Integrating with the Germans

When you first move to Germany, learning the language will not be the only difficulty you will face. Integrating with the Germans can be demanding and time consuming, it requires a lot of effort and patience from you, that of course it’s if you are planning to make good friends – not only colleagues – and be fully integrated in the society.

The Germans are very nice and friendly people, but if you are willing to have them as true friends, and not only as co-workers or colleagues, there are a few things you might want to know and others that you should consider doing.

When I first moved to Germany I never imagined how long it would take me to find a real friend; that one you can tell everything about your life and have her/him doing the same. It took a while, effort, patience and I had to try hard. It was worth it, and here is my secret to making true German friends:

Know to respect the cultural differences

This rule does not only apply to the Germans. In any country you are going to live, you need to accept and understand that their culture is different from yours. It is not wrong, right, better or worse than yours, but different. Keep in mind that you are not going to change them, you will need to change yourself to adapt, and complaining will definitely not help you.

Speak the language

I am not saying that you need to speak perfect German to interact with them. It took me over 1 year to start having a normal conversation with the Germans without switching to English by the end of the talk.

What I am saying is, show that you are interested in learning their language. They know that German is very hard, but leaning how to say the basics such as Hi, How are you, cheers and bye is already a big step, and they appreciate that. If you are in the learning process, try speaking to them, they don’t bite, so no need to be afraid of making mistakes.

Respect their privacy

The Germans are very private people; they just don’t talk about their entire lives with you on the first time you meet. It takes time, a lot of time, until they feel comfortable doing this. So, avoid making private questions at first, let him/her take the first step towards sharing intimate information with you.

Here are some examples of questions you should normally avoid:

  • How much do you make at work?
  • How much do you pay for rent?
  • What is your religion?
  • Which political party do you prefer?

And of course… avoid the topic war, unless brought up.

Β Accept an invitation and invite

Did you get invited for a party, for a coffee, for a beer by a German? Say yes, even though you don’t feel like going, or you don’t like any of them. Getting an invitation means you have reached a very important step on your way to making a German friend, so do your best to accept.

Of course that inviting them is also a very important step, it means to them that you are interested in their company and to get to know them better. The chances of getting no for an answer will be very rare, they like to be invited, so take your chance and do it. You have nothing to lose, because you can’t lose what you don’t have.

Keep your word

That is a very important point. Do keep your word, in every circumstance, that being a meeting set up or something that you promised doing for the person. Germans take your word very serious, and they don’t like when you don’t keep it or change your mind in the last minute.

That being said, avoid at all costs cancelling that invitation you just accepted, especially in the beginning, when you are still trying to get to know them better. Unless something very bad happened to you – and I am not talking about a headache or a cold – don’t cancel it last minute.

Know and Respect their rules

As you might know by now – if not, now you know – the Germans love rules, and they have them for everything. It is important to know and respect that: first, they have certain rules; and second, to respect them. By doing this, you will get their respect in return, and this is VERY important.

Avoid hanging outΒ with people who only speak your language

Imagine that you are at university and see a group of foreigners (who happen to attend the same class as you) talking, laughing and hugging each other. Would you stop by to say hi? This situation would make most people feel intimidated to approach this group. Wouldn’t it?

So now put yourself in the German’s shoes, and do not expect them to try to be your friend if you already have your group and hang out with them all the time. You need to give them the opportunity to talk to you. Remember… it takes a while, and the beginning is crucial

Be proactive and helpful

Really! The Germans a very proactive and helpful people, and they do expect this from their friends. So don’t be lazy to offer help if they are moving and need an extra pair of hands, or to offer cleaning up after the party. The same goes to your co-workers in case they need help with solving a problem, or something similar. This is when you get them to trust and respect you.

Be patient and try harder

Not everyone was born with the virtue of being patient – God knows I wasn’t – but I had to find the little patience in me to give time to the Germans until I conquered their friendship. So be patient, give them time, and bare in mind the previous points.

Not working? No patience to wait? Sorry, you will have to try harder. It took me over 1 year to get some German friends to share very private things with me. With some it might take less time, with others will take years! Remember: they are private people.

Worth the while

Going through all the process above really does require effort of you, but let me tell you the best part of going through all this trouble: it is worth it! Once you have a German friend, you have a friend for life. He/she will do anything for you, they will support you, help you, listen to you and stand up for you… for the rest of your life.

If you managed to go through all the process above without giving up, congratulations, you made it and you deserve their friendship! The Germans tend to think that what matters is not the quantity of friends that you have, but how many of them are true friends!

About Allane

A Brazilian living in Germany. Married to W. mommy to a baby girl and a Golden Retriever. Traveler, writer, aspiring photographer, diver, wine appreciator, Formula 1 fan, avid reader of historical and young adult fictions books. City girl, nature lover, believer of a better world, one little change at a time.

  • Yes, you said it!

  • Very nice πŸ™‚ I agree with pretty much everything on here but I guess I’m quite lucky in that I don’t think Berliners are quite as reserved as other Germans! In fact, on my first night here I made a friend for life! And my flatmates and I talk about everything!!

    • That is awesome Linda, it might be that the Berliners are more open, that I have heard a lot! Some friendship happen way faster than others and you are very lucky! πŸ˜€

  • Carina

    Amazing post!!!

  • Haha..enjoyed reading that – being a German.
    If someone was to befriend me i’d say:
    – be consistent
    – be punctual and reliable
    – be conservative with the amount of information you share about yourself
    – don’t bother me with how much you like Germany
    – aproach me, suprise me – germans will never do that and it makes for a good change. But don’t overdo if I said no once – i’m not gonna like that either
    – do german things
    – don’t be too friendly and chatty
    – and most of all – share my problems and likes πŸ˜‰

    Oh and yes – I value my friends very highly!

    • hahaha that is amazing!!! Thank you so much for sharing all this with us Norman, I appreciate it! I can tell you that my German husband is just the same hahaha though he like the very friendly part… and well, I talk a lot hahaha

      I guess it is possible to write an entire book about this topic πŸ˜€ thank you!

  • I’m guilty of only hanging out with English speaking people in Denmark! But I just can’t joke around the same way in Danish… it’s really frustrating!

    Danika Maia
    http://www.danikamaia.com

    • hahaha don’t worry, it happens to most of us! When I lived in Canada I always hanging out with other Brazilians… it takes time until really start integrating… but it requires some effort and stepping out of our comfort zone! πŸ˜€

  • After moving to Munich myself just over a year ago I can totally relate to this post! I think I’m guilty of just about everything you have said not to do, but I’m learning! I’m coming to really appreciate Germans and their strange and loveable culture: I now find myself opening windows in the morning, mixing my drinks with soda water, and making plans up to three weeks in advance! Eek

    • hahahaha awesome comment! Thank you for stopping by πŸ˜€
      Don’t worry, it will come with time, the important thing is that you more or less know which way to go! And mixing drinks with soda water is already a very German thing to do πŸ˜€
      I hope you do make it there and conquer some amazing German friends for life πŸ˜‰

  • Very good advice! Some of it can even be applied across other cultures! Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you dear! Glad that you like it πŸ˜€
      You are right, it certainly can be applied to other cultures too!

  • Oh it took you one year to speak good German ? That is impressive. Did you already know some notions before moving over there ?

    • Before moving here I only knew a few words, then I took a German intensive course and only hung out with Germans, started working and speaking German with my co-workers and that is how everything started hahaha it was not easy. Many times I would get home from my course and cry to my husband saying that I would never learn this crazy language hahaha. Thank God Im passed this phase! However, I still have to improve a lot, especially when it comes to writing!

  • Another interesting post about living like a local…. We’ve never lived anywhere else other in Sydney, so we always find it really fascinating and an eye-opener about integrating when living abroad.

    • Thank you guys!!
      I love this topic about integration, as I have been through this many times… it is very helpful to people to know some of these informations when they try to integrate, because I know that it is never easy. πŸ˜€
      I am glad you find it interesting too! This also goes for your travels, when you meet a German πŸ˜‰

  • Lol. After reading this post, it seems like it’s hard to make friends with German people πŸ˜€ I really didn’t know they were quite serious about rules and take invitations and meet-ups very seriously. The privacy thing or mind-your-own-business attitude I can understand, since a lot of us like our privacy. In Australia, people are very relaxed about meet-ups and it’s not unusual for someone to cancel when you are already waiting at the meeting place like a cafe! So maybe if I go to Germany the people there won’t like me… πŸ˜€

    But good that German friends are very loyal once you have earned their trust. That is a thing you definitely want in a good friend – I scratch your back, and you scratch mine. Hope you make more and more friends in Munich and be very social πŸ˜‰

    • Interesting right? They are certainly different than Brazilians… I guess Australians are similar to Brazilians then, we also tend to cancel last minute and we don’t always keep our word about something…. and we definitely aren’t private people, Brazilians like to talk a lot about their personal life hahaha

      It’s not easy to make a German friend, but I do find it worth the while… you can always trust and count on them! πŸ˜€
      Thank you Mabel, I will try to make more German friends <3

      • Ooooh. So when we have lunch together, you will be talking about yourself and Enzzo! Not a bad thing, since I am and like to be a listener…and I get to eat more of the food πŸ˜€

        Germans seem to be very choosy about friends, but I guess that they also don’t want to waste time on people who won’t be there for them. Which is wise.

        I think if we look more smiley, happy and friendlier, people will be more approachable to us πŸ™‚

        • hahahaha I talk a lot, so Im happy to know that you are a good listener πŸ˜€
          I thought of you this weekend while I was watching Formula 1 πŸ˜‰

          The vast majority of the Germans already have their best friends, so you need to be worth the while to become one too πŸ˜€

          I also agree with you that being more friendly and smiling more helps a lot, thats why I do it πŸ˜€ even while writing hahahaha oh my!
          I hope all is fine with you!

          • Awww. So sweet of you to think of me as you watched the F1. I did think of you too when I made up my mind not to go. Very expensive tickets, and I had just started a new job and am very tired πŸ™

            When I read your blog, your words come across as very happy, so I think when you’re writing you’re writing and smiling, with a very good heart πŸ˜€

          • hahahaha yes I did think of you!
            I know right? its pretty expensive… they are cheaper in advance, but still, a bit pricey πŸ™
            wow thats cool, now job? Congratulations! And don’t stress out too much.. enjoy the weekend to rest πŸ˜‰

            hahahaha it is true that I always try to put some positive words on my posts, and comments too… and I often smile when writing πŸ˜€

  • I want to be invited to places by Germans! I know no Germans here πŸ™

    • hahahahaa ohh really? Then Im guessing you need to move here soon πŸ˜€

      • Or at least come work for a few months?
        :)))) I’d love to, actually. Tho I speak 5 words of German…

        • hahaha I would like that for sure <3
          Ohh don't worry about that, you would learn German fast πŸ˜€ or at least come to visit soon!!

  • Sha

    Interesting tips, I think this can apply to a lot of other times when you are a foreigner in another country too. How long have you been in Germany?

    • Yes it certainly can Sha!! Some of them are the basics for integration.
      I have been in Germany for 3 years πŸ˜€

  • It seems that Germans are very similar to Finns. I would never ask a Finn what is his/her salary or what party he/she votes. Finns also keep their word and are extremely private. You need to be patient until they open up, but then you get a true friend. And I totally agree with the “avoid hanging out with people that only speak your language”. Great post!

    • That is nice to know Vasilis!! I think you guys are very similar to the Germans in many ways, I find it interesting, and awesome too, because I like that! Now I know how to make Finn friends too πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much, I’m happy that you liked it!

  • Wonderful post as usual and I think we can apply many of your observations to other country and people…respecting the rules, speaking their language, being proactive in helping them will be appreciated by many. Keeping your word and being part of their party and inviting them to your party is quite interesting. Avoiding hanging out with people speaking the same language is what we usually do, good observation we need to mix and mingle with others to make us more reachable and acceptable to others.

    The choice of pictures are simply beautiful and perfectly matches with the words and the narration you have etched out…the first picture with shadows is brilliant.

    Sorry for delayed response as I was travelling for a week. We haven’t had our good conversation.
    Have a great day ahead…
    πŸ˜€

    • Hi Nihar πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much!!
      You are right, we can definitely apply them to other countries too. They are mostly the basics of integration.
      The most common mistake people make is to hang out only with other foreigners. It is very important to be closer to the locals to make the integration process easier.

      Thank you for the compliment about my choices of pictures πŸ˜€ I tried to match them with the topic πŸ˜‰

      Ohh you were traveling? How nice!! πŸ˜€

      I wish you a great day too!!

      • You always bring those finer nuances of relationship, engagement, travelling which is so fascinating to know and this post was no exception. Indeed it is important to mingle with locals and be with them…they appreciate and they come forward to share.

        When travelling and I meet people I always refer your name and how I keep learning so many things from you…

        You too have a nice day.
        Light & Love!!!
        πŸ˜€

        • Awwwn Nihar, thank you so much for your words! And I am flattered to know that you mention my name when you travel, what an honour! Well, I can only say the same about you… I have learned a lot with you too πŸ˜€
          Have a lovely weekend!

          • It has became a habit visit your blog and look for the new dimension on travelling that you keep churning day in and day out…the detail is matched with your simplicity of use of language…
            It is a pleasure to talk about you, the things I have learned and have asked many to check you post when they ask me any queries on travel.

            Thanks and you too have a lovely weekend.
            πŸ˜€

          • Thank you Nihar, it is an honour for me to know that you think that about me, especially because you are a wonderful writer yourself!! I appreciate your support very much, it always put a smile on my face!

          • My pleasure and it is great to exchange ideas and thoughts with you…enriching our thinking and discussion…
            Same here…
            ;D

          • Yes it is Nihar!! I like discussing with you our thoughts! πŸ˜€

          • πŸ˜€

  • Great writing! I’ve spent some time in Germany, and I believe they are amazing people. When you try to speak their language, they can’t be happier πŸ™‚ Also, everything works perfectly in that country, so I had a wonderful time there. However, i do know people who judge them wrong, for being cold or distant. I don’t believe that at all. And you are right, spending time only with poeople speaking your own language, isn’t fun or stimulating at all. Have a great day and thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you so much Lucy!! Happy that you like the post!!
      Yes they are amazing people, and you are right, many judge them wrong… I know many of them who have such a big heart… they are more emotional than we think!
      Exactly, it doesn’t if you only hang out with other foreigners, you need to integrate yourself with the Germans πŸ˜€
      Thank you for the kind comment! Have a wonderful weekend!

  • A very helpful post, Allane and I am impressed that you manage to speak German in a year! That’s a talent!

    • Thank you Indah πŸ˜€
      It wasn’t easy, but my secret is not to be afraid to try… and as I am a very independent person, I was always under pressure to learn how to speak for myself and do things without asking W, like making doctor appointments and so on. But German is a very hard language, I learn something new every day… and I think I will never learn all the die, der, das thingy hahaha

  • A lot of these points you make should be kept in mind by anyone living in a foreign country. It really applies – respecting a new culture, respecting a person’s privacy, not hanging out with only the people from your country, accepting invites and returning the same – all tried and tested here in SA!
    I had a great German friend too, but she moved back to Bremin a few months ago πŸ™ But this is a great post to share with her South African boyfriend who is moving to Germany next week! Hahah

    • You are right, these points can really be applied to other places too! And I’m glad you did it in SA πŸ˜€ how cool that you had a German friend there! And what I coincidence that her bf is moving here to! Yes, do share with him, so he will be prepared to what awaits for him in Germany πŸ˜€

  • What a great and interesting post. I think a lot of your points actually work all over the world. I particularly agree with learning the language. It just makes sense! I’m glad you are settled into Germany now though – you’re now a local really! πŸ™‚

    • Thank you Ting <3 happy that you liked it!
      Yes, the language is a must, anywhere in the World! Everything is easier when you speak the language, and well, integrating with the locals is the best way to improve the language.

      I feel very settled here… so much that everything seems already normal, and when I meet people who just arrived, I see the difference between us.. and I always give some tips πŸ˜€

  • I believe all friendships, no matter what the nationality, take time, patience, and lots of hard work. It’s wonderful that you had the courage to pursue some quality relationships.

    • You are right!! Some more than others, probably. But I totally agree with you!
      Thank you πŸ˜€

  • BookOfBokeh

    In the 80’s I moved to and lived in Africa (Rwanda and Tunisia, a short stay in Egypt) for 4 years and your “Know to respect the cultural differences” is *the most* valuable lesson that any traveler in the world needs to know! Well done!

    • Wow, you have live in many different countries, you must have had unique experiences in each of them! Amazing!
      Yes, I think respecting the cultural differences was the first thing I learned as a traveller… we need to understand that it is not that other people’s culture are wrong or worse, they are just different than ours, and we can learn from them πŸ˜€
      Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts!

  • I do love your Germans-related posts! And I agree with all of them. I don’t speak the language but I understand it to some extent which still made some friends very happy. I always try to same some basic stuff though. It’s a fun learning process I think. And yes to avoiding people who speak the same language as you. I have many foreigner friends here but still most of the times, we’re speaking in Turkish along with some Turkish friends. Quite a good mix.

    • Thank you dear πŸ˜€ I am happy to know that you like them… I will keep them coming then!
      That is also great, mix your friends with other locals, this helps a lot, and it is a win win situation for everyone. It is a nice way to improve your Turkish! I am impressed that you already speak Turkish by the way πŸ˜€

      • I took an intensive course in Turkish for about 9 months πŸ˜‰ So my Turkish is actually kinda a disgrace haha

        • ohhh my that’s awesome! 9 months intensive course must have helped you for sure!! When I first move to Germany, I took an intensive course only for 5 months, then I started working and had to speak the language all the time, so that was when the German really kicked in hahaha
          Turkish sounds very hard!! It took me a while to learn how to pronounce thank you when I went to Turkey last year πŸ˜€

  • Miles

    Nice post, although in the end isn’t this generalization, yes i know the aim and i one way it is and should be. But i think every person or group of friends need individual approach. Things that are mentioned here can be applied to any other citizen of the world even it’s not in their main culture. And i think with friendship is like with any other relationship, in start there should be a spark and later on both sides need to work on it;)

    • Hi Miles, thank you for your comment! Glad you enjoyed the post and happy that you shared your thoughts.
      Yes, I guess all these points can be applied to other places for sure. But there are countries where making friends is a bit different… some of these points wouldn’t work as good if it was applied to Brazilians for example (I’m from Brazil), but most of them yes πŸ™‚ I think especially the point of respecting the culture, it is the most important one for everywhere in the World, I believe πŸ˜€
      Thank you so much for stopping by. Feel welcome to come back anytime πŸ˜‰

  • Jenny Trozell

    Some of that could be applied to us Swedes too πŸ˜‰

  • This is really helpful post! I used to live in Germany and I can say that everything in the post is true! Really nice one! Greetings!

    • Hi Kenzie!! Thank you so much!! Happy to know that you like the post and that you find the same πŸ˜€
      Thank you for stopping by!!

  • You are right Milly! These tips can work everywhere, so I am glad that it is also useful for people living in other countries too πŸ˜€ thank you for stopping by!

  • hahaha πŸ˜€ exactly!

  • Pingback: Interview with an Expat: Allane Milliane – a Brazilian in Germany | live . laugh . leipzig()