Every city in the world has got some specifics, which all its inhabitants are aware of, but which are also well hidden from the eyes of tourists. To reveal these means to become one with the city, to become tuned to the same wave with it, penetrate beneath the surface and become a user of the city itself.
Every city will reveal itself in the end, it will show its real face, and will uncover how it is to live in it. It will eventually show you its customs and rules, which its inhabitants go by. You will get to discover what is typical for it, what possibilities it offers and what makes it different from all the other cities. It is all these above that make the city unique, special, and extraordinary. To dispose of all this information, even though you are ‘only’ a tourist, can be a great benefit for your next trip
There are many aspects you could focus on. You either can point out favourite spots, highlight favourite pubs, galleries, café’s, or talk about their usual activities and places they ‘hang out’ or do sport in.
I decided to start with some general rules and customs, which are going to help you accommodate to the heartbeat of the city together with people living in it, quickly predict the behaviour, and start looking at the city from a different perspective.
In this blog, I offer you what to avoid in Munich, in order to avert uncalled for faux pas, misunderstandings, or even injuries. After relatively serious preface, let us move on to next part of the text with insight, and with fair amount of irony. Here we go: “What to beware of in Munich?”.
This category is one of those life threatening ones. That is also the reason why I have put it as number one on my list. Injuries and collisions are not uncommon at all. Cyclists have their own lanes both on roads and pavements. You, as a tourist, might not always realise you are standing on the cyclist’s lane though, especially when being busy chatting or sightseeing. Apart from that, the cyclists in this city are dauntless, and apparently possess some of the comics characters’ superpowers. They often are hurtling down the streets with great speed without having checked, if they were noticed by the car drivers, who should be slowing down. They cross the roads in places, where they are visible only with great difficulty, or places you would not expect them in at all. The fundamental rule it is then: FIRST the cyclist, THEN you.
Octoberfest has got a special power; and what is probably going to happen to you too, is that you will let yourself be taken by the spellbinding atmosphere here. Meaning- people who claim they don’t ‘do beer’, will most certainly have two in the end. And by two, I mean two litres of beer. Likelihood of this phenomenon is directly proportional to the amount of pleasant company present, and to your attitude towards fun having. Octoberfest is an important event for the city, which allures thousands of tourists. That is also why it is necessary for you to be prepared for higher prices of accommodation, as well as for overcrowded city centre, and increased occurrence of people wearing Bavarian folk costumes.
3. Sticking to the rules and Mittagspause rule
It is a well known stereotype that Germans are keen on following rules. A stereotype, which is closely related to this nation and I have to say, also a stereotype which is not quite made up at all. It is well displayed in every day life. E.g. Drivers giving way to pedestrians, people meeting deadlines, or someone coming to alert you about your car being parked in the opposite direction. It does not really matter that you have come home only for half an hour, and you did not find it important to park the car properly for that time.
Apart from all those general common rules there are many others to watch out for: local ones, which are given by the local authorities, and are valid for this city only. For example – lunch break. We have learnt about this phenomenon a.k.a. ‘mittagspause’ directly from our neighbour, when we were putting up shelves on a nice Saturday afternoon. Apparently, that neighbour must have thought, we have lost our hearing ability when drilling holes for our shelves, as the pitch of her voice, when letting us know, indicated that very clearly. According to this regulation, between 12PM-3PM, you are supposed to rest, and not disturb your neighbourhood in particular. No noise, no drilling indeed. Finding out in person is the best gained experience, which is priceless.
Being late IS a big deal. Apart from the fact that it is commonly perceived as rude behaviour, Munich citizens have a strong feeling that by letting them wait, you are wasting their time, which they could have spent in a better way – with their family, having a beer with friends, or playing their favourite sport. Coming late is considered wasting time of others, and showing thus that your time is more precious than theirs. BE ON TIME. By following this rule, you are definitely not going to spoil anything.
5. Small beer
Ordering a ‘small beer’ (0.3l) is almost as funny as ordering a glass of water in “Biergarten”. (Being at it- water- it is going to cost you about the same as beer). With small beer it is going to be a bit tricky. After ordering it, waiters are going to bring half a litre glass, which in this area is considered ‘small’. I highly recommend you to clearly specify your request right at the start, because it happens often, that when you ask for “a beer”, a 1l “Mass” is going to land on your table in front of you.
6. Clinking your glass in a wrong way
The way you raise your glass when drinking “weiss bier”, is automatically going to distinguish tourists from locals. The latter ones know that “weiss bier” glass is thinner on top, and that is why you need to clink it with the bottom – thicker part.
7. Eating Weisswurst in the afternoon
Traditional Bavarian breakfast consists of white sausages- weisswurst- served in hot water or in broth, together with a pretzel, sweet mustard and white beer- weissbier.
Local lore says that weisswurst is not allowed after the bell chimes noon. In other words, you should never eat this Bavarian specialty after midday. This rule originates in past, when cooling device was not a common furnishing piece, and it happened often that weisswurst – freshly made in the morning- simply could not last till afternoon, and would go bad. In spite of progress and the cooling possibilities it has brought, this custom has endured till now, and it is still a faux pas, to eat white sausages after breakfast. However, there are some other awkward moments you want to avoid when eating weisswurst. Never order a couple of them, if you are not hungry that you could eat a horse. Weisswurst comes automatically in two, so if you order a couple, it may happen you will be brought two pieces more than you originally planned. You can also avoid another faux pas, if you don’t forget to peel the white skin off the sausage before eating it.
8. Taking the whole table for yourself
Most beer places, especially biergartens, provide long tables and pews for larger amount of visitors. Because of the lack of space, it is more than certain, that sooner or later you will be joined by somebody. To occupy table for eight, when there are only four of you, is considered rude. Of course, it is a rule too, that you will be asked for consent before someone takes a seat next to you.
You don’t REALLY need to watch out for them of course. They are not going to hurt you. I was simply short of one point in my ‘Beware of list’ to be able to reach number 10; and I find surfing in the city centre highly interesting in the least. To finish this list with number 9 would be something, which is for us elaborated people, who partly suffer from OCD too, a bit too much to swallow.
As weird as it may sound, surfing is a favourite sport of Munich people. There are more places to practise it in, but the best known is surely Eisbach, at the front of Englisch Garten.
10. Gaping at naked people
“Freikörperkultur” a.k.a. FKK is a movement, which practises nudity in places meant for it. Nudism as it is, has got its origin in Germany, and from what I have seen, it is very popular in Munich indeed. There are plenty of places to get naked in this city, where you would not expect it at all. A bunch of naked bodies at the banks of the river Isar, or in Englischer Garten may astonish you quite possibly. The main thing is to act as if you haven’t seen anything uncommon, and keep on walking casually.