adjustable seats and without compartments, or
Abteilwagen, which is made up of compartments.
Bicycle hire: At approximately 260 stations in
areas suited for cycle tours, the DB operates
a bicycle hire service (ticket holders have special
reduced rates). Mountain railways: Cable cars,
chairlifts or cogwheel railways serve all popular
Rail passes: The following is
a selection of rail passes available on German
railways. Details may change and travellers are
advised to check with Deutsche Bahn. Some passes
can only be purchased outside Germany (see Note
Saverticket: Available for a
return journey on 1 weekend or within 1 month.
for a return journey on a Saturday or within 1
month (not valid Friday, Sunday and during peak
Twenticket: Available for second-class
single or return journeys for regional and long-distance
travel between the ages of 12 and 25. Valid for
up to 2 months, the ticket gives up to 20 per
cent discount on the regular fare.
Happy Weekend Ticket: Available
for up to 5 persons travelling together at a weekend,
from Sat-Mon (0200). Valid on all local trains,
Inter-Rail: Available to all,
but for those aged over 26, tickets are approximately
40 per cent more expensive. 4 different tickets
are available. Europe is split into 8 zones (A-H)
and the pass is valid for an unlimited number
of train journeys in the zones chosen, which now
include Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic
of Macedonia, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro.
The Global Pass is valid for 1 month in all 8
zones (32 countries, including Morocco, Turkey
and the ferry connection Brindisi–Patras).
Other tickets cover just 1 zone (2-7 countries,
15 days validity), 2 zones (6-10 countries, 1
month validity) and 3 zones (9-15 countries, 1
month validity). Reductions of 50 per cent are
offered in the country of residence for travel
to the border and back as well as transit journeys.
The Inter-Rail ticket is only available for second-class
travel and does not include the use of certain
services such as the X2000 in Sweden, the Pendolino
in Italy or the AVE in Spain. Certain other trains
BahnCard: The BahnCard ticket
offers half-price rail travel with a choice of
first- or second-class travel and is valid for
1 year. In addition, there are reduced versions
for married couples, families, senior citizens,
young people and children.
Good Evening Ticket: This ticket
is available only in Germany. It offers travel
on nearly all routes within Germany for a flat
fare between 1900-0300 daily except Christmas,
Easter and other major travelling dates. The ticket
has to be bought at the station of departure.
Motorail: The German Railway
has a fully integrated motorail network, connecting
with the rest of the European motorail network.
Trains run mostly during the summer and at other
holiday periods; most have sleeper, couchette
and restaurant/buffet cars (for details see the
ROAD: Traffic drives on the
right. The Federal Republic of Germany is covered
by a modern network of motorways (Autobahnen).
There are over 487,000km (303,000 miles) of roads
in all, and every part of the country can be reached
by motorists. Use of the network is free at present,
but the introduction of a road toll is being discussed.
Lead-free petrol is obtainable everywhere. The
breakdown service of the German Automobile Association
(ADAC) is available throughout the country, though
in the eastern part of the country, the Auto Club
Europa (ACE) and the Allgemeiner Deutscher Motorsportverband
(ADMV) also provide a service. Help is given free
of charge to members of affiliated motoring organisations,
such as the AA, and only parts have to be paid
for. Breakdown services, including a helicopter
rescue service, are operated by the ADAC. In the
event of a breakdown, use emergency telephones
located along the motorway. When using these telephones,
ask expressly for road service assistance (‘Strassenwachthilfe’).
In almost all cases, the number to dial for emergency
services is 110; if in doubt, dial the fire brigade,
112. Although motorways in eastern Germany are
of a reasonable standard, many secondary roads
are still being improved to match West German
standards. Bus: Buses serve villages and small
towns, especially those without railway stations.
Operated by the Post, German Railways or private
firms, they only tend to run between or to small
places and there are few long-distance services.
Europabus/Deutsche Touring runs services on special
scenic routes such as the Romantic Road (Wiesbaden/Frankfurt
to Munich/Füssen) and the Castle Road between
Mannheim/Heidelberg to Rothenburg and Nuremberg.
Taxi: These are available everywhere.
Visitors should watch out for waiting-period charges
and surcharges. All taxis are metered.
Car hire: Self-drive cars (companies
include Avis, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt) are available
at most towns and at over 40 railway stations.
Chauffeur-driven cars are available in all large
towns. Rates depend on the type of car. Some firms
offer weekly rates including unlimited mileage.
VAT at 16 per cent is payable on all rental charges.
On request, cars will be supplied at airports,
stations and hotels. Several airlines, including
Lufthansa, offer ‘Fly-drive’. Contact
the National Tourist Office for details.
Motoring organisations: The
Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil Club (ADAC) (website:
http://www.adac.de) based in
Munich and the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD)
(website: www.avd.de) based in Frankfurt/M have
offices at all major frontier crossings and in
the larger towns. They will be able to assist
foreign motorists, particularly those belonging
to affiliated motoring organisations. They also
publish maps and guidebooks, which are available
at their offices. German Automobile Association
(ADAC) operates an emergency service to relay
radio messages to motorists. In both winter and
summer, there are constant radio reports on road
conditions and traffic.
Documentation: Foreign travellers
may drive their cars for up to one year if in
possession of a national licence or International
Driving Permit and car registration papers. Insurance
is legally required. EU nationals taking their
own cars are strongly advised to obtain a Green
Card. Without it, insurance cover is limited to
the minimum legal cover; the Green Card tops this
up to the level of cover provided by the car owner’s
HOTELS: There is a good selection
of hotels in the Federal Republic of Germany and
comprehensive guides can be found at the German
National Tourist Office. They can also provide
the German Hotel Association Guide, published
by the Deutscher Hotel- und Gaststättenverband
(DEHOGA), Am Weidendamm 1A, 10873 Berlin (tel:
(30) 726 252/0; fax: (30) 726 252/42; e-mail:
email@example.com; website: www.dehoga.de). Approximately
50 per cent of establishments offering accommodation
in Germany belong to the association, which can
supply further information on accommodation in
A special accommodation guide for the disabled
Hilfe für Behinderte is available through
Bundesverband Selbsthilfe Körperbehinderter
e.V (BSK), Altkrautheimer Strasse 20, 74238 Krautheim
(tel: (6294) 42810; fax: (6294) 428179; website:
hotels are situated in old castles, palaces and
monasteries. Alongside these are modern, comfortable
hotels on well-planned and purpose-built premises.
Examples of accommodation for a family on holiday
is a country inn offering bed, breakfast and meals.
More demanding visitors are also well catered
for with medium to luxury hotels. The German hotel
trade is extremely well equipped with facilities
from swimming pools and saunas to exercise gyms.
When touring the country with no fixed itinerary,
it is obviously often difficult to make reservations
in advance. Watch out for Zimmer frei (vacancies)
notices by the roadside, or go to the local Tourist
Office (usually called Verkehrsamt). Visitors
should try to get to the town where they want
to stay the night by 1600, particularly in summer.
Grading: DEHOGA (website: http://www.hotelsterne.de)
introduced hotel grading in 1996. This follows
the usual grading of 1-5 stars.
Gasthof: A ‘Gasthof’
(inn) must provide the same facilities as a hotel
except for the common rooms such as a lounge,
etc. 30 per cent of establishments fall into this
Pension: A ‘Pension’
must provide accommodation and food only for guests.
It does not have to provide a restaurant for non-residents
nor does it have to provide any common rooms.
16 per cent of establishments fall into this category.
Hotel Garni: Provides accommodation
and breakfast only for guests. 27 cent of establishments
fall into this category.
HISTORIC HOLIDAYS: Information
about holidays in castles, stately mansions and
historic hostelries may be obtained by contacting
the National Tourist Office.
SELF-CATERING: All-in self-catering
deals are available that include sea travel to
a German or other Channel port, and accommodation
at the resort. The latter might be in anything
from a farmhouse to a castle. Details are available
from the German National Tourist Office.
YOUTH HOSTELS: There are 640
youth hostels throughout both eastern and western
Germany. They are open to members of any Youth
Hostel Association affiliated to the International
Youth Hostel Association. Membership can be obtained
from the YHA or Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk (German
Youth Hostel Organisation), Bismarckstrasse 8,
32756 Detmold (tel: (5231) 74010; fax: (5231)
740 149; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;
Reservation is advised during the high season
(and throughout the year in major cities).
CAMPING/CARAVANNING: There are
well over 2500 campsites in the Federal Republic
of Germany. They are generally open from April
to October, but 400 sites, mostly in winter sports
areas, stay open in the winter and have all necessary
facilities. (Campsites in the eastern part of
the country are of a very basic standard.) The
permission of the proprietor and/or the local
police must always be sought before camp is pitched
anywhere other than a recognised campsite. It
is not normally possible to make advance reservations
on campsites. A free map/folder giving details
of several hundred selected campsites throughout
the country is available from the German National
Tourist Board. The German Camping Club publishes
a camping guide of the best sites in Germany;
contact Deutscher Camping-Club (DCC), Mandlstrasse
28, 80802 Munich (tel: (89) 380 1420; fax: (89)
334 737; e-mail:
email@example.com; website: http://www.camping-club.de).
The AA Guide to Camping and Caravanning on the
Continent lists nearly 2000 European campsites,
including a large section on Germany.
There is a reciprocal health agreement with the
UK. On presentation of the form E111 (obtainable
from post offices in the UK), UK citizens are
entitled to free medical and dental treatment.
Prescribed medicines may, in some cases, have
to be paid for. The cost of treatment in public
hospitals (on referral from a doctor, unless in
emergencies) is covered by public health authorities,
except for a small daily charge from the start
of hospital treatment up to a maximum of 14 days.
Private insurance is recommended for specialist
medical treatment outside the German National
Health Service, which can be very expensive. Surgery
hours are generally 1000-1200 and 1600-1800 (not
Wednesday afternoon, Saturday or Sunday). ; additionally,
there is an emergency call-out service out of
surgery hours (1800-0700). Chemists are open Mon-Fri
0900-1800, Sat 0900-1200. All chemists give alternative
addresses of services available outside the normal
opening hours. There are 350 officially recognised
medical spas and watering places with modern equipment
providing therapeutic treatment and recreational
facilities for visitors seeking rest and relaxation.
A list of the spas and health resorts and various
treatments can be ordered from the German National
Tourist Office, or directly from Deutscher Heilbäderverband
e.V. (German Spas Association), Schumannstrasse
111, 53113 Bonn (tel: (228) 201 200; fax: (228)
201 2041; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org;