While living here in Germany, you may encounter some of us natives and more often then not friendships bloom. Especially if you live off base, you might strike up a neighborly conversation or get to know the other parents from your child’s daycare, kindergarten or school. This whole interaction thing may lea you to be invited to a birthday party, or to come over and hang out.

And now you wonder, what to expect.

We Germans are very much stuck in our ways, so depending on what you are invited to, you pretty much know what is going to be happening, so let’s begin with our German invites one on one.

If you have kids in German daycare/schools, you can be pretty much guaranteed that at one point your child will be coming home with an invitation to a kid’s birthday party. The parties itself aren’t that different then American parties. Usually the birthday is celebrated on a weekend at the child’s home, or a themed place like a zoo or at the pool. The most popular drop off time is 3pm, and yes as you may have noticed I said drop off. Parents are not expected to stick around and are usually ushered out of the home quickly. The child brings a little gift for the birthday kid and once all the children arrive, its time to get the party started. Commonly the cake is brought out, happy birthday is sung and then the cake is devoured, followed by the unwrapping of gifts. The hosting mom will hope spend about an hour on this. Then its play time. Depending on where the party is held, kids are entertained on location or with traditional birthday games ad the ever popular Topfschlagen (beat the pot) where a child is blindfolded and has to find candy hidden under a cooking pot, by crawling on the floor while beating around the floor with a cooking spoon. There is a huge variety of party games like that and the winner gets little prizes like pencils, toys or candy. Older kids may be entertained with a scavenger hunt through the town. Around 5:15 the hostess will gather up the crowds for dinner, usually kid friendly foods like fries and hotdogs.  The regular pick up time is usually at 6pm when the children get send off with little goodie bags.

It might also be important to know, that if you declare you want to celebrate your birthday, at work for example, you will be expected to provide the cake. Be sure to plan ahead and let people know to bring things if you don’t want to supply everyones lunch.

I also have to mention this here, Americans often have the habit of parting with phrases like “we have to get together soon” or something alike.  Its something that Germans do take very seriously, so unless you don’t mind Gerd next door showing up for dinner with his family, don’t say it. In return this also means, if you are invited, you better be there and on time. Germans love to host little get togethers, so let me lay them out for you.

You are invited at 3pm for coffee.

What to expect:

Casual setting, coffee or what ever beverage you prefer, served with cake or other sweet rolls. A nice setting to gossip, chat and just get to know each other.

 You are invited for a grilling

What to expect:

Not a whole lot different from the American BBQ set up, but usually the meats are different. Pork is the preferred choice, served as Bratwurst, steak or pork belly slices. A variety of salads may also be served, potato salad and noodle salad are amongst the most popular. Germans also love their grill sauces and have a huge selection ranging from garlicy to fruity and spicy. Garlic bread, French bread or rolls are offered on the side. The beer will be plenty, so be sure to plan for a designated driver.

It is always a welcomed gesture to bring a small gift for the hostess, like some wine, flowers or chocolates.

If you are asked to participate in a potluck and wonder what to bring, then I can ease your worries. Usually Germans are not too picky and like to try new things, they are also fond of the American foods. You may want to avoid super-hot/spicy food though, unless you checked with them. American colorful frosting is also side eyed by most Germans and considered way too sweet, the same with the Jellos or Jello salads. Many don’t like the store-bought bottle dressings either, so if you plan on using one bring it on the side.

One thing German really appreciate is, if you try to speak the language. They are very forgiving when it comes to pronunciation or grammar and giggling over a wrongly used word can be a great ice breaker. Do not be surprised if after a nice dinner, the host brings out his home burned Schnapps and proudly pours you a shot. It is supposed to help with the digestion and the fruit Schnapps can be quite potent.

I hope you have a wonderful time making new friends