8 signs you've been Germanised

8 signs you've been Germanised

Slowly, little by little, living in Germany changes you. You often don't realise how many peculiar German habits and quirks - the ones you thought were completely bonkers when you first arrived - you have picked up until you go home and suffer from reverse culture shock. Here are eight tell-tale signs that you've been Germanised.  

1. You yell "Mahlzeit" at strangers

If you’ve ever worked in a German office, you’ll have a vivid memory of the first time someone said “Mahlzeit” to you. Maybe it was your first day, and you were just settling down to your lunchtime sandwiches. A colleague marched up to you and joyfully shouted, “Mahlzeit!” “Meal time?” you thought. “Ja!” you said. Everybody probably laughed. 

Mahlzeit comes from “gesegnete Mahlzeit”, literally meaning “blessed mealtime”, and back in the day would have been used as a more devout alternative to “guten Appetit”. Nowadays, it functions as a standard lunchtime greeting in workplaces across Germany. Nothing makes you feel more like a local than marching the corridors at work, throwing out Mahlzeits to your passing colleagues and getting a cheery “Mahlzeit!” in return. 

2. You hiss when someone crosses on the red man

When you first arrived in Germany, you probably thought you were far too busy and important to wait for the Ampelmann to finally change to green. With a pointed look left and right, you would amble across the empty road, feeling smugly superior, while your German fellows stayed glued to the pavement, waiting for the green light. 

Gradually, however, you became attuned to the hundreds of pairs of eyes boring a hole in the back of your head, branding you the worst kind of person. You became less and less willing to step off the kerb and face the accusatory stares. Almost without noticing it, you began to wait meekly for the signal. Now, when you see others crossing the road on red, you close your eyes in shame.

3. You always carry round a pocket full of coins

As you’re slowly coming to realise, excelling at life in Germany is all about preparation. In Germany, where cash is king, that means carrying around a tidy wad of cash, ready to whip out in any of the umpteen situations where there’s not a card reader present. Some people would be surprised about having to pay in cash at the doctor, but this is Germany and you know better. 

And you don’t even worry about having loads of leftover loose coins, because you’re well-prepared. When your supermarket bill comes to 10 euros and seven cents, and the cashier holds out their hand expectantly, you cry, “Don’t worry, I have the seven cents!” 

4. You wince when someone puts something in the wrong recycling bin

You used to live in a crazy world where you had only one bin for all of your rubbish. Now, however, you have a blue bin for paper, a brown or green bin for biodegradables, a yellow bin for plastic, a green or white bin for glass and a black bin for all the rest - not to mention one of those snazzy shopping bags on wheels that you use to trundle all your Pfand bottles back to the supermarket once a week. 

You obediently separate your rubbish, like a good little German, and collect your Pfand receipts with glee, conveniently forgetting that it was your money in the first place. When your friends come to visit from your home country, they gulp down the last dregs of their German beer and assume (logically, but wrongly) that the bottle belongs in the glass bin. “Hey!” you exclaim. “I can get eight cents back for that!”

5. You rejoice when Spargel season arrives 

Nothing makes a seasoned German like yourself happier than the arrival of Spargelzeit (asparagus season), those glorious few weeks in April and May when the whole country gets gripped by asparagus fever. At first, you probably thought all of the pop-up stalls, asparagus-only menus and “FRISCHER SPARGEL” signs were a bit over the top, but now you’ve come to realise that they signify the glorious end to months of eating nothing but cabbage and potatoes. 

The truth is, the sight of the first tender white stems on supermarket shelves is your personal signal that spring has finally arrived. When it comes to food, the Germans are properly in tune with the seasons, and that kind of enthusiasm is infectious. 

6. You bring your own cake to work on your birthday

In your own country, it was probably the norm that people gave you stuff on your birthday. So your first birthday in the German office was quite an awkward affair: you felt offended that no one had made an effort, while all your colleagues impatiently jiggled their feet, wondering when on earth you were going to crack out the cake. 

Now, however, you know that, in Germany, if you expect people to celebrate with you on your birthday, you are expected to provide the sustenance. You bring your own cake (preferably a hideously garish confection covered with enough whipped cream to feed an entire office block) and pass out a slice to everyone, including the people you’ve never spoken to before. You even have your own handy portable cake knife. 

7. You know the exact size of your apartment in square metres

In your home country, they measure apartments by rooms. So the following would be a perfectly acceptable conversation: “I’m moving into a new place!” “Oh yeah, is it big?” “Not bad, two bedrooms and a massive living room.” “Nice!”

But in Germany, as you’ve probably realised by now, people like statistics, and that means you need to know the exact size of your apartment in square metres. Otherwise, how would you know if you’re getting a good deal or not? So, in Germany, you know the only appropriate response would be, “Oh, ja, my rent is 2.500 euros for 113 square metres, and I used to pay 2.000 for just 69 square metres, so I’m really happy.”

8. You own at least one Jack Wolfskin item of clothing

As the old German saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. As a nation, the Germans are serious about outdoor clothing. That means dressing for all four seasons before you leave your house in the morning - preferably in Jack Wolfskin - so that you’ll be amply prepared for any kind of phenomenon the weather throws your way. 

It also means you wouldn’t be seen dead outside without your coat, hat, scarf and proper waterproof shoes until at least mid-April. It doesn’t matter if it’s boiling hot and sunny, the conditions could change at the drop of a hat! 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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TomRosek2 12:25 | 29 October 2020

The first 7 are spot on, but number 8 is not. I've been in Germany since 1988, and I do not own anything from Jack Wolfskin, and neither does anyone in my family.