Today, wild animals, although they abound, are mostly very shy, so you might not get to see many. While a few wolves in Saxony and a bear in Bavaria have been sighted, their immigration from Eastern Europe caused quite a stir. In the course of events, "Bruno" the bear was shot, and while the wolves are under heavy protection local hunters have been suspected of killing them illegally. The most dangerous animal in Germany's forests is by far the wild boar; in particular, sows leading young are nothing to joke about. Wild boar are used to humans, since they often plunder trash cans in villages and suburbs, and their teeth can rip big wounds. If you see one, do not approach it, and back away cautiously.
Germany is a very safe country. Crimes rates are low and the rule of law is strictly enforced.
Violent crimes homicide, robberies, rape, assault are very rare compared to most African and American countries. For instance, 2010 homicide rates were, with 0.86 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, significantly lower than in the UK 1.17, Australia 1.20, France 1.31, Canada 1.81 and the US 5.0 - and they continue to decline. Pickpockets may sometimes be an issue in large cities or at events with large crowds. Begging is not uncommon in some larger cities, but not to a greater extent than in most other major cities, and you will rarely experience aggressive beggars. Some beggars are organized in groups. Be aware that flashing any cardboard sign very near to your body could be a pickpocket trick.
If you stay in Berlin or Hamburg Schanzenviertel around the first of May, Tag der Arbeit, expect demonstrations that frequently evolve into clashes between the police and a minority of the demonstrators.
Take the usual precautions such as not walking in parks alone in the early hours, not leaving your camera unattended or bicycle unlocked, and not flashing around a big fat wallet and you will most likely not encounter any crime at all while staying in Germany.
Prostitution including brothels and non-exploitative pimping is a legal business in Germany and is a common sight especially in cities like Berlin and Hamburg. Managers of larger brothels use to keep close contact to law-enforcement, health, and tax authorities in order to keep their business "clean". Advertisement for brothels can even be found on municipal buses or at other municipal advertisement space. Soliciting a prostitute under the age of 18 is illegal.
Germany has a set minimum wage of €8.50 per hour as of 2015, but there are exceptions. Generally, pay rates must be agreed upon directly with the employer through collective bargaining or other means of negotiating a fair living wage and this is strictly enforced. But construction workers, electrical workers, janitors, roofers, painters, and letter carriers aren't protected. So if you wish to work in these fields while in Germany, you could end up working for no pay.
Especially in the English-speaking countries, Germany and the Germans have earned themselves a reputation for being stiff and strict with rules but also hard working and efficient. If you are caught breaking the rules, this will be pointed out to you by a fellow citizen. The two exceptions to rules in Germany seem to be queues and speed limits.
More important, the German sense of "politeness" differs significantly from the Anglo-American concept of courteous remarks, small talk and political correctness. Germans highly value honesty, straight talking, being able to cope with criticism and generally not wasting other people's time. Consequently, business meetings tend to lack the introductory chit-chat. The Germans tend to be very formal people especially in business and titles rule the roost. Any titles such as Dr., Prof. etc. are used recursively, e.g. Herr Prof. Dr. Müller. Some colleagues that have worked together for many years still call each by their title and surname. When a German introduces himself to you, he/she will often simply state their surname, prompting you to call them ""Herr/Frau..." "Mr/Mrs..."". Using first names immediately may be seen as derogatory.
There is also a strong desire to achieve mutual agreement and compromise. As for the infamous efficiency: Germans are the world's leading recreationists at an average of 30 days of paid leave per year, not counting public holidays, while maintaining one of the highest productivity rates on earth. A late-running train is considered a sign of the degradation of society.
Despite popular belief, the Germans do have a sense of humour. Still, it might be good to know when and how to be ironic or sarcastic. If you are around people you know well, sarcasm and irony are very common kinds of humour. Nevertheless, being whimsical with your boss or professor is considered very inappropriate, even if he or she is.A tourist not familiar with Gothic or hard punk culture might be puzzled from seeing people dressed up in a very flashy way, usually around railway stations.
The official language of Germany is German. The standard register of German is called "Hochdeutsch" High German. This can be understood by all mother-tongue speakers of German and spoken by almost all when necessary. However, every region has its own dialect, which might pose a challenge sometimes to those who speak even good German and even to native speakers as well. This is usually noticeable only in the south not too much in big cities such as Stuttgart or Munich though and rural areas of the north and east. Thus, when travelling in Bavaria, Saxony and Baden, you are stepping foot in places where dialect remains a strong part of the local identity. The general rule is that south of the Main River divides north Germany from the south in both language and local culture.
If you intend address the person you're speaking to in German, refer to the person as "Sie" if you aren't acquainted with that person yet. "Du" can be used if both of you are already close the form of the verbs will also change.
All Germans learn English at school, so you should be able to get by with English in most places especially in the former West Germany. Many people--especially in the tourism industry and higher educated persons--also speak French, Russian or Spanish, but if you can't speak German, English remains your best bet. Even if one member of the staff doesn't speak English, you are likely to find someone who does and is more than willing to help you. In the southeastern part of that area, a small Slavic community of 50,000 also speak the Sorbian language, the least spoken modern Slavic language today, but widely protected from near-extinction since 1945. Also on the western coast of Germany there is a small ethnic group speaking its own language, the Frisian people. The dialect „North Frisian“ is still widely spoken on the islands Amrum, Föhr, Sylt and on several other small, undiked Island, as well as on the mainland in front of them. In Lower Saxony federal state the East Frisians live on the East Frisian Islands and the mainland close by. There are also some other Frisian communities spread in the north of Lower Saxony for example in Saterland. The Frisian culture is protected by law, due to their status as minority.
If you address a German with English, always first ask "Do you speak English?" or maybe its German translation, "Sprechen Sie Englisch?", which will be considered polite, but probably not understood as you will pronounce it really wrong or sound strange.
Germans are less fluent in the English language and often answer questions very briefly one or two words because they feel uncertain how to create a complete English sentence. This might sometimes appear impolite but is not at all meant this way. Germans less fluent in English also often say "become" instead of "get" because the German word "bekommen" "get" is phonetically so close to "become". Since it's polite to reply "Bitte" if someone thanks you, Germans may literally translate this with "please" instead of "here you are" or "you're welcome". Another source of confusion is that Germans call mobile or cellular phones a "Handy" and many of them regard this as an English word.
Germans considering themselves fluent in the English language will often offer to speak English with you if you try to speak German with them. It's considered by most as a sign of politeness even though it might be annoying for people who want to practice German. Pointing out that you'll want to try in German is perfectly fine and most people will react very positive or apologize if you do.
It is worth noting that English is in the same language family as the German language. Hence when you read German signs, there are a good number of words that may resemble their English counterparts.
While Germany uses the 24 hour format for written times, people very often use 12 hour times in conversations. There is no real suffix like "AM/PM", though you can add "vormittags" before noon and "nachmittags" after noon when it's not clear from the context. Another difference is that when saying the time is 07:30, English speakers would say "half past seven" whereas Germans say "halb acht" "half eight" in most regions. In addition, Germans say two-digit numbers "backwards": instead of "twenty-two" they say "two and twenty." Numbers below 20 are said the same way as in English. This becomes especially important when you inquire for prices, although most who speak English with you should use the correct form. It is still better to double-check what is really meant.
See also German phrasebook.
Deutsche Post (http://www.deutschepost.com) the German postal service runs several international companies including DHL (http://www.dhl.com) and others. A standard postcard costs €0.45 to send within Germany and €0.75 everywhere else. A standard letter not weighing more than 20 grams costs €0.62 to send within Germany and again €0.75 everywhere else. Letters within Germany are mostly delivered within 1 day, allow a bit longer for Europe. If you are going to buy postage stamps from souvenir stores, the stores usually only sell these together with postcards though you can buy postcards alone. However, you can buy stamps separately at the post office and the postcards themselves at souvenir stores.
The service has been reduced in the privatization process. Due to a surge in the theft rate [especially by outsourced letter carriers and contractors] any international shipments, especially incoming, should be insured if they are valuable.
Air mail Luftpost can be as cheap as the alternative, Landweg. If you want to send packages, there are three options cheapest to most expensive-Maxibrief an oversized letter up to 2 kg and L+W+H=900mm. Päckchen is a smallup to 2kg for international, uninsured packet. Otherwise it will have to be sent under the price system of a DHL Paket.
If only books are sent, reduced rates apply Büchersendung, but expect the mail to be opened and looked at, as really only books are allowed in them.Rates for Büchersendungen vary between €0.45 and €1.40, depending on size and weight.
It is possible to drop letters and parcels at FedEx and UPS stations. Expect to queue.
The international calling code for Germany is +49, and the prefix for international calls is 00; the area code prefix is 0. Some number blocks are reserved for special use: Number starting with 010xx let you choose a different phone provider see below, 0800 and 00800 are toll-free numbers, 0180 are service numbers which may or may not be more expensive than a local call. Avoid 0900 prefix numbers. These are for commercial services and usually incredibly expensive.
Mobile phone coverage on the three networks T-Mobile, Vodafone, and the recently joined E-Plus/o2 networks is generally good, with T-Mobile having the best coverage in rural areas, followed by Vodafone. UMTS 3G is almost universally available, and LTE 4G is available in all urban areas. All mobile providers use GSM technology on the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency ranges. This is different to the GSM 1900 standard used in the United States, but modern "multi-band" handsets will usually work in all GSM networks. Non-GSM phones cannot be used in Germany. If you have a GSM mobile telephone from the USA, make sure to call your provider in the USA prior to your trip and have them "unlock" your telephone handset so that you can use it with a German SIM card.
The vast majority of Germans own mobile phones called "Handys" in German, pronounced "hendy"; the disadvantage of this is that the once-common phone booths have started to disappear except at "strategical" locations such as train stations. They usually consist of a silver column with a pink top and the phone attached on the front. At some places there are still older versions consisting of a yellow cabin with a door and the telephone inside.
If you stay for a longer period of time, consider buying a prepaid phone card from one of the mobile phone companies; you won't have trouble finding a T-Mobile in a "T-Punkt", Vodafone, E-Plus or O2 store in any major shopping area.
Mobile telephony is still comparatively expensive in Germany, depending on your contract you may be charged about €0.09 to €0.39 per minute and more for international calls.
In most grocery store chains such as ALDI, Lidl, there's an abundance of prepaid SIM cards from their own virtual carriers - these SIM cards use the major networks but come at a much lower price. They are usually quite cheap to buy 10-15€ with 5-15 € airtime and also quite cheap to use for national and international Europe and USA calls 0.09-0.19 €/minute. Incoming calls and SMS are always free. SMS cost around 0.09-0.19 €. All of those carriers also offer inexpensive data plans without any long term commitment. They are available at: Aldi, Lidl, Penny, Netto, Tchibo, Rewe, toom, blau.de. A registration via Internet or expensive phone call is necessary after buying to activate the SIM card.
While international calls using the German SIM card can be expensive, there are some prepaid offers with good rates. Since the liberalization of Germany's phone market, there is a multitude of phone providers on the market. If you're calling from a private fixed line, you can usually choose from the different providers and thus from different pricing schemes by using special prefix numbers starting with 010xx with prices of 0.01 € or 0.02 €, sometimes below 0.01 € even for international calls. There's a calculator on the net (http://www.billiger-telef...) where you can compare the prices for different destinations. Hotels usually have contracts with a particular phone provider and won't let you use a different one.
Alternatively, you can also buy prepaid phone cards you can use by calling a toll free number; this is especially a good deal if you intend to make international calls. Cards' quality and prices vary wildly, however, so a good recommendation cannot be made.
Recently, phone shops have sprung up in the major cities, where you can make international calls at cheap rates. These call shops are mostly located in city areas with a high number of immigrants and are your best option to call internationally. Apart from offering calls abroad themselves they sell international calling cards for use from any phone in Germany. You can usually spot these shops by the many flags decorating their windows.
know the locals
The general rule of thumb is that wealth rises towards the south: Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria are the two richest states, competing with Switzerland and Austria for quality of life. A more liberal atmosphere is dominant as the traveler goes northward: Hamburg and Berlin have had homosexual mayors, bars and clubs are open all night and the density of young artists in Berlin Friedrichshain easily surpasses that of London, Paris or Manhattan. Northern Germany is in the same cultural sphere as the Netherlands and Scandinavia with even the food and architecture more pragmatic, simple and unrefined than in the traditionally Catholic south.
General rule of thumb: be on time!
In official contexts when conducting business punctuality is seen not as a courtesy but as precondition for future relations. Most Germans arrive 5-10 min early and take this for granted from everyone. Arriving more than 2 min late to a meeting is seen as rude and will be tolerated only with unknowing strangers, unless you can give good reason in your defense i.e. being stuck in heavy traffic. It is seen as a courtesy to call the other participants if you seem to be running late. Regular delays are seen as disrespect for the other participants.
For personal relations, importance attached to punctuality may differ from individual to individual. It is still always safer to be punctual than late, but the subject may be a negotiable matter: if unsure just ask 'is punctuality important to you?'. Punctuality also depends on the milieu, in a collegiate environment, for example, it is taken much less seriously. For private invitations to a home, it may even be considered more polite to be 5-15 min late as to not embarrass the host in case not everything has been prepared.
the nazi era
Between 1933 and 1945 Germany was ruled by the National Socialist German Worker's Party German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei; abbreviated NSDAP. In 1939 the German attack of Poland started World War II. In the following years over 60 million people were killed, including 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. Since then, the Third Reich has been a big part of Germany's history and national identity. German pupils are educated about the nazi era in school and most classes visit a concentration camp most of these sites have been transformed into memorials. There are many educational programmes on television and radio dealing with this period of time. Growing up in Germany, whether in the GDR or West Germany, meant and still means growing up with this heritage, and every German has developed her or his own way of dealing with the public guilt. For the traveler, this can mean confusion. You might come across people especially young ones eager to talk to you about Germany's troubled history, feeling the urge to convince you Germany has come a long way since then. Choose adequate places to talk about the issue and be polite about it.
Humour, even made innocently, is absolutely the wrong way of approaching the matter and is insulting. Even worse, what might sound funny abroad may earn you jail time up to 3 years and a hefty fine in Germany. All Nazi-era slogans, symbols, and gestures are forbidden except for artistic or educational purposes, and even these are strongly regulated, and displaying them in public is illegal. Foreigners are not exempt from these laws. Do not even think about jokingly giving a stiff arm Nazi salute! For example: a German court had to decide if it is legal to wear a crossed out swastika to show one's opposing the ideas of national-socialism, since it still contains a forbidden symbol!
Saying "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" a line from Deutschlandlied, the national anthem is generally looked down upon, as it has strong connotations to Nazi Germany.
Buddhist, Jain and Hindu visitors should note that even though the swastika is not banned as a religious symbol, you might get some strange looks from the people living there if you wear the symbol, as many Germans are not aware that the swastika is also a religious symbol. You could also end up having to explain your religious situation to the German police.
Probably the best way to deal with the issue is to stay relaxed about it. If your company likes to talk about German history, use the opportunity for a sincere, maybe even very personal conversation. If you want to steer clear of awkward moments, don't bring up the matter.
However, this is not the case when you ask them about the division of Germany into East and West. Communist symbols, GDR songs and other East-German related regalia are circulated freely and many are nostalgic about the country, hence the artistic and commercial movement "Ostalgie" nostalgia for the East. Just avoid bringing up the topic of the Berlin Wall impulsively, as it is still a very divisive issue.
behaving in public
Germany, especially urban Germany, is a rather tolerant society, and your common sense should be sufficient to keep yourself out of trouble.
Drinking in public is not forbidden and is even a common sight in the far west Cologne and the Rhine-Ruhr Area. In some larger cities such as Cologne there are local laws that in theory make drinking alcohol in public a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of tens of euros; these laws are rarely enforced against tourists, except in cases when drinking leads to rowdy behavior such laws have also been successfully challenged in court in several places. Behaving aggressively or disturbing the peace will earn you a conversation with German police officers and possibly a fine. Behave respectfully in places of worship and places that carry the dignity of the state like the numerous war and holocaust memorials, parliaments and other historical sites.
Insults against other people are prohibited by German law and, if prosecuted for it, can result in jail time and a heavy fine. It is unknown how often charges are brought, but exercise common sense in all cases.
On German beaches, it's in general not okay for women to bathe topless. Full nudity isn't tolerated everywhere and not a frequent sight outside of the numerous nudist areas labeled "FKK" -- "Freikörperkultur", literally free body culture. These are especially common at the east German Baltic coastline, due to the high popularity of nudism in the former GDR. It's also possible to spot nudists in Berlin's public parks and in Munich's "English Garden". Be aware that the term FKK Club traditionally always relates to legal brothels.
In most saunas, including hotel saunas, nudity is compulsory for hygiene reasons, while mixed sessions are common practice. The same applies to some spas, where guests are expected not to wear any textile e.g. WellNeuss in Neuss. Germans commonly do not consider nudity as anything related to sexuality by default, thus, such rules do not imply that operators of saunas or spas which require their guests to be nude would accept them to engage into any sexual behaviour - quite the opposite is the case, as couples had been sentenced to criminal fines for engaging in sexual acts in all-nude spa areas. In some saunas, some time of the week might be reserved for women or men only.
The nationwide emergency number for the police, fire and rescue services is 112 same in all EEA countries and with English-speaking operators. The police have an additional number, 110, which is unlikely to be staffed with English-speaking operators and not recommended for tourists. These numbers can be dialled toll-free from any phone, including phone booths and mobile phones SIM-card required. If you are reporting an emergency, the usual guidelines apply: stay calm and state your exact location, the type of emergency and the number of persons involved. Do not hang up until the operator has received all required information and ends the call.
There are orange emergency telephones interspersed along the main motorways. You can find the closest SOS-phone by following arrows on the reflectively marked posts at the side of the road.
Ambulances Rettungswagen can be summoned via the national toll-free emergency number 112 and will help you regardless of insurance issues. All hospitals Krankenhäuser except for the smallest private ones have 24-hour emergency rooms able to cope with all kinds of medical problems.
Many lakes and rivers, as well as both the North Sea and Baltic Sea are generally safe for swimming. Nevertheless, while there may be no life-threatening pollutants in most bodies of water, you would do very well to inform yourself about local regulations. If you intend to swim in a large river, at best do so only on official bathing locations. Keep away from structures power plants might cause streams you don't see from the surface in the river or reaching from the shore into the river, also keep out of the path of ships. Both structures and ships, even if they look harmless or far away, may create major sucks underwater. Take particular care of children.
If you intend to swim in the North Sea you should inform yourselves about the tide schedules and weather conditions - getting caught in a tide can be fatal, getting lost in the mist, too. Hiking in the Wattenmeer without a local guide is extremely dangerous, so keep out if you do not really know your way around. There are no tides in the Baltic Sea.
Some types of knives are illegal in Germany: this concerns mostly some types of spring knives, "butterfly" knives, knuckle knives and the like. These knives are illegal and owning them is an offence. Knives that are intended as weapons are restricted to persons over 18.
It is illegal to carry any type of "dangerous knife" on your person in public unless you have a valid reason to do so. For example, if you are out fishing you are still entitled to carry a fishing knife. "Dangerous" knives are generally those with a blade length exceeding 12cm and "one-handed" folding knives.
Carrying any knife except a Swiss Army knife in some cases without any professional reasons carpenter, etc is seen as very rude and unacceptable in Germany. Germans consider any non-professionally used knives as signs of aggression and do not accept this behaviour. Flashing a knife even folded may cause bystanders to call the police, who will be very serious in handling the upcoming situation.
Firearms are strictly controlled. It is practically impossible to legally carry a gun in public unless you are a law enforcement officer. Fake firearms may not be carried in public if they resemble real guns. Carbon dioxide and air guns are relatively easy to acquire. If the police finds any kind of weapon or firearm on you, you will appear highly suspicious.
EU citizens that are members of any public health insurance can get a European Health Insurance Card. The card is issued by your insurance provider and lets you use the public health care system in any EU country, including Germany. If you are an EU citizen, you simply have to tell a doctor or the hospital that it goes through the 'AOK', the German state health insurance scheme. If doctors and hospitals don't accept this, go to the local AOK office and they will usually telephone them to confirm.
If you're from outside the EU, or if you have a private health insurance, check if your insurance is valid in Germany. If not, get a travel health insurance for the trip - German health care is expensive.
Foreign insurance, even if it covers travel abroad, may not be accepted by local hospitals, i.e. you may have to pay up front and claim it back from the insurance company. Be sure to keep the originals safe. Alternatively, you might be sent a bill in the post.
Low strength alcohol like beer and wine may be bought if you're 16 years and older. However, spirits and drinks mixed with those including the popular 'Alcopops' are available only at 18. It's not technically illegal for younger people to drink, but it is illegal to allow them to drink on premises. If the police notices under age drinking, they may pick the person up, confiscate the drinks and send the person home in the presence of an officer. In many public transport systems, such as the subways and buses in Berlin, Hamburg, or Nürnberg and increasingly many other cities, as well as on private local train operators such as Metronom in Lower Saxony, the consumption of alcohol is prohibited. Therefore you will see lots of beer and brandy bottles on interchanging station like Uelzen
Smoking is allowed starting at age 18. Vending machines for cigarettes require a valid "proof of age", which in practice means that you need a German bank card or a European driving license to use them.
The situation on marijuana can be confusing. The Constitutional Court ruled that possession for "personal use", though still illegal, should not be prosecuted. Germany is a federal state, therefore the interpretation of this ruling is up to the state authorities. In fact charges are sometimes pressed even for tiny amounts, which will cause you a lot of trouble regardless of the outcome. As a general rule the northern states tend to be more liberal while in the south especially Bavaria, even negligible amounts are considered illegal. The customs officials are also aware of the fact that you can legally buy marijuana in the Netherlands and therefore set up intelligence-based border controls also inside trains as import is strictly prohibited.
Even if you get off the charges, the authorities may cause different problems, like revoking your driving licence and if you have more than a few grams, you will be prosecuted in any case. Also, the drugs will be confiscated in all cases. Authorities are free to inform your home country about the results of their investigation, and about the sanctions imposed on you.
In case you are found guilty of a felony involving narcotics, and you are not an EU EEA, Swiss citizen, you might be expelled from Germany and banned from re-entry into the whole Schengen area for up to ten years.
All other recreational drugs like ecstasy are illegal and possession will lead to prosecution and at least a police record.
Avoid bringing any fireworks into Germany, especially from outside the EU. Even bringing those can be an offence. Fireworks are traditionally used on New Year's Eve. Most "proper" fireworks marked as "Klasse II" will be available at only the end of the year; they may be used by persons only over 18 on 31 December and 1 January. Really small items marked as "Klasse I" may be used around the year by anyone. On December 31 and the preceding days, be aware that some possibly drunk and frustrated people may throw fireworks at bystanders. This typically happens in some areas in larger cities.
If you have an non-urgent medical problem, you may choose from any local doctor. The German health system allows specialists to run their own surgery so you usually will be able to find every discipline from Dentistry to Neurology on duty within reasonable reach. In remote regions finding a doctor might require a ride to the next town but the German infrastructure allows fast connections. GPs/family doctors will usually describe themselves as "Allgemeinmediziner" - meaning "general practitioner".
Pharmacies are called "Apotheke" and are marked by a big, red "A" symbol. At least one pharmacy in the area will be open at all times usually a different one every day, and all pharmacies will post the name and address of the pharmacy-on-duty in the window. Some medication that is sometimes freely available in other countries e.g. antibiotics and the "morning-after pill" needs a prescription in Germany, so you may want to check before your journey. The staff of an Apotheke have specially trained personnel, as it is mandatory to have a university degree in pharmaceutics to run an Apotheke in Germany. A German pharmacist and his staff is not only able to offer advice on medications, but also obliged to do so. Thus, expect them to ask which person the medication will be intended for, and to give some mostly helpful advise on it. In Germany, it is not considered shameful to talk about disease, thus, the dialogue might be quite straightforward. Waiting other customers will usually wait behind a line painted on the floor as a measure to increase discretion.
In Germany pharmaceuticals tend to be expensive, so it might be wise to ask the pharmacist for "Generika" generic drugs: A "Generikum" is virtually the same produce, often even produced by the same pharmaceutical trust, just lacking the well-known brand name and being considerably cheaper.
German Police officers Polizei are trained to be always helpful, not corrupt, professional and trustworthy, but tend to be rather strict in enforcing the law, which means that one should not expect that exceptions are made for tourists. When dealing with police you should remain calm, courteous and avoid getting into any confrontation since you may be fined for insulting or even physically resisting police officers. Most police officers should speak/understand at least basic English or at least have colleagues who do so. The younger they are, the better the chance to catch one who speaks good English. The level of English varies but all have a pretty good understanding. Otherwise some do speak French, Spanish or their parents' languages like Turkish, Polish, Russian and so on.
Police uniforms and cars are blue or green. Green used to be the standard, but most states and the federal police have transitioned to blue uniforms and cars to comply with the EU standard.
Police officers are employed by the states except in airports, train stations, border crossings, etc, which are controlled by the Federal Police Bundespolizei. In mid-sized towns and big cities, local police called Stadtpolizei, kommunale Polizeibehörde or Ordnungsamt have some limited law enforcement rights and are, in general, responsible for traffic issues.
If you get arrested, you have the right to have an attorney. Foreign nationals also have the right to contact their respective embassy for assistance. With respect to your personality and data protection, your embassy will only be contacted upon your express request and consent - you might prefer not to let your home country know about your arrest. Thus, you will have to expressly request such embassy contact. You are never obliged to make a statement that would incriminate yourself and you have the right to remain silent. Wait until your lawyer arrives and talk to your lawyer first. If you do not have a lawyer, call your embassy or someone else who can hire one for you, otherwise the local justice official will appoint a lawyer for you, which might not be the best available in town.
If you are a victim of crime for example robbery, assault or theft in public and wave down an oncoming patrol car or officer, it is not uncommon that the officers will sometimes rather abruptly: "Einsteigen" command you to enter the back seat of the police vehicle. This is an action to start an instant manhunt to identify and arrest the suspect. In this case remember that you are not under arrest but there to help the officers enforce the law and, hopefully, recover your property. In general, if police ask you to enter some police car, to attend them, or to follow them to some station, and you have not committed any offense, you are not under arrest. This even applies if they body search you before entering the police car, because, in some states, police are simply ordered to routine search any person who enters a police car. In case of doubt, ask them which status you have in the investigation. If you get the information that you are a witness, this means that you have to state the truth if you are stating something, but that you are free to leave whenever you want, unless you are formally summoned by a prosecutor. Under German law, no witness is obliged to appear at the police, but only by order of a prosecutor or a judge.
German Police do have ranks but are not that keen about them. Don't count the stars on the officer's shoulders to choose the officer you will address. Such behaviour is seen as impolite and a disrespect to lower rank officers. Talk to any officer and they will answer your questions or redirect you if needed to the officer in charge.
The overwhelming majority of foreign visitors will never deal with issues of open racial discrimination or racism in Germany. Large cities in Germany are very cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic with large communities of people from all continents and religions. In large cities, you can meet many people looking somewhat Asian or African, but whose mother tongue is German, and who would consider themselves as nothing else than simply German. German government officials and at least quite a few organizations exercise a very strict no-tolerance policy against any people known to have a Nazi / Nationalist ideology. Many Germans still feel at least quite aware if not even ashamed of the historical burden of the Nazi era and are usually open-minded and tolerant in contacts with foreigners. Non-white visitors might still get an occasional wary look particularly in Eastern Germany, but not to a greater extent than in other countries with a predominantly white population. Racial profiling by the Federal Police "Bundespolizei", however, had been a known issue that has been addressed publicly and repeatedly challenged in court. Foreign looking people were more likely to be stopped and asked for their papers than others Federal Police is usually present at some train stations and patrolling in some trains. However, their action used to be based on intelligence, and providing a passport and some explanation why, for example, you had been sitting in some train station for three hours, would usually lead them to perform their real duties. In addition, Federal Police had started to use poetic justice: Once a young black man had been asked for his papers, they might also request documents from a mid-aged pale woman some minutes later.
The generally relaxed situation may be different in economically weak and/or rural parts of Germany particularly in the east, including the outskirts of East Berlin. There are sometimes incidents of violence against non-whites in these regions. Most of these happen at night when groups of drunken "Neo-Nazis" look for trouble and solitary victims downtown or near public transport stations. The anger of these groups is directed against anything which is different. Hence, it might not only affect foreign visitors, but also homeless persons, West Germans and people with alternative looks such as Punks, Goths, etc.
Public displays of overt anti-Semitism are forbidden by law. The Hitler salute and the swastika are banned, as well as the public denial of the Holocaust, or Nazi slogans or anthems.
The attitude towards gays and lesbians is tolerant with openly gay politicians and celebrities being considered increasingly normal. While some, especially the elderly, Germans inwardly still don't approve of homosexuality or bisexuality, they may not always express disapproval out loud. Displays of homosexuality holding hands or kissing will, in some areas, provoke stares or sometimes comments by children or elderly people.
In some non-central areas of Berlin and eastern Germany 'gay-bashing' is popular with neo-Nazis or other gangs, so use common sense and be geared to the behaviour of the locals around you: if no one else is openly gay, better avoid it.
You should be aware of rabies Tollwut which has been a problem in some areas in the past, even if forestry officials combat it very seriously. If you want to go to Germany for hiking or camping you should inform yourself about the situation at your destination and take appropriate precautions. Normally, you won't have to worry about it because the main transmitting animal is the fox.
The biggest risks hikers and camper face are two diseases transmitted by ticks. In some parts of Germany there is a low risk of contracting tick-borne encephalitis; vaccination is advised if you plan out-door activities in high-risk areas. The risk of Lyme disease is higher and vaccination is not available. Therefore you should try to prevent tick-bites by wearing long trousers and appropriate shoes. Chemical repellents can also be effective. You should also check for ticks afterwards since the risk of transmission is lower if the tick is removed early. The safest way to remove a tick is by using a credit card sized device called a "Zeckenkarte" tick card, wich you can get at most pharmacies. Other methods fingers, using glue, etc. might lead to the tick injecting even more infectious material into the wound. If in any doubt consult a doctor.
Internet cafes are common and usually small, local businesses. You probably won't have a problem finding at least one in even smaller towns or large villages. See Online-Cafes in German for details. Phone shops will often offer internet access, too.
Most hotels offer free internet access for guests, however speeds are limited and may be inadequate for viewing and using multimedia-rich pages/apps quickly. Premium high-speed internet may be available - often at rip-off rates, so confirm access and rates with your hotel before using.
In several cities, projects exist to provide free "community" hotspots for wireless networking.
See Public Spots page in German for details.
Passenger lounges at some airports and central railway stations also provide internet access to their customers.
Public libraries often offer Internet access, however usually not free of charge. The libraries are open to the public for free, taking a book home might require you to get a customer card at a low fee, though. Note the National Library in Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin is not free.
When arriving in Germany there are two good options for mobile data, renting a MiFi mobile hotspot with a data plan, and obtaining a pre-paid SIM card.
A company called deMiFi (http://www.demifi.eu) opened in 2013 that offers the rental of pocket-sized mobile routers + data plans. The routers give you a secure password protected high speed connection, and you can use it to connect 8 WiFi enabled devices online. The prices start at €3/day for 100MB/day of data, and go up to €7/day for 500MB/day of data. They also have monthly plans that are €30-35/month depending on the length of rental, with 3GB of data included. For the time being, you can only order them online with return delivery, but it seems they will start to be available in airports and hotels in 2014.
Virtually all pre-paid SIMs allow Internet access for a monthly flat fee, for example those available at Tchibo coffee stores O2 network, 10 €/month limited to 500 MB, €20/month for 5 GB or Aldi E-Plus network, €15/Month (5GB). A regular O2 sim card, which can be used for calls and text messages, is €15 and another €15 buys 1GB of data valid for 1 month. Vodafone offers a prepaid sim card for €25 which includes €22.5 of credit, out of which you can get 300MB of data for 2 days for €15 and be left with €7.5 of credit. After reaching your data traffic limit, your internet will be slowed down, you will not be cut off.
Carriers in order of network speed are: T-Mobile>Vodafone>O2>E-Plus
If you want very fast internet at a low price, use a SIM from Congstar T-Mobile Network; if you just want some internet on your phone and don't really care about the speed perfect for apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Line,... use a SIM from Aldi E-Plus.
Most universities in Germany participate in eduroam. If you are a student or member of a university, this service may allow you to get guest access to their wireless networks. Check with your own university for details in advance of your trip.