Visit the Beach like a German

5 Ways to Blend in with the Germans at the Beach

Busy beach on lake at Strandbad in Wannsee in Berlin Germany
Iain Masterton / Getty Images

The Germans are avid beach-goers and, like most things, they take a beach visit seriously. There are stereotypes about Germans at the beach and many of them are true. If you find yourself on the beach with the Germans, these 5 lessons will show you what to expect.

Remember, there is no use hiding. Germans are world-travelers and can be found everywhere there is sand. The only solution is to visit the beach like a German.

Arrive Early

There is a joke that no matter what time you get to the beach, the Germans will have arrived before you. You step out of your room at the resort, refreshed after a good night's sleep and ready for the first day of vacation, to immediately be disheartened that every strandkorb (giant wicker beach chair) is occupied. Anxiously you search, but alas! All the chairs are covered by well-tanned German bodies or their placeholder of a towel. Resolutely, you decide to get up earlier the next day...only to find the same scenario. And repeat.

There are several different theories about this phenomenon. The Telegraph even published a story, Why German tourists get their towels down first, where they cited scientific proof that Germans don't sleep as much as Brits - that is why they get to the beach first. However, their findings of a grand eight minutes less sleep per night seem an unlikely culprit.

Whatever the explanation, it does cause cross-cultural frustration. While most people are content to grumble, there was an incident where British vacationers actually cheered after a private bus driver set fire to German towels reserving the best beach chairs in a resort in Italy. This is certainly not the way to handle the Germans' superpower of being first to the beach. The only solution seems to be resigning yourself to settling into the sand, or bring your own chair.

Bring your dogs, bring your kids, bring your wife

Beach-going is a full family affair, and yes, that includes the furry ones. Prepare for the Germans to not only claim their space early, but to take a lot of room for their brood.

Note that more lakes and beaches are becoming no-dog zones so check the rules before you go, or look for the illiterate-friendly picture signs with a dog crossed out in red.

And of course there are rules on German beaches. There was even an article in the Local about laws determining the maximum height and width of sandcastles. Simply look online to determine the specifics of your destination.

Go Nude

Germans are famed for their ability to go nude. Sauna, park or beach, Germans are always ready to to take their clothes off. This is actually a remnant of East German culture. Known as FKK (for Freikörperkultur or Free Body Culture in English), the emphasis is on living in your most natural state and there is nothing sexy about it.

While most places are very casual about the clothes-free borders, there is usually a designated FKK section. (There are, regrettably, no restrictions on the skimpiest of speedos.) Avoid this section if prefer to see less flesh, or proudly brandish your bare butt by diving right in to the waters. From the very young to the very old, there is no need for a swimsuit when going to the beach like a German.

Drink a Beer. Responsibly.

As Americans and Brits sit panting in the sun, guzzling water and fruity drinks, you can identify the Germans cooly downing beers. While the Germans are known for their beer drinking, they are usually quite responsible and prefer to steadily drink low-alcohol brews. In summer this usually means a radler (lemonade/beer mix) or a refreshing hefeweizen.

Eat Ice Cream

As soon as the sun comes out, you can guarantee the Germans will be getting out in nature, getting into the water and eating an ice cream. It might as well be a law. Go for a simple cone, usually costing no more than €1.50, or order an elaborate German sundae like their slightly unappealing concoction, spaghettieis. Look it up. It is exactly like it sounds.

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