Top 10 Strangest Things About Living in Germany

OK, so I can’t stop with just one top 10 list – following on from my top 10 most memorable shows in Germany, I thought this time I would list the top 10 strangest things about living here.

Please don’t get my wrong; I really love this country, the people and all of their weird idiosyncrasies. But even after growing up in multicultural household, certain things here really took some getting used to.

  1. German music notation (H-Note): German music notation is A, H, C, D, E, F, G…. Yes, that’s right H after A. I learnt this in a rehearsal room when sometime told me to play a H-chord – my brain was like “computer says no”.
  2. German swimming pools: I’ve been swimming for about 15 years… Australia is surrounded by beaches and has an established swimming culture. At aussie pools, we have slow, medium and fast lanes – it’s generally a pretty organized affair. Given that Germany is one of the most organized countries in the world, you’d expect their pools would be structured in the same way… Well, you’d be wrong! Swimming laps in a German pool usually means dodging little kids playing with blowup beachballs, avoiding Omas swimming breaststroke, weaving around Opas doing backstroke and keeping an eye out for other unidentified objects. It’s a nightmare.
  3. The German language: after 10 years, the language still makes me laugh for its complexity and its strange vocabulary, particularly for a native English speaker. Some of my favourites are: Dudelsack = bagpipes, brustwarzte (literally breast warts) = nipples, zahnfleisch (literally tooth meat) = gums
  4. German supermarket etiquette: First of all, you pack your own groceries… And you better be quick! No credit cards allowed (admittedly this is slowly changing). Also if you really want to make people uncomfortable then don’t put down the divider…
  5. Nudity: Australians and Tongans aren’t very comfortable being naked, despite the fact that the summers would probably be a lot more comfortable with no clothes on. Germans on the other hand, are comfortable being naked no matter the weather. As long as there is some grass or sand and a bit of sun, people feel the need to strip down to their birthday suits. Unfortunately these people are usually men over 60. I have honestly seen a naked old man sun-baking in a park next to a young family having picnic.
  6. Schlager music: as a musician living and working here, it’s particularly hard for me to understand that Schlager is the most commercially successful form of music in this country. The Schlager stars sell out stadiums and still move over a million physical units. It’s insane. If you’ve never heard the music before then click here, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  7. Obsession with David Hasselhof: Ok he played when the wall came down, but I still don’t get it?
  8. Splitting bills: in Australia and Tonga being careful with your money is kind of an insult, whereas in Germany it’s more seen as a compliment. I’ve seen couples who live together split bills to the closest 10 cents, this is not a joke.
  9. Shaking hands: this could just be an Engineering thing, but working at Airbus, it is expected to walk around the office saying “Guten Morgen” and shake the hand of every person sitting at their desks. Sometimes up to 20-25 people! I can confirm this doesn’t happen in the music business, though Leo and I did once shake the hands of every person in the pub after a gig. Maybe they were all engineers?
  10. Uncomfortable silences: Germans aren’t known for being good at small talk, which most people consider fake and superficial. But isn’t small talk preferable to long awkward silences? I think yes!

Is there anything I missed? To all my german friends, ich liebe euch 🙂

Joel Havea Trio / 10 Years in 🇩🇪 Tour

01 Dec – Horns Erben, Leipzig, DE TICKETS
02 Dec – Prachtwerk (w/ special guest Celina Bostic) – Berlin TICKETS
04 Dec – Wohngemeinschaft – Köln TICKETS
13 Dec – Backstage JazzClub – Fulda TICKETS
14 Dec – Cafe Grenzbereich – Jameln
19 Dec – Knust – Hamburg, TICKETS

Tour dates & Tickets:

12 Responses so far.

  1. Ahahaha! A very good list – i would add one point
    German partys – everybody is talking till the beer is over and then people go out to get more from the petrol station. Still everybody is talking but nobody is dancing. Never. Except for some foreigners which have a different concept of partying 🙂

  2. Heather says:

    Oh man. This list is everything.
    -The H-note!?
    -Also, my (German) boyfriend thinks I’m overreacting when
    I low-key rage about the pool situation… err, nightmare. haha

    I have one more to add…
    Like the checkout divider, equally disconcerting to Germans: Compliments. They hate them.

  3. mair says:

    A pretty accurate list. I would just add the German fear of going barefoot – despite their love of nudity. And you forgot to mention the aquajoggers, the bane of every swimmer’s life.

  4. Heidi says:

    What about the fear of the draft??
    God forbid there’s a tiny window open on the train and people feel a draft! Apparently you get sick instantly, leading to a painful death (same as with AC), hence the people wearing scarfs in the middle of summer while also wearing shorts and Birkenstocks xD

  5. Morag says:

    Turning up to a doctor’s appointment and being expected to greet every other person in the waiting room..! Unlike in Britain where, after dragging myself to the doctors, I slink into a seat farthest from anyone and avoid making eye contact!

  6. Cookie says:

    Hey Joel,,
    Number 8 ,, it’s not a joke,, it’s a realistic 😬🙄,, ?!?! That I can’t understand 🤨,,💔 Can the heart also split ?
    The favorite for me is: Ganz oder gar nichts 👉🤣😂😅

    Take Care,, 🤫👉 big hugs from Tatort Hawaii 🌺

  7. Tom says:

    Hi Joel!
    This is Tom, ex-Hamburg player!
    Love your list, mate!
    Here’s another one …..
    The Germans fear not to get from A to B or not to be the first at whatever.
    If you cue up at a bus or S-Bahn, a lot of Germans or people who adapted that impatience, HAVE to be first whilst Brits and Aussies I guess would even wait patiently in a cue with a broken leg!

  8. Doerthe says:

    Hi Joel,
    thank you for letting us have great fun reading your list. It is so true and here is an additional one – we are able to laugh about ourselves. – which I did going through your list.
    Best Doerthe

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