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Family Dinner and Customs in Different Countries – PART 2 OF 3: Kaiserslautern, Germany

Madgeburg, Germany at night.

In this part of my series, we will be exploring the customs that come along with family dinners as well as their importance in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

If you missed my first article where I shared the traditions and customs of family dinners in Malta, Italy, click this link to catch up.

Customs at the Dinner Table

In Germany, utensils are used to eat almost everything at a formal dinner. Fries and burgers are even eaten with a fork and knife. It is custom to hold the fork in the left hand and knife in the right. Everything on the table has a place including napkins, silverware, and glasses. Conversations are kept at a respectable volume. For more formal dinners or holidays, it is often that the host say a speech before everyone is allowed to indulge. At the end of the speech it is common to say “Guten Appetit,” meaning to enjoy your meal. Another table rule is that you can’t drink anything until you eat your dinner.

Dinner table. Photo credit: William Brawley. Permissions for use via Creative Commons.

As for restaurants, it is normal to sit yourself wherever you please. Many people will even share tables with strangers as long as it is okay with them. To indicate that you have finished your meal, you must place your fork and knife next to each other. If you are simply taking a break from your meal, you must cross your fork and knife on the plate. While cutting meat, it is customary to cut one bite size piece off at a time

Abendessen (Dinner)

A typical German dinner consists of meat and bread. Roast with potatoes, red cabbage, salad and schnitzel with fried potatoes are also common. The meal starts between 6 and 7 p.m. with the whole family. Dinner for Germans is a time for families to get together and have a conversation.

In an interview with Ursula Green (72) and her son Michael Greene (45), some interesting customs were unveiled. Ursula lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany for 40 years and has one child, Michael. Michael was born in Texas, U.S. and lived in Germany from when he was four month old until he turned 18. He then moved to the United States to start a family of his own. He carries some of his German roots with him. To both Michael and Ursula, family dinners are of high importance and happen frequently. Most people live with their immediate family consisting of grandparents, parents, and children all under one roof. One custom Michael is appreciative of and has brought to his own family is having fish on Good Friday and rabbit on Easter Sunday. 

Traditional German Food

Germany offers a wide range of cuisine. While most well known for dishes like Kartoffelauflauf (potato casserole) and Wiener Schnitzel Germany has much more to offer, such as kalbshaxe (veal shank), pinkel mit grunkohl (blood sausage with kale) and leberkase (loaf of finely minced pork sausage) gives more of an essence of true German culture. Foreign cuisine has begun to introduce itself into German culture with the openings of Asian, Indian, Greek, and Turkish restaurants in small towns. 

In my next article, I will be concluding this three part series by taking a look at dinner customs in England.

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