The culture and traditions in Germany have been around for centuries. Despite several struggles in the past, their rich heritage still speaks through their art, architecture, literature, festivals, and cuisine. Their customs and traditions are based on punctuality, discipline, and efficiency. Listed below are some of the most common customs everyone is expected to follow in the country.
- Handshakes and Guten Tag are the best ways of greeting both those you know and those you don’t.
- Reaching the party, luncheon, or business meeting early or late are both considered signs of inefficiency.
- Germans value cleanliness in all places, be it at home or on the streets.
- While drinking with someone it is customary to maintain eye contact when saying cheers, or else you will be considered rude.
- If invited for a luncheon or dinner, gifting is expected. Popular gifts include yellow roses (not red roses or carnations or lilies or chrysanthemums; each has a different significance), imported wine, and sweet treats.
- The international norms in table etiquette are followed in Germany. For instance, the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right.
Art and Architecture
The art and architecture in Germany are reminiscent of the strong cultural and historical influences in the country. The churches, palaces, universities, and many other buildings and monuments across Germany display the rich creations and designs of their artists and architects. Beginning in the time when much of Germany was under Roman rule (Romanesque Period), there are structures like the Cathedrals in Mainz, Worms, and Speyer that show the influence and power of the Romans in the country. After they left the nation, other architectural styles came forward, like the French Gothic (in the Cathedral in Cologne), German-influenced Gothic (in the Church of St. Sebald in Nuremberg), Baroque (in the Residenz in Würzburg), and the contemporary Bauhaus style (in the Jewish Museum in Berlin). Across the centuries, there have also been a number of sculptors and painters, who have made adorable creations in wood, stone and canvas, such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger, Matthias Grünewald, Käthe Kollwitz, Franz MarcWalter Gropius, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Literature in the German language has gone through multiple changes since the Middle Ages. Over the years, it has found influences from the old German traditions, then the literary scenario in Europe, and later the political situations, especially during the Nazi regime. Famous literary works in German include the Grimm Fairytales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Tristan und Isolde by Gottfried Von Strassburg, Essais de Théodicée or “Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil” by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Also Sprach Zarathustra or “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche, and numerous others in a variety of genres and themes. Till 2013, German writers have won 13 Nobel Prizes in Literature, the last being in 2009, by Herta Muller.
Germany has a modern, liberal, and globalized society, maintaining a high living standard. The people value education and family. They enjoy gender equality and are tolerant of homosexuals. In the past decade, they have started to acknowledge the ethnocultural diversity in the country.
In the present times, traditional clothing in Germany is worn only during special occasions like weddings and festivals. If you wish to get a glimpse of the rich traditions Germany has in terms of fashion, attend the Oktoberfest. The local crowd usually like dressing up traditionally; women in their Dirndl in vibrant colors, and men in their Lederhosen. Dirndl is a traditional women’s attire that comprises a fitting bodice and blouse with a skirt and apron. According to customs, the married women’s apron is knotted. Lederhosen is leather trousers for men. It is worn either short (above the knee) or long (as a Capri, just below the knee). Men often pair the lederhosen with a light-colored shirt and haferl shoes.
Germans love their cuisine, and so does the entire world. From sausages to the sumptuous Black Forest Cherry Cake, no one does it better than a German. In the country, each region features its own style of cooking, dishes, and tastes.
So, if in Bavaria veal sausages and pork knuckles are praised, Hamburg offers labskaus stew, and Saxony swears by their stollen cake. The different regions are basically influenced by their individual histories and the country they are location-wise closest to. The only common factor it seems is the love for different types of bread, potatoes, and meat. Some of the most popular gastronomical delicacies in Germany are Sauerbraten (pickled meat), Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage), Butterbrezel (buttered soft pretzels), Eintopf (traditional German stew), Knodel (potato dumplings), Apfelstrudel (literally, apple strudel), Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake), Schnitzel (meat cutlet), and Wurst (Sausages).
Festivals in Germany
According to the official tourism website of Germany, the country hosts about three million events each year, many of which are specific to the city or town and month. These events include religious festivals, cultural carnivals, and ‘funfairs’. The most popular festivals and carnivals in Germany include the following:
- Oktoberfest – Originally held in Munich, this 16-day extravaganza constitutes gallons of beer, millions of roasted meat, and more than 200 years of traditions.
- Wine Festival – Wine festivals are organized in a number of locations in the wine-producing regions of Germany, like Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Mainz. The largest wine festival in the world is in Bad Dürkheim, which is popularly known as Wurstmarkt.
- Schützenfest – This ten-day fair held in Hannover highlights a procession by over 10,000 riflemen.
- Christmas Markets – This December shopping fair is held in over 150 places in Germany and features hand-crafted, unique, and homemade treats and gifts sold by their makers. Nuremberg and Dresden are famous for their Christmas markets.