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German Travelers are Everywhere

10 April, 2012

Germans like to travel. Seriously. Anywhere you go you are at least as likely to run into Germans as any English speakers. This is my experience anyway. As we travel more, it is interesting to hear German in crowds. Yes, there are 80 million of them, so some proportion will travel. But it seems in excess compared to other language groups. Here are some of my ideas why.

German Vacation Culture

Germany has a culture of allowing and requiring vacation. The minimum is around 4 weeks and I don’t ever hear statistics about people not using it. In fact, I read one of the demands of some recent strike was to do away with the tiered vacation structure in some company and let the younger workers have full amount as well. The quality of life idea of having vacation time is deeply a part of the German working culture.

True, much of this time is spent inside of Germany or in nearby European countries, but with so much time off there are bound to be people that go further abroad.

Some of this is perhaps the weather. The German winters can be oppressive, cold and dark. Summers are gorgeous, but not hot. So if you are a sun seeker (as many Germans seem to be), vacations have to be elsewhere. With so many places even in Europe nearby, it just kind of makes sense to jet off to Greece or Turkey even for a few days in the sun.

Germans Study Abroad

I have heard of schools in Germany having relationships with high schools in the US so that entire towns go to visit the same place in the middle of the US during their high school for one amount of time or another. Study Abroad semesters are very much encouraged at the university level as well. An ex roommate of mine spent a summer in the very tiny town that my grandmother grew up in.

This study abroad is a part of the curriculum in places and from listening to people talk figures like “extra curricular activities” back home. In the “you gotta do it to be more attractive to future schools/employees/opposite sex”. Just in the US these activities are local, while studying in a foreign country for a semester is the way to go. This is just a big difference in priorities between the US schooling system and the German one.

This study abroad extends to apprenticeships as well. Foreign work experience seems to be seen as a good thing for young German workers to have. Especially in a highly competitive field in Germany, getting some experience outside of the system can be beneficial.

Tour Agency Overload

Germans go everywhere because tour agents are on each corner. In a place where it is far more common to walk on the streets and every block has a tour agent, there is bound to be more interest in travel. Not just that these agencies must be able to support themselves, but the advertisements help bring in customers.

The best marketing for us seems to be the agency with the big window of ads right around the corner from the ice cream place. We get a cone and wander up to look at the latest crop of places to dream about. Ok, yeah most of these are resort trips and all-inclusives that we would probably never go on.  Yet it is so cool to read the places and realize that people are going. They are traveling.

The travel agencies almost out number the shoe stores on some blocks (ok, maybe not as the show stores keep opening, but still there are a lot.) Travel is in the air as people stroll around.

Where have we seen them?

German tourists look pretty normal in most respects. You notice mainly when they speak. In Carnevale in Venice this year we saw and heard a bunch. One group of women in particular sticks in my mind. They were a group of about 8 women in matching robes. We saw them a few different times on opposite ends of the cities.

I met a couple from Cologne in Mykerinos a few years ago. In New Zealand, we met a group of backpackers in hostels both in Wanaka and Dunedin. Ali has run into Germans in nearly every stop on her round the world trip. If not German, at least German speaking Swiss. They do seem to be everywhere. Even Katie met a German on her Black Sea ferry cruise, amongst the Russian truckers. And all of this is ignoring the trains running to and from Germany.

They’re Everywhere

Ali and I now have this as a running joke. Every time we hear German in a crowd one of us will lean over and whisper knowingly “they’re everywhere.”

What are your thoughts? Do you meet Germans every where you travel? Are you a German that travels everywhere? Weigh in!

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29 Responses to German Travelers are Everywhere

  1. Pingback: Do Germans Speak English? » Grounded Traveler

  2. cliff1976 says:

    Mrs.1976 and I spot them by their Wolfskin- and Mammut-wear while abroad, but it’s pretty easy to detect them by sound, if you’re close enough. They’re not typically as loud in public places like museums or castles as other groups traveling together.

    I betcha Berlin will be crawling with them this fall at WEBMU. :-) You going?

    • Anne says:

      Mammut too?? Oh no…am I now in danger of being pegged as a German tourist from afar? Herr J got me some Mammut-wear to stay warm last winter and I wear the fleece all the time travelling.

      (Though I have to admit I was a little pleased the first time I was in Tuscany and the Italians assumed I was a German tourist. It was just nice for once not to get pegged as American right off the bat!)

      • Andrew says:

        Germans know their warm outerwear apparently. It is kind of neat to not be seen as an American sometimes. I get British often enough though.

    • Andrew says:

      Yeah, planning on Berlin this fall, of course depending on exactly which weekend it is. I had forgotten about Mammut.

  3. Carmen says:

    Yup! I agree. Germans love to travel and explore. So happy for them they can go where ever they want to. I never to Greece hope to visit the place with my hectic schedule.

    • Andrew says:

      They have set up a society that encourages this freedom. It is one of the reasons I enjoy living there. Definitely set some time aside for Greece, especially Santorini. Decide what is important and head toward that, work or time travel. Sure there has to be a balance and work is often required to fund travel, but it is a difference in perspective.

  4. Anne says:

    So true! We were in Istanbul over Easter and saw German tourists every place we went. To amuse ourselves while we waited an hour for a mosque to open after prayer, we started playing “German or non-German,” trying to guess from afar if they were German tourists.
    The Camp David brand shirts are a dead giveaway now that Dieter Bolan wears them on TV

    • Andrew says:

      Hey, didn’t realize you guys were in Istanbul on Easter. Us too. Would have been nice to meet up.

      I like that game. I don’t know Camp David brand shits, will have to look that up.

      • Anne says:

        That’s funny…the 2nd time we’ve been in the same city with fellow bloggers and not known it (Julie/Scott from This Non American Life in Charleston over Christmas).

        Hope you had a wonderful trip!

  5. Margyle says:

    My roommate in Australia was from Mallorca and he would always talk about how the German tourists take over his island. I never really got it, until I thought about all my travels and realized it was exactly right. Even my roommate in Japan was half German and moved there shortly after leaving Japan to teach.

    • Sabrina says:

      Haha! But Mallorca is a special case in and by itself. I think Germans travel a lot in general, but Mallorca has some areas that have almost turned German because there are so many there :) It’s not like that across the world just because you see some here and there.

    • Andrew says:

      Like Sabrina says Mallorca is a special case. There is almost a German enclave of expats living there. So it ends up being a vacation spot for many more. Or maybe other way around, tourists end up settling there.

  6. This is so true — I run into several people from Germany every trip, no matter where I am in the world. Must be nice to have so much vacation time!

    • Andrew says:

      It really is nice, though for avid travelers it is still never enough. The downside is that at work it is sometimes hard to get certain things done as key people are on three weeks holiday in the middle of a project. Though that seems a small price for my own ability to get out.

  7. Alison says:

    I always remember going on family holidays and there was always an understanding that you needed to get up really, really early if there was any chance of getting a space by the pool, because the Germans were always up at the crack of dawn!

    • Andrew says:

      Of course, Germany can be really dreary especially in winter. When they go on vacation, they head to sunny places and try to soak up the sun as much as possible. There is also the concept of competition for the best spot. I know this sun worshiping aspect of Germans, but it is neat to hear stories about how that plays out.

  8. Heather says:

    I have met a German just about everywhere I’ve gone :-) In Oz, there was always at least one on any given tour or in my hostel room. And they’ve seemed pleased that this American has been to Germany!

    • Andrew says:

      Everyone seems to be intrigued about the American traveling habits. Germans especially seem to think noone visits their country. Maybe that is why.

  9. Sabrina says:

    I think you’re right about all of this -especially the attitude towards vacation. I’ve been actually kind of thinking about a post about this for a while, but can’t seem to get my act together. I think the biggest difference is that in Germany you are expected to take your vacation (all of it) and that when you’re on vacation you don’t work. Here in the US, my employer gets kind of scared when I tell them I will gone for more than a week. And of course the amount of available vacation days in Germany far outweighs the available time in the US. Many people I have met here in Texas use the little vacation they have for some long weekends, to get some stuff done around the house, and maybe a loooong (one week) trip somewhere different. Or people save it up over years because they’re hoping for a big wedding and honeymoon (a colleague of mine just told me the other day that that’s what she was doing – I think she’s crazy, but then… people are different).

    • Andrew says:

      Yay, i get approval from my German friends. Always nice to see. The Americans system seems to screw around with the vision of time off. It is used as either a recovery from the insanity of work allowing you to work more or a “splurge” vacation. The aspect of the splurge though is often to spend so much money that you need to work more to save enough to do the splurge.
      I wonder what society would look like if Americans took more time off. Would it be better or can we not deal with the “not working” well? I always took every day I could when I was there.

      • Sabrina says:

        Good question… I think there are some people who are just workoholics – but you can find those also in Germany. I think a lot of people don’t take as much time off because they see other people not doing it and are worried about their job security or to be seen as a slacker. In fact, I think many people think you are somewhat lazy if you take extended periods of time off. Personally, I need those times off to work that much harder when I am at work. The splurge thing is so true! People here spend soooo much money on a beautiful long weekend somewhere. I’d rather take that same amount of money and do something low-key and longer.

  10. From my experiences, Germans are great tourists. Very polite, mannered, respectful, and enjoyable to talk with.

    • Andrew says:

      Interesting way to put it. As much as it is nice to generalize, I have met some really great German tourists and some that I would rather be far away from me. This is more about humanity than nationality.

  11. The past two weekends I was in Brussels and Prague, respectively, and heard Germans in both places (though Germany does border both countries). I live in Germany now, so perhaps that influences what languages I pick up on in the crowd when I”m traveling. When I was living in Italy and traveling, all I picked up on were Italians, haha.

    I totally agree with all of your points, especially the study abroad one.

    • Andrew says:

      Yeah, when you understand something, you do pick it out of the crowd more. Like English seems to just pop up to my ears if anyone is speaking it.

  12. Yelli says:

    Although I agree with all of your points here, the best way to find a German in foreign countries is to look for the signature paw of Jack Wolfskin. They will all tell you this is a foreign company and everyone wears them (they are nice!) but only Germans seem to wear them constantly while traveling.

    • Andrew says:

      That is such a hilarious tip. We met someone just today that isn’t German, but lives in Berlin wearing such a coat. I do see that brand all over, even in Germany. I had a pair of boots from them that I really liked.

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