British culture: 3 things every German should know

Are you German and planning on moving to Britain? Then you should read on…

Moving to Britain from Germany? Here are three things you should know before you go

Moving to Britain from Germany? Here are three things you should know before you go

1. People love making Nazi jokes

If you’re a German about to move to Britain prepare yourself for the Hitler jokes. Rather than seeing Nazi Germany as a thing so terrible and shameful it must not be talked about, British people relish bringing up this dark period in European history like no other chapter of our recent past.

The famous Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: perhaps the only thing about the Third Reich Brits wouldn't make jokes about?

The famous Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe: perhaps the only thing about the Third Reich Brits wouldn’t make jokes about

If you show character traits that are in any way organised or worse – efficient, you will at some point or other be compared to a Nazi, and it will probably happen when you least expect it.

Because people from all walks of life so much enjoy drawing comparisons between present day Germany and the Third Reich, the British have come up with the following note: “Don’t mention the war.” Unfortunately, Brits also love breaking rules.

2. Waving is more common than shaking hands

Coming from Germany, you will be used to shaking people’s hand if you meet them for the first time. And while in Britain, no one would refuse to shake your hand if you were to extend it, it is often more common to just say hello without moving your hand or to wave, even if you’re standing less than a meter apart from each other.

Put your hand away and wave to blend in in Britain

Put your hand away and wave to blend in in Britain

While in the business environment, shaking hands has become more and more popular, at informal parties or gatherings, you might look a little odd if you were to shake the hand of everyone you introduce yourself to.

3. No one wants to know how you are

In Britain, people like to ask each other how they are. A lot. The question ‘How are you?’ is probably the most asked across the land.

The question 'How are you?' is not what it appears to be

The question ‘How are you?’ is not what it appears to be

As a German, it would be quite easy to take the question at face value and tell your life story every time someone says the words. But you must refrain from doing so. The question ‘How are you?’ and all its equivalents such as ‘You alright?’, ‘How’s it going?’ or ‘How goes it?’, are vacuous forms of greetings, which are always to be responded with words to the effect of: ‘Good thanks, how are you?’ or ‘Very well, thanks, and you?’.

It is very common for two people to go back and forth a few times leading to the following conversation, or rather, greeting: ‘Hello, how are you?’ – ‘I’m very well, thanks. How are you?’ – ‘Yeah, good thanks, how are you?’ – ‘Fine thanks, how are you?’ until someone finally plucks up the courage to simply say: ‘Good thanks’.

A slightly more archaic and upper class version of this would be to ask: “How do you do?”, a question which must always be countered with the same phrase, i.e.: “How do you do?”.

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