Adjusting to Life as a German in the UK

12.08.16
4 minute read
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There are around 130,000 Germans residing in the UK.

They don’t just live in and around London, but also in university cities like Leeds and military communities in North Yorkshire and Wiltshire.

Germans and Brits have a number of things in common. An affinity for football, beer and stripping down to their underwear in public parks to sunbathe amongst them. Yet there are also a number of traits that bewilder Germans in Britain, from polite small talk to the difficulty in locating a decent loaf of bread.

We asked German expats in the U.K. to share their tips on surviving and thriving in their home away from home:


Drinking with colleagues

restuarant interior

Get used to it.

The Brits love an after work pint. While you've probably had the odd glass of wine with your workmates back home, expect to get tipsy after work in the UK.

It's weird to start with, but you'll soon realise it's a great way to bond.


Weather to be polite

weather in uk

You may wonder why Brits greet each other -- or fill conversational gaps -- by talking about the weather.

It’s not exactly new news that it is pouring rain again. While Germans gloss over such “small talk” to get to the point, Brits (and Americans) will use it as a friendly way to ease into a conversation or keep it going.


Being blunt vs. being honest

london good

Want advice on a how a new shirt looks? Better to ask a fellow German than a Brit.

In the name of politeness Brits won’t say it’s the tackiest design they have seen since 1997.

“Germans think these ‘white lies’ are dishonest, but Brits think they are avoiding seeming too rude or blunt,”

said Kai, an expat from Cologne who has lived in London for two years.


Brotzeit

german bread

Homesick for German bread?

Those on the lookout for an authentic loaf are in luck in London at Bäkehaus or Kamps. We also suggest freezing bread from Germany -- if you don’t mind explaining to customs why your suitcase is full of dough.


Fun online resources

german pretzel

While it’s easy to spot Spanish, French or Italian expats at their many restaurants and cafes, schnitzel shops aren’t quite as ubiquitous.

There are many online resources for meeting or just getting advice from fellow Germans. The Deutsche in London website is a comprehensive portal for everything from finding a flat to joint outings.

Meetup.com and InterNations also provide ample Stammtisch opportunities, even in smaller cities.


Lack of Bus Punctuality

london bus

In most German cities, a flashing sign carefully calculates how many minutes it will be before the bus arrives.

And you'll still become anxious when your transit is 1.75 minutes late. Yet a “It comes when it comes” mentality is more the norm in the U.K., where time tables are viewed as a general guide rather than a promise.


That’s fantastic

london good

Don’t be surprised if, when telling your boss that you will be back from lunch in a half hour, she proclaims “OK fantastic!”

No, your speedy eating habits are not a stellar accomplishment in her eyes. Rather Brits are accustomed to saying “Great!” or “Fantastic!” as a means of confirmation.

However, the seemingly positive phrase “That’s interesting” can be a subtle way of saying, “I’m not fully convinced” in Brit-speak.


Card culture

bank card

In Germany, nearly 80 percent of all transactions are conducted in cash -- and few places readily accept credit card.

Therefore it might seem a bit odd at first how Brits will put even a pack of gum on a credit card. But you won’t need to carry around neither spare change nor a card for the public toilet -- unlike in Germany, they are totally free in Great Britain.


Finding a flat

London flat

Especially in a city like London, finding a decently priced room can feel a bit like trying to locate the Loch Ness Monster.

But not all hope is lost. Gumtree is a comprehensive -- and free -- starting point. Yet, although they require a subscription, Easy Roomate and SpareRoom can yield quicker results, expats tell us. And looking to buy or rent your own place? Try Rightmove.co.uk.


Opening a bank account

bank account

While it used to be a tedious process to open a bank account in the UK, nowadays you just need to present a proof of identity and proof of address.

Several banks allow you to open an account before you even arrive in the U.K.

Check out this guide on how to open a bank account in the UK for more.


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