10 Astonishing Things I Didn’t Expect The First Time I Went To Germany 😱

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Discovering the unexpected can turn a simple journey into an unforgettable adventure. This was precisely my experience the first time I ventured into Germany—a country rich in culture, history, and surprising elements that defy the typical stereotypes. What unfolded was a series of revelations that not only broadened my understanding but also deepened my appreciation for this fascinating country.

Germany, with its robust economy and historical significance, has always been on the radar of avid travelers and history buffs alike. However, it was the under-the-radar aspects of German life that caught me off guard. Simple, everyday occurrences and cultural norms provided me with a unique lens through which to view and understand German society.

10 things I did not expect in GermanyPin

This article is an attempt to capture some of those unexpected moments and share them. Whether it’s the environmental consciousness deeply embedded in daily life or the surprisingly diverse culinary landscape beyond the famous bratwurst and beer, Germany holds surprises at every corner, waiting to challenge and enchant its visitors.

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10 Astonishing Things I Didn’t Expect The First Time I Went To Germany

1. Sunday Quietness

In many parts of the world, Sundays are bustling with activity. However, in Germany, Sundays are sacredly quiet. This national day of rest is observed with most businesses closed, creating an atmosphere of calm that envelops both cities and smaller towns alike.

Streets that are usually busy become serene, offering a much-needed pause from the weekly hustle. This respect for a collective day off points to an ingrained societal value of work-life balance, personal time, and relaxation.

As a foreigner, experiencing this quietude was both surprising and refreshing. However, it did catch me off guard the first time, so make sure you prepare for shops being shut on Sundays. The exception is shops at train stations.

Read more about what to expect on a Sunday in Germany here.

Closed signPin
Closed sign

2. Environmental Consciousness

The German approach to sustainability is deeply integrated into daily life. Their proactive stance on environmental issues surpasses simple recycling efforts, evident in the extensive use of renewable energy sources and public spaces designed for green living.

Cities and towns boast accessible green spaces and prioritize pedestrian and bicycle traffic, encouraging a lifestyle that reduces environmental impact. This widespread ecological mindfulness in Germany was not only inspiring but also a bit astonishing, showcasing a national commitment to a sustainable future that felt ahead of its time.

3. Bread Diversity

Germany’s bread culture is a revelation, surpassing simple expectations of rye or sourdough. Each visit to a local bakery unfolded as a delicious adventure, discovering the vast array of bread types on offer.

From dense, flavorful loaves to light, crispy rolls, the diversity is staggering. Bread in Germany is more than just a staple food; it represents a rich tradition of baking that speaks to regional identities and culinary pride.

This journey through Germany’s bakeries expanded my culinary horizons and deepened my appreciation for the country’s artisanal heritage.

Read our full guide to German bread here.

Saunas in GermanyPin

4. Cash Is King

The preference for cash transactions in Germany stands in stark contrast to the digital payment trend dominating elsewhere. From markets to local eateries, the expectation to pay with physical currency is widespread, highlighting a societal emphasis on privacy and financial prudence.

This reliance on cash, intertwined with a cautious approach to personal data, reflects broader German values around privacy and security. Adapting to this aspect of daily life offered a glimpse into a cultural peculiarity that persists in an increasingly digital world.

5. The Sauna Culture

Germany’s sauna culture embodies a communal approach to wellness and relaxation. Far from being a luxurious amenity, saunas are a regular part of life, frequented for their health benefits and social aspect.

The no-frills, nude sauna experience might challenge outsiders, yet it underscores a straightforward attitude toward the human body and wellness. This tradition, promoting cleanliness and health in a communal setting, was an unexpected avenue to understanding the juxtaposition of privacy and openness within German culture.

Read more about visiting German saunas here.


6. Seasonal Celebrations

Seasonal festivals in Germany are more than just lively events; they are a deep-rooted part of the cultural fabric, with each region showcasing its own customs and culinary specialties. From spring festivities to autumn harvest celebrations, these events are heartfelt expressions of local heritage and community spirit.

Participating in these celebrations, especially the enchanting Christmas markets, offered a warm glimpse into the communal joy that seasons bring to German life. It was an immersion in tradition that brought to light the richness of Germany’s cultural diversity.

Find our list of the best Christmas markets here.

7. Apfelschorle

Amidst globally popular sodas, Germany’s preference for Apfelschorle, a refreshing mix of apple juice and sparkling water, was a delightful discovery. This popular beverage exemplifies the German taste for natural, less sugary options, seamlessly fitting into the country’s health-conscious ethos.

Enjoying an Apfelschorle in a cozy café or during a summer outing, I found it to be a simple yet profound representation of Germany’s culinary leanings: straightforward, quality-focused, and deeply satisfying.

autobahn GermanyPin

8. The Autobahn Experience

Germany’s Autobahn, famed for its sections with no speed limits, offers an exhilarating driving experience unparalleled elsewhere. What’s remarkable is not just the possibility of high-speed travel but the discipline and respect demonstrated by drivers.

This balance of freedom and responsibility on the Autobahn mirrors wider societal values, emphasizing trust and mutual respect. The experience was a thrilling insight into a unique aspect of German culture, where efficiency and orderliness propel life at full speed.

9. Insurance for Everything

The extensive use of insurance for virtually every aspect of life in Germany was initially surprising. This approach to risk management, covering everything from personal liability to household items, reveals a national inclination toward thoroughness and preparedness.

Understanding this facet of German life illuminated a broader mindset valuing security and foresight. It’s a comprehensive way of living that prioritizes protection and safety in all endeavors, reflecting a deeply ingrained cultural trait of planning for the future.


10. Culinary Diversity Beyond Bratwurst and Beer

Exploring the full scope of German cuisine uncovered a world beyond the stereotypical beer and bratwurst. Each region boasts its own culinary identity, rich with dishes that reflect local history and influences.

The array of flavors extends from the coasts, with their seafood offerings, to the south with its hearty, rustic dishes. The culinary scene is also marked by an embrace of international cuisines, adding to the diversity on the plate.

This gastronomic journey was a revelation, showcasing the depth and breadth of German cuisine, where tradition and modernity deliciously intersect.

Don’t miss our guide to ten things you have to eat in Germany here.

Venturing into Germany for the first time, I was met with experiences that reshaped my preconceived notions and unveiled the multifaceted charm of this country. From the surprising quietude of Sundays to the culinary diversity that extends well beyond its famed sausages and beer, each discovery was a chapter in a story that defied stereotypes and invited curiosity.

The depth of German culture, with its rich traditions, environmental ethos, and communal warmth, left an indelible mark on my understanding of what makes this country truly unique. These revelations not only enriched my travels but also expanded my appreciation for the beauty of diving into the unknown, making every moment in Germany a delightful lesson in the joy of exploration.

Looking for more information about Germany? Find all our cultural guides here. You may also enjoy our list of things you need to know before visiting Germany here as well as our list of the biggest differences between the US and Germany here.

Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!


      1. I lived in Germany for 13 years and loved every minute of it . Wish i could go back and stay forever.

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