How To Be Respectful Whilst Abroad: Germany

A picture of the skyline of Berlin at nighttime
Jacob Edwards

If you are new to travelling, or have less of a carbon footprint than I, you might find yourself wondering to what extent you should abide by the laws and cultures of wherever or whomever you may be visiting. Hopefully the following insight will assist you on your level of rowdiness.

This article will probably refer mostly to Germany throughout, because not only is it the place I have undoubtedly visited the most – and simply cannot get enough of – but it is also well-renowned for its pragmatism and plethora of societal and legal rules that the locals have to follow. 

One might not realise initially just how liberal England is until stepping off the platform and onto the pavement of Germany’s streets, whereupon one will encounter the first hurdle: jaywalking

What we do on a day-to-day basis in Britain – crossing the road carelessly, as if you had a death wish – is actually illegal in Germany, as well as other countries across the world. 

If caught, you could face a 70€ fine, as well as an evil glare from other passing pedestrians. It is this hard stare that haunts one across the country – you can always guarantee that if you are on the receiving end of it, it is probably a good time to look around and correct whatever it is you are apparently doing wrong.

Going with the flow with people who know how to safely, and legally, get about is a gateway to having a good time. 

The reasons are countless: it could be anything from walking on the wrong side of the pavement, or within the cycling lane, to asking for tap water in many restaurants, or separating the rubbish wrong. 

However, should you find yourself in a situation whereby the glance is given to you, as aforementioned, it is always best to simply stop what you are doing, read the room and blindly follow the lead of everyone around you. It is better to be a sheep than encounter awkwardness, or worse.

There can be many positives to letting loose a little and indulging in the culture and rules of another country too. 

Remember your ABCs: Apfelschorle – a kind of sparkling apple juice -, Bread and Coffee. These essentials to life in Germany, as well as summertimes spent in beer gardens of course, and living like a local can be amazingly appealing. 

Wherever you may find yourself, the most fun may be had when you throw all your prejudices and everything you thought you knew away, and just follow the lead of the locals. 

Going with the flow with people who know how to safely, and legally, get about is a gateway to having a good time. 

I have encountered countless wonderful human beings on my travels – obviously you can never be too careful, but often one can tell when another is at least somewhat trustworthy. 

This can even be simply asking a barista in a coffee shop or hostel staff for the best night out spots and good food, however it of course does help immensely if you already have a friend wherever you are visiting.

I would always advise that if you do have a friend in the area, hark upon them first and see if they have any advice – particularly if you are from a marginalised community and/or identify as LGBTQ+. 

When venturing outside the Western world, it is essential for one to research the basics.

Of course, incessant googling can also work wonders, but sometimes articles tend to hyperbolise or sensationalise the reality. 

For instance, one of my friends from Brunei enlightened me on the situation concerning LGBTQ+ rights over there. Although the consequences of such relations are rather extreme and quite literally life-threatening, the law is supposedly more nuanced than that and not quite as black and white as the media makes it out to be. 

That being said, it is still best to be careful, and rather than just avoid the place entirely (because what’s the fun in that?), it is once more best to just blend in.

When venturing outside the Western world, it is essential for one to research the basics. For example, certain amounts of alcohol and drinking in particular places is less tolerated in Islamic countries. 

Obviously, when in Germany, feel free to go all out, but equally don’t feel pressured to have to drink or do anything that you are not fond of, even if it is arguably part of the country’s core values.

With all that said, all there is to do now is reiterate that following the rules and immersing oneself in other countries’ culture can not only help you avoid the worst possible outcomes, but it can also get you stuck into situations you might not ever have imagined.

Now I find myself often on the other end of the German hard stare – handing it out to scallywags on the streets.

Jacob Edwards

Featured image courtesy of Stefan Widua via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.  

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