What I Learnt About Germany


Jayant Thatte writes about his experiences with German people and their culture during his stay in Deutschland over the summer as part of the DAAD programme.

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Berlin Wall

German people are punctual, very punctual.

I was going to Berlin using car pooling in my first month in Deutschland and I was supposed to meet the gentleman at 8:00 am. Old habits die hard and I arrived a few minutes late. At 8:02 I got a call from him. He sounded worried and he asked me if there was any misunderstanding about the time or venue. I learnt that in Deutschland, 8:00 is not the same as 7:59 or 8:01.

If a Deutsche-Bahn (one of the most efficient public transport networks in Europe) train is delayed by even five minutes, the train crew will apologise to the passengers for the delay. If you have fixed a meeting with your friend and if your friend is German, he or she won’t come a minute late and not more than a few minutes early. Germans believe in coming exactly on time! It was really hard in the beginning to inculcate this habit, especially when one is used to ‘Indian Stretchable Time’.

Be Direct!

If you ask a German “Could you please get this for me on your way back from work?”, there’s a good chance that you will get a reply “I could. Should I?”. This is an extreme case, but in general German people prefer a more direct version: “Please get this for me”. They can be alarmingly direct at times, but they are not being rude, it’s just their way of conversing. I think Germans are bad at sarcasm. If you roll your eyes and say “Yeah, right!”, there’s a good chance that your friend will actually consider it as an affirmative reply!

Deutscher Fussball Bund

I got the chance to witness Champions League finals and Euro 2012 while in Deutschland. If on a working day, you find all offices vacant, all classrooms empty, all streets deserted, you can safely assume that there’s a Deutschland-vs-somebody football match in progress. Like most Europeans, Germans are crazy about football. Matches, followed by the celebrations and parties that run late into the night, are an integral part of life in Deutschland.

Rules and Principles

Deutschland has many rules and everyone follows every rule (except during football matches!). In the middle of the night, when there is no traffic and the streets are deserted, a lone German person walking by will stop at the pedestrian signal and cross the road only when the signal turns green. There was never checking of tickets in trams in Dresden in those three months. Yet, no one ever travels without a ticket.

Autobahns are known to be the best highways throughout the world and one of the few highway networks without a speed limit. And in spite of most cars travelling above 150 kmph (I once travelled at 200 kmph in a brand new Audi!), the Autobahn network is also known for its low mortality rate. This is made possible only because there are strict rules and every person follows them.

Germans always form a queue at railway stations, mess, offices and toilets. And unlike India where queues are two (in extreme cases, even three) dimensional, the queue is a single line, with people spacing themselves comfortably.

The Beer Nation

Beer is almost like a national drink in Deutschland. Beer is heavily subsidised so that students can afford it. It’s cheaper than bottled water! After dinner, we would usually sit on the lawns in a group and talk and play games while enjoying excellent quality German beer.

Language Problem?

In big cities like Berlin, München, Frankfurt etc, almost every person on the street knows English. In smaller cities, only people in universities know English well, but most often, in other offices too, one can find people who can manage to converse in English. So, language is not really a big issue.

My life in Germany

There was really nothing about life in Deutschland that I did not enjoy (except the use of tissue papers in toilets). I loved the food (my vegetarian friends would disagree). I learned to cook German and Romanian cuisines from my flatmates. Evenings were usually spent going around the city and socialising. All the people I met were very friendly, polite and warm-hearted people. They are very welcoming towards foreigners and they respect your beliefs and principles. I developed a feeling of belongingness towards this place. Along with a motherland I now also have a Vaterland.

Jayant ‘Jusi’ Thatte is 4th year dual degree student of the Electrical Engineering Department. He loves to write and enjoys philosophical discussions. He is passionate about technology, smartphones, aquatics, cycling and Linux.

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