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Which German cities have the rudest locals?

Perceived impoliteness is one of the major culture shocks that foreigners have after moving to Germany, but are some places worse than others? One survey has ranked the rudest cities in the country - and, in a surprise twist, it turns out that Berlin isn’t the worst.

Frauenkirche Dresden
People queue up outside the Frauenkirche in Dresden. A new survey finds the Saxon capital to be the second most impolite city in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

In what German cities are you likely to get smug, snotty, or even completely absent answers to standard, polite questions? Where are you most or least likely to get bumped in the street without a clear apology afterwards? Who is most likely to be noisy in public, not respect personal space, not leave any tip money, be rude to service personnel, or cut in line?

British market research firm Censuswide, commissioned by language learning platform Preply, asked those questions and more in a survey of over 1,500 people in 20 large German cities. Based on the answers, it aggregated results and gave each city a politeness score and ranked them alongside other major German cities.

Berlin isn’t the worst!

In what might come as a surprise to many people in Germany – not least to Berliners themselves – Berlin is not actually Germany’s most impolite city. The city famous for Berliner Schnauze — or abrupt and rude directness — doesn’t even make the top five, although it does make the top ten.

READ ALSO: Berliner Schnauze: The ‘rude’ German attitude foreigners could learn from

According to the survey’s politeness score, Essen is far and away the most impolite city in Germany. It also performed the worst across many behaviours, including loud talking in public, discourteous driving, watching videos loudly in public, not respecting personal space, closed body language, line jumping, and not tipping service personnel.

Dresden and Frankfurt round out the top three most impolite cities, followed by Cologne in fourth place and Dortmund in fifth. Munich, Berlin, and Stuttgart then follow, in that order — although all three have almost identical politeness scores in the survey, indicating the three cities are essentially equally impolite.

North-Rhine Westphalia: Germany’s most polite state?

Aside from Cologne and Essen, cities in Germany’s most populous state – North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) – could well teach the rest of the country some manners.

Five of the top ten most polite cities in Germany are there, including Bochum – the survey’s winner. Bonn, Münster, Duisburg, and Düsseldorf – all cities in NRW – make the top ten, in contrast to Düsseldorf rival Cologne, which is the fourth most impolite city in the country.

Bremen and Hannover came second and third in the most polite category. In contrast to impolite city Dresden, its fellow Saxon neighbour Leipzig is rated the seventh most polite city in Germany. The top ten nicest German cities also include Hannover and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Are Germans really rude or just avoiding politeness overload?

Politeness and tipping

The survey considers not tipping service personnel as impolite. But ironically, some of the country’s most impolite cities, according to the survey, also have some of the better tippers.

Although Bremen, the country’s second-most polite city, comes in first on tipping, impolite German cities make up the rest of the top six, including Munich, Essen, Berlin, Dortmund, and Frankfurt. 

READ ALSO: Tipping: What you need to know about tipping culture in Germany

Member comments

  1. But Easy German recently uploaded a video saying that Cologne is one of, if not the, friendliest cities in Germany… 🤔

  2. I find it bizarre how many Germans tip service for drinks, especially after queueing up to be served at a bar. The barstaff basically are just be doing their job and in the vast majority of jobs you are expected to carry it out expeditiously without being tipped. I think bar and cafe owners use the expectation of tipping as an excuse to underpay their staff.

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UPDATE: Berlin airport cancels all flights on Wednesday due to strike

All passenger flights were cancelled at Berlin Brandenburg airport (BER) on Wednesday, as staff walked out in a dispute over higher pay.

UPDATE: Berlin airport cancels all flights on Wednesday due to strike

Some 300 flights were either scrapped or rescheduled, the airport said, affecting around 35,000 passengers.

The day-long “warning strike” was called by the powerful Verdi union to ramp up pressure ahead of the next round of negotiations with bosses.

The union said it expected some 1,500 airport employees to take part in the walkout.

Verdi is pushing for a monthly salary increase of €500 over a 12-month period for ground crew. For security personnel, it wants higher bonus payments for weekend and holiday hours.

“Everyone knows about the exorbitantly higher prices, be it for food or at petrol stations,” Verdi representative Holger Roessler told German media. German inflation slowed to 8.6 percent in December after peaking at 10.4 percent in October, mainly thanks to government relief measures to cool energy costs.

Late last year, Germany’s biggest trade union IG Metall won an agreement for an 8.5-percent pay hike covering almost four million workers in industrial sectors after staging a series of warning strikes.

Under EU law, airline passengers are normally entitled to up to €600 in compensation if their flight is cancelled, overbooked, or delayed for more than three hours. However, this applies only if the airline is responsible for the flight’s delay or cancellation—not if someone else is, like the airport authority, as in this case.

Easyjet, one of the largest operators out of BER, says the airline will contact affected customers directly.

“While this is out of our control, we’re doing everything we can to minimise the inconvenience to our customers,” a company spokeswoman told regional newspaper Berliner Morgenpost.

“Affected customers have the option to rebook their flight or receive a refund. Hotel accommodation and meals are provided where required.”

Almost 20 million passengers passed through BER in 2022.

READ ALSO: What are your rights in Germany if your flight is delayed or cancelled?