From Beer to Toilets: Funny German Culture Tales

German Travel Stories from our Culture Shock Contest, How Do You Say “Funny” in German?

Photo by Cowin, Andrew, courtesy of German National Tourist Board
Photo by Cowin, Andrew, courtesy of German National Tourist Board

There might be this misconception that Germans have no sense of humor (although their musical choices would indicate otherwise.) But these charming, silly and touching travelers’ stories prove Germany not only has a funny side, but there’s a warmth to be found where an iron curtain once stood.

Have a travel story to tell? We all do. Share with us! Now on to the geschichte (stories).

Many of our stories from all over Europe end up in the toilet. Here are a few more that rely on potty humor. For instance, why are women in the men’s room?

Twice, in Germany, I was in a public rest room standing at the urinal minding my own business and a female attendant came in to flush all the toilets! She came right up to me, looked in the urinal next to me and flushed. First time in Nurernberg and the second time while on a tour of Neuschwanstein.- Chris Kaelin, Florida

All over Europe, you may encounter pay toilets. On the plus side, that money usually means a clean facility and a napkin to dry your hands. But when handing over that spare change, make sure it’s the right currency, or this could happen to you.

Four of us traveled across Germany a few years ago. At the Austrian border, we had to change trains. Desperate to use the restroom, we finally located it on one side of the Austrian train station. We climbed the few steps and opened the door. There stood a very tall, sturdily-built woman with a broom in her right hand, and her left hand outstretched. Seems it was a pay toilet and she wanted money — a first for us Oklahomans! We produced the only coins we had – German – and held them up to her. At that she became enraged and began screaming at us. With help from others, we learned that she was telling us that we were NOT to put that DIRTY GERMAN MONEY into HER hand! We tried to convey that we’d just entered Austria and as yet had no Austrian money and that we really needed access to a toilet. Continuing to scream at us, she raised the broom to a horizontal position and effectively blocked the door to “her” restroom. As we turned to leave and started down the stairs in defeat, we felt the sting of her triumphant final salvo. Yes, she actually swept her pile of accumulated dirt directly into our retreating backsides! Thank goodness our Austrian train came fairly soon for our attempt to complain resulted only in the shrugging of the ticket agent’s shoulders. One can only hope the introduction of the Euro has brought her peace. — Sally Burr of Kansas

Saarbrücken, Germany photo courtesy of © Adam Sporka.
Saarbrücken, Germany photo courtesy of © Adam Sporka.

Before traveling to a foreign country, it’s best to learn some basic words: Hello, thank you and most importantly…bathroom.

My future husband and I met in Kaiserslautern, Germany in 1978. He and my family were stationed there as members of the USAF. On one of our first dates we traveled to Saarbrucken to see a Queen Concert and needed to go to the bathroom. I thought I tried every way to say bathroom in German and the entire staff and most of the patrons were, by now, actively involved in trying to help me. Finally a young hostess understood what I was asking for and yelled “ah, toiletten” from her station all the way across the room. The crowd erupted in applause for her and I, quite red-faced with embarrassment by now, was shown downstairs to the facilities to the head-nodding and smiles of all. I thought my future husband would never stop laughing. Although I thought I would die of embarrassment at the time, now it is one of my most cherished memories. the concert we stopped for dinner at a nice gasthause (restaurant). Midway through our meal I realized I needed to use the restroom. Embarrassed, I wandered around the restaurant hoping to see the picture of a woman on a door. No such luck. I finally attempted to ask our waitress, but couldn’t seem to translate. — Karen Lasen Washington

And then, there is the universal language: Beer.

While visiting East Germany alone, I became really intimidated with the hustle and bustle of Leipzig. I don’t speak any German and found it hard to get around. I did, however, manage to find a pub full of Leipzig locals and decided I needed a drink. No one spoke English, but the names of different alcohols are universal. 4 hours and too many drinks to count later, the locals were teaching me German words with a newspaper and we all sang American songs that they happened to know. What a great time! — Gary Harkrader of Virginia

We love this story best. It just showcases the best of humanity. No matter where you are, where you’re from, kindness is always kaiser.

On my first trip to Europe, I traveled with my Eurail Pass. I was alone and recovering from a broken foot four months earlier, so I had a bit of a limp and a little trouble negotiating the aisles and platforms with my suitcase and duffel. I was very exciting and a bit nervous my whole journey but enjoyed every minute meeting wonderful families and people along the way. I had never been on a train before and learned all the “rules” of travel by watching others. I always tried to be at the door when the train stopped so I wouldn’t be in the way of other hurried travelers. One stop as I waited for the train to slow, the doors opened and suddenly I was picked up under my arms and gently placed on the platform. I was a little shocked and when I turned around there were two very good looking young men with beautiful smiles. One had picked me up and the other got my bags off the train. They told me in their cute German accent that they noticed I was having trouble at the last stop (they had been on the same train before) and wanted to help. I was in awe! That strangers would notice and take it upon themselves to act and help out another stranger on a train. I thanked them and they wished me a safe trip and went on their way. This was the most unexpected and kind gesture anyone has ever done for me! — Theresa Kennewick of Washington

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