10 Differences Germans Notice in the UK

differences germany & UK

My name is Anna Maria and for the last two weeks I have been working in the UK in the Defacto office!

I’m an intern from Bocholt in Germany. Bocholt is a smaller town near the border to the Netherlands in North Rhine-Westphalia. While I’ve been here the Defacto team have been teaching me all about their company!

differences germany & UK
Bocholt at Christmas.

I’ve come over here as part of my schooling. I’m doing an international degree for which I had to work in another country for a few weeks. I’ve heard that exchange programmes for Scottish children aren’t too common and that got me thinking about the other differences between my home and here. There are more than you may think…
So, when I was asked to do a blog for the company, I thought that the 10 differences I’ve noticed between the UK and Germany would be interesting. I wonder if any of them will be a shock to you!

People here are more polite.

The first thing I noticed while being here is that people are a lot more polite here than they are in most German cities. One example of this is that when two people bump into each other both apologise. Whereas in Germany a lot of people in bigger cities don’t care about this kind of thing. Usually they just walk on without saying anything.

differences germany & UK

People here are a lot more willing to help you in small ways, like holding doors open or telling you the way.

I personally had to adjust to this but I think it is in some ways better than in Germany. I don’t think people have to be quite as polite as they are in the UK. Somewhere between the two would be ideal.

Buses aren’t as easy to use.

Taking the bus here is different too.
You need to wave for the bus to stop and pick you up. In Germany the bus just stops when there is someone waiting.

differences germany & UK

You also have no way of knowing where you are while on the bus unless you know the area and where the bus stops are. This made it quite hard for me to get from one place to another at first.

In Germany buses normally have an electronic screen that shows you what bus stop is coming up as well as announcements to tell you where you are.
Buses in Germany usually have at least two doors, one to get in and one to get out.
People here even thank the driver when getting of the bus, which is something people don’t do in Germany.

I prefer the system in Germany because it makes travelling in cities you don’t know a lot easier. I wouldn’t be able to get from one place to another without a ‘maps’ app on my phone here.

We don’t have school uniforms in Germany.

differences germany & UK

In Germany there are no school uniforms. Most of the time there isn’t even a dress code and you can wear whatever you want to school. There might be some minor rules like not being allowed to wear hats during class but usually nothing more than that.

I think being allowed to wear what you want is better because it allows self expression. Although I think there should be some limits to it because I don’t think that you should be wearing jogging trousers to school. You need to be, at least, a little smartly dressed.

Buildings are more beautiful here.

differences germany & UK
Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow.

Compared to the city I live in Glasgow, where I have been staying, has a lot of older buildings. I know there are still some cities in Germany with older buildings but a lot was destroyed during the war. Because of this I find Glasgow and Edinburgh visually interesting.

I really like the buildings here because they look nicer than those in my hometown where they are a lot smaller and less historic.

The landscapes are different.

The landscape in Scotland is quite different from the way it is where I live. The hills probably make the biggest difference for me. I’m from a region in Germany that is very flat with no hills anywhere.

differences germany & UK

It’s scenic and I like the view you have while on a hill but for everyday life I prefer my home region. There it is a lot less exhausting to walk somewhere or ride a bike.

It’s forbidden for shops to open on a Sunday back home.

While visiting the city centre I noticed that shopping in Glasgow can be very different from shopping in Germany. In Glasgow city centre the shops close earlier than they do in Germany. But, UK shops are opened on Sundays, which is something that is actually forbidden in Germany. Cities are permitted to have a four Sundays each year on which the shops are allowed to open but no more than that. I know in big shopping centres here shops may be open later, but not in the city centre.

differences germany & UK

I noticed that there aren’t that many general electronic stores in the city centre which is something that is very common in Germany. And of course there are also some different brands here.

I personally like that the shops are open on Sundays because this way you don’t necessarily have to plan what exactly you will need on the weekends. If you forgot to buy something the day before it isn’t a big problem because you can just go buy it.

Road safety rules are much more strict back home.

When walking somewhere here people mostly seem to ignore traffic lights when there are no cars nearby. This is something people wont do in Germany because it’s illegal and you would have to pay a fine for it. If there are traffic lights close to where you’re going to cross, you also have to walk to them and then cross instead of taking a risk.

differences germany & UK

I think that being allowed to walk over red lights can be helpful when there really are no cars coming and you’re waiting for no reason but I also think it can be dangerous if people aren’t careful enough.

Also, an obvious difference is that people drive on the left side of the road here. Whereas in Germany you drive on the right side. This is also reflected in how the cars in the UK are built. The driver’s seat is on the right side of the car, while in Germany it is the other way around with the steering wheel on the left side.

The food is different.

When it comes to food there are also some things that I found to be an interesting change from the way things are in Germany. Porridge for example is a lot more popular here than it is in Germany. You can even buy instant porridge, which is something I’ve never seen before! I’ve also had some desserts and meals here that I hadn’t had before like Cottage Pie, rice pudding and mac and cheese.

differences germany & UK

I personally liked everything I’ve tried so far. But, I do miss some of the food I normally eat at home. As a vegetarian, I really liked that there are a lot of Quorn foods that we don’t normally have in Germany.

Back home, we can drink wine under 18 but aren’t permitted to be in the cinema past 10pm.

Drinking alcohol is prohibited in the UK until you turn 18. This isn’t the case in Germany. There you are allowed to drink certain types of alcohol like beer or wine once you turn 16. Although stronger kinds of alcohol (for example vodka or whiskey) are still forbidden until you are 18 years old.

I’m 17, so legally I can drink at home but I don’t really do it much. So, I’ve not missed that too much while I’ve been here.

differences germany & UK

In Germany there are restrictions on how long you’re allowed to stay at public venues like a disco or a cinema. When you’re under 16 you’re only allowed to go to a disco when one of your parents takes you and you can only stay at the cinema till 10pm. When you’re under 18 you have to leave the disco by 12pm and the same goes for the cinema. There are more rules for different locations like the church.

Some of the rules are a bit overly strict in my opinion and wouldn’t have to be quite so harsh. But, I think some of these restrictions do make sense.

We keep our heating on all day and night at home.

I noticed this during the first night I spent with my host family. In the UK it’s normal to turn off the heating during the night and only turn it on during the day. This is not as common in Germany. The heating normally stays on during the night just not as warm as during the day.

differences germany & UK

I get cold quickly and because of this I prefer having the heating on during the night. But I like the idea of trying to save energy this way.

These are the 10 biggest differences I personally noticed during my time here in the UK. I’ve enjoyed my time here a lot, especially my trips to Edinburgh and Balloch. Hopefully I’ll visit the UK again in the future. What are the main differences between where you live and countries you’ve visited? Let us know in the comments!

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