Differences Between Germany and the United States

I recently vacationed in Germany with my wife and learned some interesting ways that the country is different than the United States. Of course, there are more similarities than differences but here I want to share some of those differences, at least from my observations. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion based on my travels in the southern states of Bayern (Bavaria) and Baden-Württemberg and may not apply to all of Germany.

Germany is very similar to the United States in many ways. In fact, the large influx of Germans into the United States during the nineteenth century, including many of my ancestors, helped to shape what America has become. Nevertheless, there are many differences that I have noticed that I will detail below.


In the United States, people love drinking coffee. There are many ways to drink coffee but I think the most common is with cream and sugar. Cream, when ordered in America, typically is understood to be half and half, which is halfway between whole milk and light cream, about 12 percent fat. I like no sugar and heavy cream in my coffee, which is about 38 percent fat. So far, Starbucks is the only place I have found that has heavy cream as an option.

Coffee also seems to be somewhat popular in Germany but cream is not. It is nearly impossible to find a coffee shop there that offers cream, or even half and half. It is almost always low fat milk which is 1.5 percent fat. That does almost nothing for coffee. One might as well drink it black, which is something I can’t do. Occasionally you might find a coffee shop that has whole milk but you are just as likely to find a shop that doesn’t even have regular coffee. Surprisingly, the Starbucks at the Munich train station had all their fancy drinks like lattes and espressos but no regular coffee.

it is very common for hotels in America to have coffee makers in the room. They usually supply their guests with regular and decaffeinated coffee along with various sugars and containers of half and half. Our hotel in Stuttgart provided us with a kettle to heat water and instant coffee but no liquid cream or even milk. Our hotel in Munich did not have any option to make coffee.

It is also common for American hotels to provide free coffee for guests in the lobby. I looked for that option at our hotel in Munich and was directed to their restaurant. There, they told me I needed to have it delivered to my room, which I did. That was a mistake because the coffee was horrible and they charged me 15 euros for it. Our hotel in Stuttgart had a free breakfast buffet where they provided coffee with milk but I could never get it to taste good. They did have some good tea options, though.

Finding heavy cream or even half and half at the store was equally difficult. We looked for it at an Aldi’s store but could only find an artificial creamer. I did eventually find heavy cream at a store in Stuttgart but when I ran out and went back for more they were out of it.


From what I have seen, the German transportation system is very similar to what you would find in the United States with a few differences,

Speed Limits – Some Americans think the Autobahn is a free-for-all and everyone can drive as fast as they want everywhere but I saw posted speed limit signs just about everywhere we went so it really isn’t that different than the United States except for the drivers. In America, you will occasionally see the crazy lunatic driving like a bat out of hell on the highway but in Germany those crazy lunatics appear way more often than occasionally.

Germany has plenty of slow drivers too and on more than one occasion while we were passing one of those slow drivers, we had to hurry back into the right lane because there was a car approaching behind us who was about to break the sound barrier and we didn’t want to stand in his way. I say “his” because the speed demons almost always seemed to be men.

Road Congestion – We sat through many traffic jams while traveling through Germany but we also covered a lot of miles so I think it is about average compared to the United States. What’s different is the reason for those traffic jams. Every traffic jam we encountered in Germany where we could determine a cause, that cause was road construction. Not once were we delayed by an auto accident. In America, I would guess that auto accidents are responsible for a quarter to a third of all major delays.

I don’t know if Germans are better drivers or we just happened to miss the accidents by chance. I did see one guy hit a pedestrian. He wanted to pull out onto a busy road and was looking left while moving forward. He didn’t notice the woman crossing in front of him from the right until he hit her. Fortunately, she was okay but it makes me think that maybe we just got lucky and perhaps Germans are not better drivers.

While stuck in a traffic jam in Bavaria one day, we noticed all the cars were driving off to the side so there was a gap in the middle. We assumed this was required so that emergency vehicles could get by.

I find this to be a great idea. After this photo was taken, a Polizeiauto sped by with its lights on.

Pickup Trucks – In America, pickup trucks are almost as common as cars. In fact, I recently read that Ford will soon stop selling all of it’s cars in North America except for the Mustang and one other vehicle. It will instead focus on pickup trucks and SUVs. In Germany, a pickup truck is as rare as a good cup of coffee with cream. I saw only one pickup truck during our entire ten days in Germany. By contrast, in America it wouldn’t be unusual to see a dozen pickup while driving to the local market.

Below is a video I took in Munich. Notice there are are no pickup trucks. I probably should have taken a video in America to show the difference but I didn’t think about it until now.

Gas Stations – When self-serve gas stations first appeared in America one would pump gas and then go inside and pay. It soon became a problem because many people would pump gas and then drive off without paying. That problem was soon solved by offering pumps that accept credit cards and and/or requiring people to prepay before pumping gas. In Germany the old system is still in place. I don’t know why. Perhaps Germans are more trustworthy. I did not see one station that accepted credit cards at the pump or that required people to prepay. Considering that I usually pay for gas with cash, it was definitely more convenient for me, although I will admit to being a little confused the first time I needed to buy gas.

Bicycles and Scooters – Bicycles are more common in Germany than in the United States. I used to ride my bike to work so I appreciate a society that embraces bicycles. They not only save gas and lower pollution, they also relieve traffic congestion and parking problems.

Another thing I saw a lot of was electric scooters. A few cities in the United States now have electric scooter rentals, or what they call sharing, but they seem far more common in German cities.

Energy and the Environment

The United States has come a long way during the last fifty years in reducing pollution and conserving energy but Germany seems to have come even farther.

Wind – I saw many large wind turbines in Germany and while I know there are areas in the United States that has them, there are none near me. According to Wikipedia 18.7% of total power in Germany came from wind in 2017. In the United States, that number was 6.33%.

Solar – Solar power also seems to be more prevalent in Germany than in the United States. I noticed many homes and small businesses with solar panels while in Germany. Again, according to Wikipedia, Germany is ahead of America in solar power generation with 6.6% of their power generated by solar in 2017 compared to 1.32% in America.

Energy Conservation – I think both countries have come a long way in improving energy efficiency but I have noticed a few things in Germany that I hadn’t noticed in the United states. Our rental car, for example, would shut off every time we stopped and then the engine would start up again when we stepped on the gas. This was a little annoying at first but I got used to it pretty quickly. I read that that feature is pretty common on German cars but I never saw it on an American car until just last week when we rented a 2020 Chevrolet Malibu that also shut off when the car was stopped.

Another thing I noticed at the Munich airport was that the escalators only run when someone steps onto them. When they are empty of passengers they are off. I thought that was a great idea and I hope to see that in America soon.

Drinking Water

In America, drinking tap water is common but in Germany it is not. At many restaurants in America, it is common practice to bring water to everyone before asking what else they want to drink. In Germany, you have to ask for water and then you usually get bottled sparkling water. We had to make sure we asked for still water when we ordered it in restaurants. I have heard that the Germans aversion to tap water comes from its name, Leitungswasser, which means something like line water or plumbing water.


I believe tipping has gotten out of control in the United States. It seems like everyone expects a tip nowadays and in many cases it is virtually mandatory. Restaurant workers are paid meager wages with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. I would rather pay more for the food and not have to worry about paying my server’s salary. From what I understand, this is close to how it works in Germany. A tip is still expected, I think, but it is more like five to ten percent instead of fifteen to twenty percent.

Because servers were not really working for tips, I was expecting service to be worse than in America. In some cases it was but usually it was about the same. Even restaurants in towns that had few tourists had good service.


In some ways, Germans seem to take care of their public properties better than Americans but in other ways Americans are better. Many places we went to in Germany were very clean, including the trains and the underground stations but for some reason the government seems to tolerate graffiti much more than in the United States. Sure, there are some bad areas in America but it seems like everywhere we went in Germany, except small towns, someone, or many someones, had defaced public property with spray paint. Sometimes it was artistic but more often than not it was an eyesore. Some of it seemed very old too, like nobody has bothered to paint over it in more than ten years.

Public Restrooms

I don’t think there was anything that caused more problems for us in Germany than finding a public restroom. I can only assume that Germans have developed very strong bladders. There were many times during our trip when our good time had to be put on hold because one or both of us had to use the restroom. In Heidelberg, for example, we probably could have spent much more time there but my wife and I both had to pee after the long drive to get there and we couldn’t find a restroom that we could use.

In the United States, places that sell food are required to provide restrooms for their customers but I don’t think that is the case in Germany. Also in the United States, grocery and convenience stores always have restrooms for customers but in Germany I did not find one store with a restroom. Gas stations we encountered in Germany had restrooms but they were always outside and needed a key. Most gas stations in America, except for the older ones, have restrooms that anyone can use and usually nobody need buy anything, although I always buy something because it just seems fair. Some gas stations even try to attract customers by making clean restrooms a top priority.

Hotel Beds

In the United States, it is most common to have a choice between one king bed or two queen beds in hotel rooms. In Germany you can get a single room (Einzelzimmer) or double room (Doppelzimmer). That means one twin bed or two twin beds that are sometimes pushed together to form a king bed. For Americans, this is weird.

First, there is a crack down the middle which is awkward for couples who like to sleep close together. Second, there are separate sheets and blankets which also works against closeness. Third, the pillows are square which is fine for putting behind your back while sitting up in bed but rectangular pillows, in my opinion, are better suited for sleeping.


Our vacation in Germany was perhaps the best vacation my wife and I took together. It is a wonderful country but my intention here is not to conclude which county is better. I simply wanted to point out some of the differences I noticed. I am sure there are plenty of other differences I could have wrote about but I would have needed more time in Germany to notice them.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed my posts on Germany and I welcome any comments you might have. There are a couple of more German related posts that I want to write before moving on to another topic and I hope you will watch for those.

If you want to read the entire series about our trip to Germany, you can start here.

6 thoughts on “Differences Between Germany and the United States

  1. Dennis

    Correct about the coffee. I don’t drink coffe but everyone I know drinks it either black, with milk or with sugar.

    Gas theft happens in Germany, but given that gas stations are monitored by cameras, I can’t imagine someone can get away with this for long. Maybe if it’s a stolen car and the licence plate not registered to the theft… but even then, they probably will get them on other way. Probably the same day, considering how close-meshed our cities and police networks are.

    I often saw Americans praising the German Autobahn on social media and thought it would be funny because they’re not correct. You’re right. We have speed limits on the Autobahn too. I think you’re also correct that traffic jams are mostly caused by road constructions but sometimes it is really caused by accidents. There is going so much traffic over the Autobahn that it’s a neverending job of fixing the roads. Is one area fixed, another shows problems and needs maintainance. It’s not just German traffic, but we’re also basically like a hub for European trade. So, naturally there is quite a lot of traffic causing damage to the Autobahn over time. More recently, the summers become hotter and it’s said that this does damage as well. Yes, correct. When people hear a siren… they drive to the side so that emergency vehicals can get by.

    Pick up trucks are considered to be gas hogs in Germany. People can’t or don’t want to afford putting that much gas into the tanks. On top of that, considering that our roards are smaller, they’re impractical. Much more common here are combi-vans, those family cars. You might have noticed it. And if people want to move, or handicraft businesses, they usually use trandport vans as vehicles.

    Bicycles… now do your next holidays in Netherland 😀 They much more crazy about bicycles than we Germans are. When I was in Amsterdam, I thought “No way… this can’t be true”. Never seen that much bicycles in a city. But it’s a good lifestyle because better for the nature.

    Most escalators here continuesly run as well. Might have been a special escalators at the airport. Or maybe it is more common in Munich and less common here in the North.

    I get your point about the graffitis. But I don’t think they’re more tolerated here. It’s probably that it’s a never ending job of removing them, so that in parts, the local authorities or property owners gave up on it. Saw it often in my own district… stuff gets removed and cleaned, takes some days and another artwork is painted on the wall lol. It seems sprayers have their “territories” lol. I guess in some areas the battle is won by the sprayers. You make a point with the paintings being old but maybe it appears older because of the effect of weather? I don’t want to disagree with you. If I would think of a spot where they might be tolerated… then definitely on sound barriers, Autobahn bridges and stuff like that. Probably due to the same reason. I can just guess that authorities think it’s poiintless to remove them because another sprayer will be happy once there is room for a new graffiti. And I think people are less annoyed about it, compared to having them on their own private property. So, it’s probably about costs and benefits.

    I do agree with you about the public restroom situation. It’s bad and affects me regularly as well. Because I have some kind of a kids-bladder, because I like to drink a lot of still water during the day as I think it’s healthy to drink at least 2 liter a day and I am often thirsty or used to that. Many places demand that you buy something if you want to use their toilet and I find that inhumane. On top of that, many public toilets are disgusting, barely cleaned with some exceptions. But finding a filthy public restroom is a thousand times easier than finding a coffee with cream. 🙂 Just recently the situation improved a bit in our area… over the last years they built many public toilets and some of them are cleaned but you need to pay 50 cents or a Euro but that’s ok. Still, you’re corect… I am German as you know and I can assure you that I trained my bladder because I so much prefer to use my toilet at home because the chance is high that I find a filthy restroom outside. It’s actually that bad that I know my favorite restrooms in our city lol and I am not alone… had this topic recently with my friends and things came up like “Have you ever been on the toilet at the large bus hub, disgusting huh?”. It’s that bad that males would rather go into a bush in the park or behind a tree than going on a public toilet, of course, when it’s about pee only. 😉

    Thanks for sharing your comparison and impressions. That was an interesting read. 🙂

    1. Chuck Huss Post author

      Thanks for the great comment, Dennis. Only 10 days was not long enough to make a good judgement so it is nice to hear your perspective. I remember having pay toilets in America when I was a kid. That didn’t last long. I think businesses slowly realized that offering clean restrooms was a way to attract customers. That is not to say we don’t have dirty restrooms here now. We do. But I think clean restrooms today are much more common than 40 or 50 years ago.

      You are right about the graffiti being on barriers and bridges mostly but I rarely see it on the highway near me. Perhaps in other parts of the country, like New York, it is much worse. I don’t know. I rarely leave Florida.

      I usually drink two cups of coffee in the morning and then water the rest of the day. The coffee makes me have to pee. It annoys my wife sometimes if we are in the car together and we have to stop somewhere to use the restroom.

      One thing I forgot to write about is dogs. In America, many people bring their dogs everywhere. They bring them to the market, to restaurants, to hardware stares. One woman even brought her dog to church. I think it is stupid. People also dress their dogs in clothing and push them in baby strollers or carry them in bags. I think that is a bit weird. In Germany, I did not see that which actually made me happy because it felt more normal.

      1. Dennis

        Yes, 10 days is a short time but even when I was in France for 6 weeks, that was probably just a tiny impression of a certain place we traveled to. Anyway, I think you experienced a lot and all your posts were interesting to me too and many of your impressions are spot on.

        I trick my bladder by drinking less when I know I will be doing things in the city. And especially drinking less when I am already on my way. I really try to avoid these public rest rooms but of course it’s not always possible. So, naturally I drink less at the beginning of the day and more when I am back home. But since our city is a bit smaller and not unknown to me, I know where I can go without getting creeped out… (some places are that filthy that you wouldn’t even like to touch a doorhandle, thus, you feel bad again after washing hands because you use the doorhandle to get out). Only the restrooms with cleaner personal are ok or those of some restaurants… but then it applies again… you need to buy something or pay the cleaner but that’s a far better option than a filthy place. Here it’s the same, the situation is a lot better than in the 90’s for example. That was much worse compared to today. It’s probably like you said, it goes rounds if people tell each other that a certain business or place is filthy, so there are improvements now. Anyway, I think my bladder becomes worse the older I get lol, it’s annoying when you are outside, but I know my tricks as said.

        Correct about the dogs too. For the most part, they’re not allowed to enter places like restaurants or stores. Also right, it’s uncommon here to dress them but rain coats for dogs become more common each year, which is funny too because I think dogs don’t need that. Our family dogs even walk through snow and never got ill. These rain coats are also unnecessary pet fashion and more for the human eye.

        1. Chuck Huss Post author

          I do think I have to pee more now that I am older but when I was young I did not drink enough water and I drank no coffee so perhaps it just seems like age is a factor.

          I used to work for a woman who had three Yorkies (Yorkshire Terriers). She would put dresses on them and put them in a baby carriage from the car to inside the office. They did not go outside. Instead, they peed and pooped on pads in her office, which smelled very bad. I wanted to slap her and tell her “These are dogs! They need to go for walks outside . . . naked!”

          1. Dennis

            Good point. I drink more now too, so, it’s probably more about that.

            Yes, I would have had a hard not confront the Yorkie lady… dogs definitely need to get out.

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