German Etiquette & Customs


Meeting Etiquette

. Greetings are formal.
. A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting.
. Titles are very important and denote respect. Use a person’s title and their surname until invited to use their first name. You should say Herr or Frau and the person’s title and their surname.
. In general, wait for your host or hostess to introduce you to a group.
. When entering a room, shake hands with everyone individually, including children.

Gift Giving Etiquette

. If you are invited to a German’s house, bring a gift such as chocolates or flowers.
. Yellow roses or tea roses are always well received.
. Do not give red roses as they symbolize romantic intentions.
. Do not give carnations as they symbolize mourning.
. Do not give lilies or chrysanthemums as they are used at funerals.
. If you bring wine, it should be imported, French or Italian. Giving German wines is viewed as meaning you do not think the host will serve a good quality wine.
. Gifts are usually opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

If you are invited to a German’s house:
. Arrive on time as punctuality indicates proper planning. Never arrive early.
. Never arrive more than 15 minutes later than invited without telephoning to explain you have been detained.
. Send a handwritten thank you note the following day to thank your hostess for her hospitality.

Table manners

. Remain standing until invited to sit down. You may be shown to a particular seat.
. Table manners are Continental — the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating.
. Do not begin eating until the hostess starts or someone says ‘guten appetit’ (good appetite).
. At a large dinner party, wait for the hostess to place her napkin in her lap before doing so yourself.
. Do not rest your elbows on the table.
. Do not cut lettuce in a salad. Fold it using your knife and fork.
. Cut as much of your food with your fork as possible, since this compliments the cook by indicating the food is tender.
. Finish everything on your plate.
. Rolls should be broken apart by hand.
. Indicate you have finished eating by laying your knife and fork parallel across the right side of your plate, with the fork over the knife.
. The host gives the first toast.
. An honoured guest should return the toast later in the meal.
. The most common toast with wine is ‘Zum Wohl!’ (‘good health’).
. The most common toast with beer is ‘Prost!’ (‘good health’).