Over the years I have heard many things that are ‘typically’ German. There were comments about me saying “Guten Appetit” [Gʌtn Apeˈti:t], which means enjoy your meal, celebrating birthdays early (bad luck, people!) or having a funny look on my face when a club in the United States closes at 2am in the morning - which is when German clubs start getting full.
If there is one ‘typical’ German thing about me, it is my sense for being on time, no matter the occasion. I always tell my wife that I would rather be 5 minutes early than 1 minute too late for an appointment. My watch is even 2 minutes ahead of time to ensure that I am not late. It’s how I was raised and is a standard that is still omnipresent in Germany. Not only do our trains and trams have digital screens showing exact arrival/departure times, but so are our buses are in many of the large and medium sized cities. These screens update every few seconds depending on the current traffic situation.
What happens if public transportation is not on time? Germans will complain. They will make a sour face, throw their hands up in the air and snap at any public transportation employee they see, even though that person has nothing to do with a traffic jam or technical difficulties on a track.
Being pünktlich [ˈpʏŋktlɪç], meaning punctual, on time, means a lot to Germans. There is even a rumor that Germans set their clocks based on the walks of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher. He allegedly got up at 5 a.m. in the morning, went to the university at 7 a.m., worked from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., then took a walk at 3.30 p.m. - seven times up and down the Lindenallee in the Prussian city of Königsberg, and went to bed at 10 p.m. sharp. Yes, you could say that Kant was an archetype for German punctuality.
So is there any kind of leeway when it comes to being punctual?
Let’s put it this way, if we are set to meet at a certain time and more than 15 minutes pass without hearing from you, I am gone. You can call or text me letting me know that you are going to be late and I will wait, no problem. But if you do not say anything, I might be gone by the time you arrive.
Do you think this is too strict? What’s your time limit? Let us know in the comments.
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!