What you can’t talk about with Germans. The top 10 forbidden topics and phrases: What should never be discussed in public or even among friends in Germany? Do you know which questions are better not to ask Germans and which topics are taboo for them in general? If not, read the article and take notes!

Learning German involves, in one way or another, communicating with native German speakers. But is it really that easy? Are you sure that once you arrive in Germany, you will find it easy to find a common language with a colleague, a fellow student or a roommate? We have selected for you the top 10 most common topics and phrases that can cause confusion, misunderstanding and sometimes anger in Germany. So, read on in our article!

What exactly is the problem?

Conversation, is the art of networking through seemingly unimportant topics. But what is really important is the understanding that such a conversation will only succeed if the right words are chosen in the conversation and the topic is interesting to all those involved. Otherwise, a pleasant conversation may end up in cold silence.

With Germans, it is worth remembering that they are a more closed people, and therefore they are less likely to have an open, heart-to-heart talk. Not every topic they are prepared to discuss with friends, let alone colleagues or strangers.

If it is important to establish contact with a German, it is important to take note of topics that are best avoided in order to avoid offending or insulting the other person.

1. Don’t look in other people’s pockets!

Yes, finance is precisely the topic that tops the top 10 unwanted topics. That is why the phrase “Wie viel verdienst du? (How much do you earn?) is undesirable. Even when you are hired for a certain position in a German company (by the way, read our article on 33 questions you are most likely to be asked in a job interview in Germany), the contract sometimes says that you are not allowed to talk to your colleagues about salaries because some earn a little more and others less.

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2. Das Privatleben (Personal life)

Even if you are sitting in a café with your German colleagues or study mates and you’re talking about life, never ask questions about their private life. It would also be inappropriate to start talking about your significant other, let alone about relationship problems. For example, it is better not to ask for advice or questions like

  • “Ich möchte mich von meinem Ehepartner/rin scheiden lassen. Was hältst du davon?” (I want to divorce my spouse. What do you think about that?)
  • “Er betrügt mich mit seiner Ex!” Was soll ich machen?” (He’s cheating on me with his ex! What should I do?)

    Also, you shouldn’t gossip about other people’s lives and start a dialogue with
  • “Wusstest du schon? Sie schläft mit ihrem Chef!” (Did you know? She’s sleeping with her boss!)

If you are sitting in German company, you should talk about yourself, but not about the people you live or socialise with.
No, this doesn’t mean that you can’t tell your close German friend or German friend about your personal feelings, everyone has to feel how much they can trust the person they are talking to. Just be prepared that you may well be hinted that the conversation is unpleasant.

3. Of course God will forgive me; that’s His job. (H. Heine)

“Of course God will forgive me; that’s His job.” – The famous German poet Heinrich Heine said, but the modern German is unlikely to forgive you for talking about God and religion, so take it from here!

As you know, Germany is very cosmopolitan country at this time, there are people of many different nationalities and cultures here. It is logical that all of these people profess their own religion, or perhaps even have an extreme view of it.

If you want to maintain good relations with your German friends, remember that the question “Welcher Religion gehörst du an?” (What religion do you belong to?) is considered inappropriate and you will be considered impolite.


4. Die Flüchtlinge (the refugees)

In Germany, the issue of refugees is such a hot topic that many citizens prefer to avoid it among friends, much less in public. This is because most Germans do not support a government policy that has flooded German cities with refugees claiming social security benefits. In many German media, various unpleasant events involving migrants are often reported.

In addition, the topic of refugees has been negatively portrayed by repeated violent incidents against German citizens. It is better not to raise the issue at all to avoid conflict.

5. Geizig oder sparsam? (Greedy or thrifty?)

Although Germany is one of the world’s top 10 economies and every average-income German can afford a seaside holiday, saving money is in their genes. A German will never leave the light on in an empty room or turn on the tap to it’s fullest to wash his hands.

German thriftiness is one of its hallmarks. It should not be mistaken for greed and you should not be surprised: Du kannst dir doch etwas teueres leisten, oder? (Well, you can afford something more expensive, can’t you?) or discuss it with a German acquaintance: “Zwischen “sparsam” und “geizig” ist ein großer Unterschied. Doch er versteht das einfach nicht!” (There is a huge difference between ‘thrifty’ and ‘greedy’. But he just doesn’t understand it!). Believe me, you won’t be understood either.

6. It (and we’re not talking about S. King’s novel!)

Gender neutrality in Germany goes very far and is often misunderstood by many people. The emergence of a third gender in official documents and the widespread homosexuality are now taken for granted in Germany. However, there are also many people who are not in favour of gender politics, but they would never dare to voice their opinions for fear of the consequences.

So be very careful about what you say, so that you don’t fall foul of Germany’s strict laws and, of course, don’t offend those around you inadvertently.

7. Politics is a delicate business

Despite the unpopularity of the incumbent chancellor due to migration policy, in Germany you will never hear a public conversation criticising the government’s actions. In Germany it is not customary to talk about all political topics outside the appropriate debates, and, for instance, somewhere in the company of colleagues. You can also read about the finding a job in Germany in our article.

And God forbid you ask a German before an election which party or which candidate he is going to vote for: “Wen wirst du wählen?” (Whom will you choose?). Here it is a secret in the literal sense of the word.

8. All things health

Our list is coming to an end and one fact that will probably surprise you is that in Germany it is not customary to discuss health. Yes, Germans would never discuss their health problems with colleagues and even less familiar people.

If your German colleague has been away from work for a long time due to illness, you should not ask too many questions when he arrives. If your relationship is quite close and your partner feels the need to share it with you, he will do so himself, but it would not be appropriate to be curious about it.

Questions like.

  • Wie steht es um deiner Gesundheit?” (How is your health?)
  • Du warst ein Paar Tage nicht da, warst du krank?” (Were you away from work for days, were you sick?)
  • Wie geht es dir nach der OP?” (How are you feeling after the operation?) is better not to ask Germans, neither verbally, nor in social media – it can be seen as an invasion of privacy.

So, this was a list of topics that you should not start talking to Germans about yourself. If your conversation partner starts a conversation about one of the listed topics, it is of course possible to keep the conversation going, but be respectful, so as not to get into trouble. We wish you success in learning German and making contact with Germans!

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