50 Observations from a German living in Britain

I recently read this great blog post on observations a Brit made living in Germany.

I thought it may be fun to have a reverse view of observations of a German living in Britain.

I have lived here for just over six years and have wholly embraced the culture, however there are still a few things I just don’t get.

See below, I may add more as time goes by.

moustache case

So British

1. They love talking about the weather. This is a fact. If it’s bad they talk about it, if it’s good they talk about it, if it’s awful they definitely will talk about it, maybe it’s because…

2. They do a lot of small talk. Even though you may be told that no one talks or avoid eye contact on the tube, in most cases and most places in the UK, people will feel inclined to do some small talk to bridge over any awkward situations, even if the small talk makes things more awkward.

3. They are firm believers in roast dinners. Roast dinner is a massive thing. If it isn’t your family who cooks a roast dinner every Sunday, you will see hundreds of people flock to the nearest pub on a Sunday where you’d mostly only be able to get your meat, vege, spuds and gravy all day.

4. Christmas adverts, Being from Germany, we don’t really have commercialised Christmas quite like in Britain. People here anticipate the Coke advert, the John Lewis advert and every product seems to have a festive version and usually aired around November time.

5. Everything they tell you about Brits drinking tea is true. At work, at home, on the go, tea tea tea. Most popular tea is the black tea/English breakfast with milk. The consumption is so big that energy companies calculate at which point there may be an energy surge for when kettles are put on during adverts of a very popular TV show.

6. When they say “Alright” or “You alright?” to you, it is not a cue for you to respond and tell them how you actually are, it’s just another way of saying “hello”.

7. Apologising for everything is a standard and makes life with each other much more pleasant (even if they don’t mean it every time).

8. The slightest whiff of sun or lack of rain and you will find Brits out in their gardens or parks having a BBQ, even if it’s just a disposable one with Bird’s eye burgers slowly thawing on it.

9. When it snows (lightly) everything descends into chaos. They remind me of people from hot countries who have never seen snow and are afraid of it. Bulk buying milk and bread is then a standard in case you don’t get to a shop.

10. They love abbreviations. “Offie” is an off license, a corner shop. “Chippy” is a fish & chip shop.

11. People here tend to hate the Royal mail.

12. There aren’t fast trains or slow local trains, there is only ever one train for most journeys. And older trains don’t have a handle to open the train door from the inside, you have push down the window and open it from the outside. My friend thought I was joking when she visited me.

13. Pubs. Brits love pubs. It is an inherently British thing to go to pubs, have a pint or two and spend a weekday evening in your local pub. In other countries people usually gather in cafes or bars but Brits default to pubs.

14. Everyone loves David Attenborough. Young and old. He is Britain’s Grandad.

15. Their sense of humour is usually dark, self-deprecating and what they call “cringe” TV. Cringe being the embarrassment you feel for someone else, it strikes the fear of awkwardness in most Brits.

16. Don’t ever call the Welsh, Scots or the Irish “English” They are very proud not to be.

17. The Brits love underdogs.

18. Most Brits agree that the Birmingham accent is the worst.

19. Bus drivers will either glare at you or not let you on the bus when you don’t have change for the bus fare and only have notes. It is an accepted fact.

20. Brits very rarely speak a second language well despite usually having learnt German or French at school.

21. The most popular cheese in Britain is the cheddar and the hundreds of varieties of said humble cheese.

22. Their full English breakfast is oft consumed and, like the roast dinner, a traditional meal.

23. Brits love or hate Marmite. Whereas most people who try Marmite the first time in their adulthood will most likely hate it.

24. A lot of British houses have carpet.in.the.bathroom.

25. Brits definitely have a preference for certain supermarkets. There are 4 major ones and some snub their noses at other supermarkets for being inferior, even though most products are the same in all supermarkets.

26. Chip butties. That’s right, Brits eat chips sandwiched between two slices of bread or a roll. It’s carbs in carbs, I still don’t know why.

27. “Pudding” can mean several things and not always sweet desserts. There is steak and kidney pudding or Yorkshire pudding, both of which are savoury. So don’t be misled when you read the word “pudding” on the menu. Meanwhile there is eggy bread, what Germans call “Armer Ritter” (poor knight) which in Germany is consumed with sugar, while Brits see it as a savoury snack.

28. Queues. There are queues for everything, even for bus stops. Even if the bus stop sees 4 different buses, there will always be a queue. You get used to this system so much that the lack of queues abroad will start distressing you.

29. “Bread” for Brits are what Germans call “Toast”, sliced sandwich bread in a plastic bag, available in all your supermarkets.

30. Alcohol measurements. The Brits use precise jiggers to measure out exactly a single or double shot or use optics while in Germany, if you asked for a double vodka, you will probably get two drinks… both double strength as there is no such thing as “single” shot in Germany.

31. Licenses. While it may not be appreciated by Germans to see people drink in the streets (apart from Karneval and Maiwoche where everyone is drunk at 10am on the streets), it isn’t forbidden by law, while police in Britain will stop you and ask you to pour away your drink.

32. Brits open their Christmas presents on the morning of the 25th of December which is hard to get used to when you grew up opening all your presents on Christmas eve.

33. English people hate Germans when it comes to football. It’s the bane of their existence and you will hear a lot of stereotype statements during a commentated match on TV. It’s probably because they have not banked many wins against Germany and see them as their main football rival whereas Germany have no hard feelings towards England, they see Netherland as their main rival.

34. Keep Calm and Carry on paraphernalia in all shapes and spoof forms are available everywhere.

35. Double decker buses. I don’t know whose idea it was to install a narrow staircase on a bus but having almost fallen down/up one as the driver is leaving the bus stop too enthusiastically, I think it is an inherently bad idea.

36. Long standing soaps like Eastenders, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks or Emmerdale are as popular as ever while soaps in Germany have died over the years.

37.  A huge group of 18 year olds will move out of their parent’s house as they begin University straight after they finish their A-levels. They also get a lump sum of money called student loan which they are supposed to use to pay rent and live for a whole year. No one thought that giving a freshly independent 18 year old a couple of grand may be a bad idea.

38. Brits are obsessed with owning their own houses. While in Germany many people rent happily for their entire life, in Britain owning a house is one of the cornerstones of a successful life. Maybe it’s because landlords tend to be stricter than in Germany, do visits to check the property and you’re not allowed to change too many things in your house when you’re renting.

39. Collecting loyalty points. Almost all bigger shops have a sort of points system where for every pound you spend you will get a point or points credited against your account. Once a certain amount of points have accumulated, you can either swap them for items or have money off voucher. This is to encourage repeat visits.

40. If you look under 25, you will be asked for ID to prove you’re old enough to buy alcohol. This is to make sure you never accidently serve someone who is under 18 and bloody annoying when you look young-ish like me.

41. Sandwiches. The Brits love sandwiches, pre packed supermarket sandwiches are very often the lunch of many people on an almost daily basis.

42. There aren’t many outdoor swimming pools since the weather is never quite good enough over the year to make it worth it.

43. Shops are open 7 days a week. On Sunday they close early at 4pm usually apart from corner shops which have a late license. The only two days where shops are completely shut all day is Christmas day and New Year’s day (though some corner shops might still remain open).

44. There a millions of TV chefs in Britain. Brits love cooking shows and cooking competition shows…

45. …but also have aisles and aisles of ready meals. Brits eat a lot of ready meals which are mostly found in the fridge aisles and not on the shelf like in Germany.

46. Brits might get a bit offended if you asked them how much money they earn or how much rent they are paying. It’s not considered a normal question to ask.

47. Public toilets are (mostly) free. While you may be expected to pay a small charge for using public toilets, in Britain most toilets in restaurants, shops etc. are free of charge. You may pay for that in other areas, namely the lack of hygiene in toilets as there isn’t a ready cleaner to mop up any mess.

48. Big Brother is still on TV.

49. Most smokers will smoke rollies. They carry pouches of tobacco, rizlas and filters with them and build their own cigarettes. It’s cheaper than buying the pack and is not seen as scummy like it is in Germany.

50. You’re not allowed to smoke anywhere indoors or even at bus stops in Britain. This is great.



9 thoughts on “50 Observations from a German living in Britain

  1. You seem to like Britain then! Totally right about the Brummie accents, sorry Brummies 😉 Point 49 isn’t necessary right, in my experience – it’s actually the reverse. Don’t mind what you say about Double Deckers – I love ’em – sitting up top, right at the front on a really bumpy journey. People should queue, it’s impolite not to 😉 If you’re queuing at a checkout with only a couple of items, more often that not, the person in front will let you go ahead of them. If another checkout opens, people will allow those who have been queuing the longest to go first, unlike in Germany. And yes…. never talk about money. The pub is an institution and I love it.

    • I love it here and will probably never move back!
      I very rarely see people smoking straights (if that’s the word?) I think it may be because I am still surrounded by quite young people and rollies are cheaper. 😉

      I like queuing, i got quite annoyed in Germany when people weren’t queuing properly, though sometimes I don’t understand it like at bus stops.

  2. Yeah, you might be right about the young’uns smoking rollies, I still smoke rollies but don’t find it’s frowned upon in D.

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