Information for a good preparation of your social life in Germany
Germans are more formal than, for example, Americans. You usually speak to people using the Sie form (the formal version of you), especially in business situations. The informal Du form is reserved for friends and close colleagues. It is normal for the elder person to take the first step to the informal relationship by offering the younger person the option of saying Du.
Germans answer the telephone with their family name.
When you enter a room, for example a lift, you should greet those who are already present, even if you do not know them. In business situations, as well as in many private ones, greetings and goodbyes are accompanied by the shaking of hands. Unfortunately, in a shop or a restaurant you cannot always expect service with a smile. For many Germans, it is more important to be served quickly. Tipping in shops is not usual. A tip is expected in a restaurant or taxi based on your satisfaction, up to 10%. Civil servants are not allowed to accept tips.
Relationships amongst neighbours vary widely. It develops more naturally in neighbourhoods with children than with older inhabitants. In any case, it must be given the chance to grow. Do not expect to be received by the neighbourhood welcoming committee. It is helpful if you introduce yourself to your new neighbours.
You are expected to respect the quiet times at midday (12-2pm) and after 10pm. They are taken very seriously. You should not mow the lawn, work with tools, or play loud music. You should also avoid noisy work on Sundays. Sunday is typically a day for leisure and family. Shops are closed on Sundays with few exceptions, like shop-opening Sundays (once or twice a year), about which you will be informed by the newspaper or posters.
When you are invited to the home of a friend or colleague it is well-regarded to bring a small host/hostess gift with you. It is normal to bring flowers and a little something for the children of your host/hostess. It is important that you remove the outer paper before presenting the flowers and do not give anybody carnations. Carnations are seen as cemetery flowers in Germany.
Although clothing has become more casual in the last years, men are expected to wear a jacket, long pants, and dress shoes at the office. Women are not expected to wear a suit, but should avoid low necklines and short skirts (your knees should be covered). These same rules apply to business invitations and restaurant outings.
Punctuality is a courtesy. It is especially important with business appointments to make a good impression by being on time.
Ask the people around you before lighting a cigarette. It is being increasingly seen as unpleasant. Smoking is prohibited or limited to designated smoking areas in public buildings, restaurants, shops, train stations, and airports.
Please be aware, that many shops (as well as taxi-drivers, landlords and public transportation) don´t accept creditcards.
Sport is the king of the leisure activities in Germany. Most sports are offered in sports clubs. There are, however, an increasing number of sports centres widening the field. Soccer is not only the national sport, it is also the most popular sport in Germany. Whether you join a soccer club, are a spectator in the stadium or watch it on TV, you can hardly avoid the sport in this country.
Golf is becoming more and more popular but is relatively expensive. Whether you choose to become a member of a golf club or pay as you play will depend on how often you want to play.
There are public swimming pools in almost every city and a water park in Karlsruhe with fun for the whole family. The communities around Karlsruhe offer swimming in quarries and lakes, most of which are tested regularly during the summer for health hazards.
The bicycle was invented in this region so you can find wonderful bicycle paths.
Because of the proximity to the Black Forest, hiking is a popular leisure activity. The Black Forest also offers opportunities for ski enthusiasts. In the wintertime, there are many ski slopes available for day and night skiing. Cross-country skiing is also popular. The Loipennetz in the Black Forest is appealing to amateurs and professionals alike.
Travel agencies offer weekend get-aways to the Alps for skiing.
There is a castle in Karlsruhe with a park and a museum. There are also museums of art, history, natural history, and technology.
You can find theatres for every occasion and budget in the region as well as concert halls for a variety of musical genres.
The proximity to France has had a strong influence on the regional cuisine. It is very similar to the cuisine in the Alsace. Good food and wine is the rule in this region. That is not to say that the area is not open to international cuisine. There are restaurants for every taste. You are a short drive from the Alsace where a variety of specialities, like lamb and fish dishes, await you.
You can find some restaurants in the Black Forest where you will be welcome even in your hiking gear. Some of the specialities in this area include Black Forest trout and blueberry wine.
Real Estate Market:
You get what you pay for. For flats or houses with attractive features (unfurnished) expect to pay 9-14 euros per square metre plus sundries. Unfurnished truly means empty. There may not even be light fixtures in the flat.
Flats in the most popular areas are hard to come by. This is where our years of experience and contacts with the real estate agents and landlords in the area come in handy.
There is generally a better selection in the suburbs or in the towns and villages in the area, this depends on the location. However, they are not necessarily cheaper.
Rental agreements require a three-month notice period. According to the rental laws in Germany, a landlord can only cancel a rental contract with exceptional grounds. Therefore, landlords are very careful who they accept as tenants, taking credit risk, pets, and smoking into account. As a rule, you will be expected to provide your landlord with information about your credit rating. In addition, you need to have liability insurance to cover any possible damage.
When you rent a flat, it might be ready to move into or could require painting. The deposit is usually two or three times the monthly rent.
Very few flats in the south of Germany include an equipped kitchen. It is sometimes possible to buy the built-in kitchen from the previous tenant.
There are a few furnished flats of different standards and styles to choose from. The rental contracts for these flats can vary between days and years depending on the landlord.
To rent or to buy?:
If you prefer to buy a flat or house, you will want to choose carefully. We recommend first renting a place in the area to give yourself more time for your selection.
Where is the best place to live?:
The decision whether you would prefer to live in the city´s downtown or in the country side depends on your lifestyle and that of your family.
Many suburbs and towns have a good infrastructure with groceries, shops, and sports clubs. There are very few true satellite cities in Karlsruhe.
The public transportation system is a role model of efficiency and convenience. Trams will take you from Pforzheim, Heilbronn, Baden-Baden or Wörth into the city centre. At the weekend, you can take the tram into the Black Forest or the Alsace. The transportation association allows for seamless transfers to regional trains.
We will plan your house-hunting trip for you (with your permission and input, of course). This way you will be able to see a sufficient selection of flats or houses in the shortest possible time. Please wear comfortable clothes and shoes. We will, of course, drive you to the flats or houses you wish to view, but we want to show you around the area as well.
Cameras (still or video) will aid your memory and allow you to show the places you have seen to the members of your family who did not accompany you on this trip. Be sure to ask the owners or tenant for permission before taking any pictures.
Please let us know in advance of any special places in addition to the flats/houses you would like to visit during your stay (e.g. schools).
It is rare to find air-conditioning in a German flat or house.
Accommodations in Germany are equiped with 220-230V/50Hz electrical sockets. Electricity costs are not included in the rental contract or sundries. You must register with the energy provider directly. We will supply you with all the necessary information and registration forms.
In many parts of the city, buildings are heated (centrally or floor-by-floor) by natural gas. The costs for heating are not included in the rental contract or sundries. You will be billed by the supplier directly.
Other methods of heating include: central oil heating, electric heating, external steam heating, oil stove, or even wood-burning stove.
The landlord may forbid pets in his building as per the rental contract. Pets that do not disturb the neighbours nor cause any damage, such as fish, hamsters, and Guinea pigs, are excluded.
Before you bring your pet to Germany, please check with the customs authorities what is required. You may have to provide vaccination certificates or even put your animal in quarantine.
In Germany, there is a leash law and some larger dogs of certain breeds are required to be muzzled. Not all shops and restaurants welcome our four-footed friends, so to avoid disappointment, it is better to check before you go out. You are required to clean up after your dog.
In Germany, trash is separated and recycled. There is one dust-bin for trash which can be recycled (excluding glass), one for regular trash, and one for compost and paper (in some areas). These are emptied alternately. Depending on where you live, the dust-man might collect the trash from its usual position or you might have to place the dust-bin by the side of the road. We will provide you with this information as well as a more detailed explanation of the separation rules. All residential areas have containers for recycling glass. Several times a year, the city holds a bulky trash collection. This is often used as an opportunity by collectors to find hidden treasures.
There is a variety of nursery schools in every area of the city. Nevertheless, we recommend registering your child early. This is especially important if your child should attend the whole day or is under three years of age.
Your children can reach their schools on foot, by bus, or by tram from every area of the city. Grundschule is elementary school. German children usually start school when they are six years old. Children attend Grundschule for the first four school years.
In Germany, there are three levels of secondary school. Hauptschule finishes with the ninth class, after which children generally do an apprenticeship in one of the trades or retail. Realschule goes to the tenth class and prepares children for further training as office clerks, health care providers, and the like. Gymnasium is a university preparation secondary school, which ends after the thirteenth year.
The Europaschule, with children of many nationalities, is located in the Waldstadt area of Karlsruhe and has an excellent reputation.
Karlsruhe is a university town. There is a technical university, a technical college, two art universities (the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung and the Staatliche Akademie der bildenden Künste), a university of pedagogical theory, an academy of the professions (with co-op programs), and a state university of music.
Would you like to know more about the region?
Our links page allows you to go directly to areas of interest.