German Customer Service: A Guide for Expats


Hey expat living in Germany! Has THIS ever happened to YOU?

You walk into a store, expecting to be greeted and directed to the item you wish to purchase. However, no one approaches you- no one even deigns to acknowledge your existence. “Is anyone here?!” you demand[1], “I want to buy something! I want to give you money!” But no one comes. What did you do wrong? Where’s the customer service? WHY ARE THINGS DIFFERENT HERE?!

WELL! Here’s a handy guide to help assist you in getting assistance at a German shop.

  1. Line Up

I don’t care if the store looks completely empty. Somewhere there is a queue, and the employees will refuse to speak to you unless you find it. This could be as simple as literally lining up somewhere or even just walking to a desk, waiting for someone to come.

Pro-Tip: Clearing your throat to attract attention does not help. Cracking a beer[2] open on the side of the counter apparently does.

  1. Directly Approach a Clerk (and Ignore the Stink Eye)

Although seemingly repugnant, the average German clerk is actually rather skittish and will run at the first sign of confrontation. Instead, carefully approach the employee with open palms, showing the coins in your hand which you desire to give them in exchange for a good and/or service. Begin speaking in calm, soothing tones, and ignore the eventual stink eye that is actually masking their fear.

Pro-Tip: Try not to wear strong cologne[3] or perfume and remain upwind to avoid detection.

  1. Intend to Buy Something

Elsewhere you might be able to get away with “window shopping” or “just looking”- but NOT IN GERMANY. This is a waste of both your time and the clerk’s patience. If you are going to come in, it is with the intent to give them money. Do your research at home and only ask questions which will lead to the inevitable sale.

Pro-Tip: If you really can’t find something to buy, just buy a pack of gum[4] at the register and pretend that was the whole reason you were there.

  1. Realize Threats are Useless

“HEY!” you say to the clerk, “I’ve been waiting 3 months for my internet router to be ‘installed’, and the window for installation is 11:00 to 17:00! I have a life which needs living! If you don’t have it installed by TOMORROW, I’m going to your competition!”

Then the clerk has a hearty, yet restrained, chuckle with his nearby coworker, as they both shake their heads and think YOU FOOLISH FOOL! This is GERMANY! All installation techs will take 3 months to do something as simple as flipping a switch! You are NOTHING to them! BWA HAHAHAHAHA[5]!

Pro-Tip: Tell them that the router has already been installed. Insist on it. They will personally come to your house to confirm it isn’t and then hey! They can install it now.

  1. Have a Supernatural Sense for Finding Products Within the Store

This one might seem a little hard to achieve, but it’s really not. Basically when you walk in and the clerk insists that they don’t have what you are looking for, assure them that they do. Confused, the clerk will begin searching everywhere. If necessary, tell them you were at another store and they confirmed the product’s existence on the premises. One time a clerk found an orange[6] in an electronics store- it was impressive!

Pro-Tip: Tell them you saw it there just the other day, but be sure to stay vague on exactly where. By defining the area, the employee is more likely to give up on the search.

So there you have it, my expat friends! A few tips to handle this “weird” German customer service. Never mind the fact that millions of Germans manage just fine on their own- if it’s different from how they do things back home, well then, it must be wrong!



[1] In English, naturally- why would you bother learning GERMAN?

[2] Hefeweizen in Bavaria

[3] Otherwise known as “Köln”

[4] Hefeweizen in Bavaria


[6] It was next to the Apples


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11 thoughts on “German Customer Service: A Guide for Expats

  1. I’ve been living in Germany since 1999 and a lot of what you have mentioned I’ve experienced them and then some. This is a cool guide for people wanting to know how to deal with German merchants, even if they are tourists passing through! 🙂 JS


  2. mymeenalife says:

    Has this ever NOT happened to me?? This is hilarious. And you pretty much have to buy that pack of gum anyway if you want to get into the corrals that let people exit the store. I’ve tried to push past people in line to exit without buying anything a couple times but it’s really pretty stressful/not fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindee says:

    I am not going through all that crap! if they want my money, they can serve me!! Germany sucks, but nothing sucks more than the non-existent customer service!!


  4. Max Mustermann says:

    Do you think that the proverb “Warum einfach wenns schwer geht?” and “Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten” do exist only for a myth?

    Based on their history after losing WW2, started everything from the scratch, underwent through difficult process until Wirtschaftswunder, so do the customer. You have to endure difficult process in CS and wait so long until your inquiry is processed, for instance you have to wait 3 months to do something as simple as flipping a switch. That’s German philosophy.


  5. Karen rassmann says:

    Yeah Germans are complicated but really very polite and helpful in shops also due to the fact that they are well trained in their jobs.this has always fascinated me as a south african.ive been to so many countries and experienced really bad service.anyhow this is an extreme exaggeration,so take it with a pinch of salt.


  6. i hate these queue in Germany! we’re in a capitalistic country, THEY should wait for US! not vise a versa! yeah, working rights protection is cool and all the wages should be high, but cmon, only one cashier and a line for 15min? wtf??? i’m against cheap labor force, but in Germany they’re too much against it


  7. Anne says:

    Three or four cashiers don’t help anything, when all of them take the time chatting, while not knowing what they are doing, and making a point of working as slow as possible. never in my life has my time been wasted as much as in U.S. American grocery stores, book stores, bakeries, post offices, etc. I rather have no chit-chat, but be served quickly and over all efficiently.


  8. […] in Germany: and its English option. Instead of wandering throughout random stores and having some less than satisfactory experiences, all I need to do is point, click, and pray to God I’ll be home when the package arrives. Because […]


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