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  • Writer's pictureBelinda Fischer

England vs Germany: 6 Amusing Differences That I Learned after 6 Years of Living in the UK

Living abroad broadens your horizons and gives you plenty of stories to share.

In 2015, I came to the UK to finish my language and business degree and start my “real” professional life. Over 6 years, I experienced some wonderfully weird differences between the two cultures.

Read on to discover 6 amusing differences between England and Germany.

1. You alright?

I’ll never forget the first time I went to our university’s corner shop to buy stationery for my classes. The lady behind the counter greeted me with a “Hiya! You alright?”. If you’re from the UK, this will seem like the most normal thing ever. But to me, it was not. Not back then, anyway.

My mind somehow translated this little message into a much longer, very different: “Hi! How are you doing today?”. It came naturally to me to reply: “Thanks, I’m doing well. How are you?”. She looked at me as if I had just wiggled off a spaceship from Mars.

The more time I spent in my new UK surroundings, the more I realised that “Hiya” and “You alright?” are nothing but greetings that do not need an answer.

Still, now that I’m back in Germany, I take a “Wie geht’s?” (“How are you?”) seriously and always answer, even if it’s something brief like “Gut, danke. Und selbst?” (“Good, thanks. And you?”). Have you ever thought about what greetings mean in your country?

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2. Lager vs Ale

Beer culture is a big thing in both England and Germany. But if you ask me about the technical differences between lager and ale, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. I’ve also asked around and received a different answer each time.

But I do know that there’s a massive difference in taste! Lager is “the real deal” (in my humble opinion), while ale is what the British people consider the norm. While lager goes down smoothly, (pale) ale takes some more getting used to because of its bitterness.

Image source: Fred Moon on 

Give it a try and do a taste test, you’ll know what I mean. Prost!


💡 By the way: Warm beer isn’t just an English thing. You can get it in England, but it’s not a typical order, at least not for younger generations. In Germany, warm beer also exists. To order it at a Kneipe (German version of a pub) or bar, you would ask for a “gestauchtes Bier”.

3. Direct vs Indirect

Going to school in Germany, I learned English the Bri’ish way. The curriculum and teachers deemed it “more correct” than the American variant.

These are some examples of indirect British English words and phrases:

  • “I’m afraid…”

  • "...perhaps”

  • “Excuse me…”

  • "I don’t think we can…”

The British tend to express themselves more carefully, while the Germans are more direct. Sometimes this directness can seem rough or even rude to British listeners.

Examples of direct words and phrases in German-speaking countries include:

  • “Nein” (“No”)

  • “Das gefällt mir nicht.” (“I don’t like that.“)

  • “So können wir das nicht machen.“ (“We can’t do it like that.“)

  • “Das funktioniert nicht.“ (“That won’t/doesn’t work.“)

I’ve also found that my German directness can be a bit much for UK locals, so I’ve learned to adapt and rephrase my thoughts – at least sometimes. After all, you can take a girl out of Germany, but you can’t take the German out of a girl. 😄

4. Sausages, sausages and more sausages

Each nation holds its sausages in high esteem. The Germans can even get a bit snobby when it comes to sausage superiority, as proven by these funny idioms.

This is what my dad said about British sausages when he visited me in Preston, my beloved student town:

“British sausages could actually be quite good if only they were seasoned properly.”

Image source: The Kitchn

As with item no. 2 (the beer battle), I’ll let you be the judge of this one. Taste for yourself and let me know your sausage thoughts (but please keep them PG-13)!

5. The queue

What are British people fantastic at?

Ask a British person, and they’ll tell you it’s “moaning”.

Ask the rest of the world, and the answer is a big, fat, hands down: “queuing”!

No matter where, no matter when: where there’s a crowd, there’s an orderly queue. The bus stop, the shop (especially during Covid times) or even the “butty van”, a sandwich shop on wheels.

What about Germans and queueing? Surprisingly, not so much. Yes, Germans are known for their efficiency worldwide. But queuing? Not so much. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?

🐍 Fun fact:

"Queueing" in German is “in einer Schlange stehen”, which means “to stand in a snake” (i.e. “to stand in a line”).

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6. Tea time

A stereotype that many Germans have of the English is this idea of tea time. Every day, at 5 p.m., everyone in England sits down with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Can you imagine if this were true? Everyone doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. No cars on the left side of the streets, no voices on the BBC.

But there is “afternoon tea”, a lovely convention people enjoy for a special occasion. It usually includes – you guessed it – tea, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, sandwiches with cucumber, ham and cheese as well as little (cup)cakes.

The term “tea” can cause some confusion: in the North of England, “tea” describes your evening meal, known to the rest of the world as “dinner” or “supper”.

Germans don’t do “tea time” or “afternoon tea” as such. But they have something similar called Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), which also takes place in the afternoon.

I’ve noticed a difference in taste between the two cultures, quite literally. While the English like their cakes on the sweeter side, Germans prefer a more natural flavour. As long as some form of chocolate is involved, I quite fancy it. 😋

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Do you have a favourite? Which cultural differences have you spotted whilst travelling or living abroad?

Feel free to reach out and share your thoughts. 👇

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