Fed up of being the focus of mumbling, tutting and incessant eye-rolling from the locals as you stop dead in your tracks and snap yet another picture of that castle in the distance? DayTrip shows you how to avoid standing out like Paris Hilton at a MENSA Conference by blending in with the crowd in the land of beer, bratwurst and BMW.
1. Stand tall like a local
German men (5’11½”) and women (5’6”) are a whacking two inches average taller than their American and British counterparts. This means a good pair of shoe lifts for men and a sassy pair of heels for ladies are essential accessories if you’re to avoid that shrinking feeling. This may also account for why Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise (5’7”) has never been a German favorite while David Hasselhoff (The Hoff is an outlandish 6’3”) gets the gig on the Berlin Wall and outsells pint-size contemporaries such as Michael Jackson (5’9”) and Prince (5’2”).
2. When in Rome…
Germany has some of the world’s most relaxed laws when it comes to alcohol. This means that your 14-year-old who’s still mentally verging on 12 may not be able to watch The Hangover (Cert. 15) in the local multiplex, but he’s well within his rights to wake up with one (age 14 for beer and wine) as soon as he puts his pimply teenage feet over the border. Don’t be surprised to see young Sabrina sipping on a Pinot Noir while her brother Wolfgang sinks a few liters of Pilsner as they cram late into the night for their algebra exam.
3. Respect the German constitution
Compared to the Brits and Americans, the Germans have an iron constitution, no doubt aided and abetted by their head start in life when it comes to caning the booze. It’s considered rude to turn a drink down, so there’s nothing else for it but to throw caution aside and join in the fun. Be prepared that in true Brit and American style, as a still sober but genial host reaches for that second bottle of Schnapps, you’re more likely to be vomiting in his bathroom sink, mistaking his bidet for the toilet and confusing his dachshund for the toilet paper. Just remember to apologize as you choke on your Fischbrötchen (fish and onion sandwich) over breakfast the next morning.
4. Shoot from the hip
There’s a reason why every sentence in German sounds like it’s a barked command — it often is. The Germans don’t mess around with niceties and boring small talk. Straight to the point is the order of the day. Replace that “Nice day today, don’t you think?” with “Hey dude! That new VW of yours must have set you back a pretty packet. How much was the old emission stealer?” to truly ingratiate yourself and avoid winding the locals up with banal pleasantries.
5. Follow the rules
The Germans love order in their life, from respecting the Sunday noise curfew to jay-walking, which is strictly forbidden. In fact, don’t even try it. That little red man on the pedestrian crossing garners more respect than The Hoff prancing along the Berlin Wall. And don’t think just because it’s three in the morning and no cars have passed for an hour it’s safe to risk it. Rest assured that someone, somewhere, will have it on their camera phone, and that money you’d set aside for the bargain lederhosen from Lidl will now be winging its way towards your misdemeanor fine instead.
6. Don’t be a clown
Germany is officially the least funny country according to a survey by Badoo.com. In May 2007, the German magazine Spiegel commented that the British had an image of the typical German as a “mercilessly efficient but humorless engineer” and little has been done to dispel this assumption ever since. German humor is an enigma and all you need to know in this respect is that they still show repeats of The Benny Hill Show, so don’t try and play the joker. If the urge to amuse the crowd arises then desist. German humor is like going on a date with Charlie Sheen — best left for those who know what to expect.
7. Learn some quaint customs
Nothing makes one blend in more with the locals than adopting a few of their customs as your own. It’s always best to begin small before working yourself up to a biggie. Remember, the Germans never open a bottle of beer with a bottle opener as that’s for soft foreigners. Think car doors, crustaceans, tortoises, upper and lower body parts and you’ll soon be cracking ‘ein bier’ open with the best of them. To build on your new found skill and truly impress your hosts, then get the hang of blasting full-scale heavy duty pyrotechnics off high-rise balconies at midnight to celebrate festive occasions. Grandmother’s birthday may never be the same again, but your kids will love you.
7½. Know your stereotype
Although the Germans dislike their own stereotype, they do love a good British one. So why disappoint your new found friends? There’s a reason why Angela Merkel’s favorite TV show is Downton Abbey and most Germans over the age of 40 are proud owners of the DVD box set. Impress your landlady by ordering her to pack you a champagne picnic hamper and take you grouse hunting after a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. If this fails, then why not win over local hearts and minds by stopping off at the local Bierkeller and insisting on a refreshing cup of Earl Grey? Your dazzling aristocratic charm will be a surefire winner that’s guaranteed to earn you a new class of friend for life.