Germany is a beautiful country full of culture and history and I have enjoyed living here. If you are planning a vacation or planning to move to Germany, here are a few things you should know.
While many younger people in Germany speak some English, don't expect people to go out of their way to help you. Many Germans appreciate your attempt to speak German. Once they realize you're not very good, 9 out of 10 times they will speak English to you if they know any.
Restaurants: Water is not free in restaurants. You pay for bottled water. Ask for water without gas (ohne gas) if you don't want carbonated water, which is the standard drinking water in Germany. There are also no free drink refills at restaurants. If you buy a soft drink you get one glass, most of the time without ice or one or two ice cubes. Except at most American fast food restaurants there are free refills such as McDonald's, KFC, and Burger King. The tip is typically included in the price for food but it is customary to round up to the next Euro when you pay. If you feel like your server did an outstanding job you can tip them more, though most food servers don't expect it.
Grocery Stores: If you shop for groceries while in Germany you will notice that the cashier does not bag your groceries. Grocery bags also are not free, they usually cost around .09-.19 Euro cent each. Most people bring reusable grocery bags to the store with them when they shop. You will also notice that the grocery carts are locked together either right inside the store or in the parking lot. In order to use one you have to insert 1 Euro to unlock the chain. When you're done shopping simply return the cart, reattach the grocery cart and you'll get your Euro back.
Hotels: There is no top sheet on the hotel beds, just a comforter. Depending on the season you will either get a light comforter or a heavy comforter. Also air conditioning is not standard in many traditional German hotels.
Store Hours: Stores typically close earlier in Germany than in the States. Also many stores are closed on Sundays including grocery stores.
Bring extra cash: If you are traveling to smaller cities and towns in Germany make sure you have enough cash with you. Many stores and restaurants only take cash or an EC Card (European debit card). In fact, many gas stations also only accept cash. It's really a good policy, that if you don't have the cash, maybe you don't need to buy it.
Tax is included in the price: Germany has a 19% sales tax on most of their products. One thing I really like is the tax is already included in the price you see. So if the t-shirt you like is priced at 9,95 Euros you are only going to pay 9.95 Euros. Germans also use a comma instead of a period when they price things.
You pay to use the toilet: Always carry extra change with you in Germany. Most department stores and gas stations require you to pay to use the toilet. There is usually someone sitting outside the restroom with a plate to put change on. Some larger gas stations along the autobahn give you a ticket to get .50 Euro cent off at their store, so use the restroom before you purchase gas or food. On the positive side, in general, Germany has some of the cleanest restrooms I have ever seen. Some even have cool self-cleaning toilet seats.