5 Things to Expect When Moving in With a German Host Family
With the biggest economy in Europe and some of the lowest unemployment rates on the continent, Germany has risen in popularity to be one of the best places to live and work. No doubt Germany boasts a rich culture (and we’re not just talking about the beer!), organized healthcare system, and high standard of living, but what better place to learn German than to immerse yourself abroad? Better yet, to live with a German host family to really engage with German culture? Check out the top 5 things to look forward to when moving in with a German host family, to both calm your nerves and prepare you for a great adventure!
1. Sunday = Silence
Family is highly valued in German culture which means that Germans take their private quality time seriously! Sunday is one such day which is dedicated almost purely to spending time with family. Referred to as ruhetag (quiet day), most shops will be closed and people tend to refrain from working or shopping on Sundays. It’s also a bad idea to do any activity which might be too loud on these days, so keep away from the blaring TV and refrain from vacuuming. Otherwise, enjoy relaxing with your host family or head out of town for a quick weekend getaway!
2. Open window = Dangerous draft
If you’re hanging out in the living room and it starts to seem a bit stuffy to you, your first move might be to open a window. But what you may see as a fresh gust of air, your German host family will probably view as a dangerous draft. Germans refer to fresh air coming in through a window as luftzug (air train) and firmly believe that it can make you ill. The flu, pneumonia, clogged arteries, and even stiff necks are often blamed on the dreaded luftzug, so avoid stares of horror by keeping the windows shut tight!
3. Early birthday = Outrage
Depending on how long you plan on living with your host family, you will most likely have the opportunity to celebrate a birthday with them – whether it’s your own or someone else’s. In this case, don’t commit a huge faux pas by giving gifts and cards or wishing someone ‘Happy Birthday’ before the actual date. Germans consider premature birthday wishes to be bad luck and never celebrate a birthday early. There is even a custom of ‘celebrating into’ the birthday the night before, but you should wait until the actual day to dole out the presents and good wishes.
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4. Please & Thanks = Yes & No
Mealtime etiquette is important when you’re out and about in Germany, but there are a few things to remember when you’re sitting down to eat with your host family. Keep in mind that the terms for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ may not be as straightforward as you’re used to. If your host mother offers you something to drink, don’t say ‘thanks’ (danke) because this will be understood as ‘no, thank you.’ If you want to say yes say ‘please’ (bitte) which translates loosely as ‘yes, please.’ Keep these two terms straight and you won’t have any issues with sitting through dinner thirsty or wanting another serving of food!
5. Lunch & Dinner = Hot & Cold
Something you’ll notice right away about your host family is that lunch is kind of a bigger deal than dinner. How so? Well Germans love having a good, hot meal for lunch but prefer a quick, cold dinner. Known as abendbrot (evening bread), a German dinner generally consists of a simple fare of German bread, ham, and cheese. On the other hand, hot lunches are so important in German culture that every work place features a canteen where employees can cook up their homemade meals. So don’t worry, even if you’re not at home with your host family, you don’t need to be deprived of your beloved hot meal!
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Moving in with a host family may seem like a huge leap, but with these five must-know facts you’ll be blending in in no time at all. Before you head off to experience Germany’s hearty culture, remember that 95% of the population speak German as their first language, meaning it’s time for you to start learning it yourself! Take advantage of excellent language classes and free online placement tests to help elevate your level, this way you’ll be able to impress your German host family with more than just your cultural know-how!