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Germany is a heady mix of history and nature, fine arts and youthful rebellion. Its capital, Berlin, has a reputation gained from its decades as a divided city, as a hedonistic, ‘on the edge’ community where almost anything goes. In contrast, the quiet academic surroundings of historic university cities like Heidelberg, convey a quiet gentility quite at odds with the atmosphere of the capital.

Practical Information

Area: 357 045 km² (137 819 miles²)

Capital: Berlin. Population: 3.4 million

Population: 82.5 million

Currency: Euro (EUR symbol Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Federal Republic.

Tipping: It is customary to tip taxi drivers, hairdressers, cloakroom attendants, bar and restaurant staff; a 10% tip is standard.

Legal drinking age: 18

Time zone: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: German

Additional descriptions

Germany: Social customs

Handshaking is customary, and it is considered rude to address people by their first name unless invited to do so. Normal courtesies should be observed and it is common to be offered food and refreshmentsRead more when visiting someone’s home. Before eating, it is normal to say Guten Appetit to the other people at the table to which the correct reply is Gleichfalls. It is customary to present the hostess with unwrapped flowers (according to tradition, one should always give an uneven number and it is worth noting that red roses are exclusively a lover’s gift). Courtesy dictates that when entering a shop, restaurant or similar venue, visitors should utter a greeting such as Guten Tag (or Grüss Gott in Bavaria) before saying what it is that they want; to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen or Tschüss can also cause offence. Similarly, when making a telephone call, asking for the person you want to speak to without stating first who you are is impolite. Casual wear is widely acceptable, but more formal dress is required for some restaurants, the opera, theatre, casinos and important social functions. Evening wear is worn when requested. Smoking is prohibited where notified and on public transport and in most public buildings, with the exception of restaurants and bars. Visitors should be prepared for an early start to the day with businesses, schools, etc opening at 0800 or earlier. It is common practice to take a mid-afternoon stroll on Sunday.

Germany: Food and local specialties

The main meal of the day in Germany is traditionally lunch, with a light snack eaten at about seven in the evening, but this is changing along with working patterns. Breakfast usually consists of a boiledRead more egg, bread rolls with jam, honey, cold meat and cheese slices, juices and coffee. Available from snack bars and cafes are grilled, fried or boiled sausages (wurst) with a crusty bread roll. Sausages are a popular snack, served either boiled or grilled with a bread roll (brötchen). In restaurants, a salad plate will often be produced before a main course, whether or not a starter has been ordered, it is not a side dish, waiting staff will expect this to be eaten before the meal is brought it can cause confusion for non-Germans. There is an emphasis on meat, potatoes and noodles, but fish dishes are also popular. International speciality restaurants, such as Chinese, Greek, Turkish and others, can be found everywhere in the western part of the country. Things to know: Bars can either have table service and/or counter service, although often drinks consumed are simply marked on a beer mat to be paid for on leaving. Minors are allowed to go into a bar if accompanied by an adult. Opening hours depend on the proprietor but generally bars in major towns and resorts are open all day and close around midnight or later. Exceptions are Berlin and Hamburg where every pub can open for 24 hours. The national specialties are: Bratwurst (grilled sausage). Eisbein mit sauerkraut (leg of pork) and mashed potatoes. Schwäbische maultaschen (large savoury ravioli from Stuttgart). Eierpfannkuchen (pancakes). Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest gateau). Beer of many varied kinds. Ebbelelwoi (apple wine principally in Hessen). Schnapps (available in hundreds of varieties). Kirschwasser (cherry spirit, principally from the Black Forest). Rhineland wines.

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