No Rolländen and unlocked doors

If we asked you to think about cultural differences between Germany and the United States, we’d expect your ideas to revolve around language, food, or how willing people in each culture are to talk to strangers.

Some things you probably wouldn’t think about: How windows work and whether or not doors lock automatically when you close them. But these cultural differences are very real and very surprising to anyone visiting the other country for the first time.

Window weirdness

Germans are used to having options with their windows. Turn a handle to the correct angles, and you can tilt them just a bit or open them wide like a door.  

Ask an American visiting Germany for the first time to open or close a window, and you’re in for a bit of fun as you watch them confusedly try to figure out what to do (or a scare when your window looks like it’ll fall off its hinges). That’s because most windows in the U.S. are nothing like those in Germany. 

In the States, windows don’t usually have handles and are constructed with a stationary upper half and mobile bottom half. The bottom half doesn’t tilt or open like a door, though. Instead, it’s designed to be slid up (open) and down (closed). 

Another big difference is that Rollläden are used so rarely in the U.S. that there’s no commonly-used word for them. Though „blinds“ is the best equivalent, most Americans use „blinds“ to talk about something that blocks light or unwelcome eyes from inside a home. Typically, these work with a string-and-pulley system

Something else extremely common in the U.S. is for all windows to have screens that stop insects from flying into homes. These have become increasingly popular in Germany, but they’re still not the norm. It’s also common for U.S. homes to have screen doors in front of other, more sturdy doors.

Door differences 

One of the biggest things Americans have to get used to in Germany is how front doors automatically lock any time they click shut. While German doors typically have handles that only help pull doors open and closed, U.S. doors tend to have knobs that turn to open the door latch. Most of the time, the knobs still open doors even after they click shut unless you intentionally lock them with a key. 

The typical U.S. door allows you to firmly close it while you go outside to take out the trash, get the mail, etc. but then open it again without needing a key. To do this in Germany, you usually have to flip a small switch Americans have no idea is there. 

So if you have an American neighbor or guest, don’t be surprised if you find them locked outside in their pajamas because they closed a door and didn’t know they needed a key to open it again. 

Are there cultural differences you’d like us to explore?

It can be very comforting to know small nuances about a foreign place or to be aware of what will surprise guests from other countries.

If you have questions about cultural differences between Germany and an English-speaking nations you’d like us to explore in an upcoming Learning Nugget, please reach out to us at 



expect – erwarten

to resolve around – sich drehen um

willing – bereit, willig

strangers – Fremde

how sth. works – wie etwas funktioniert

lock automatically – automatisch abschließen

surprising to – überraschend für

weirdness – Verrücktheit, Seltsamkeit

be used to having ( used to + verb in ing-Form) – gewohnt sein zu haben

turn to an angle – in einen Winkel drehen

handle – Klinke, Griff

angles – Winkel

tilt – kippen, neigen

confused(ly) – verwirrt

figure out – herausfinden

scare – erschrecken

fall off – hier: herausfallen, herunterfallen

hinges – Scharniere

stationary upper half – befestigte obere Hälfte

slide up (slide – slid – slid) – hier: hochschieben; rutschen

commonly-used – gebräuchlich

string-and-pull-system – Seilzugsystem

common – üblich

screen – Gitter (fly screens – Fliegengitter)

sturdy – stabil, robust

knob – Knauf

door latch – Türverriegelung

intentionally – gewollt

firmly – sicher, solide

mail – Post (amerikanisch)

explore – erkunden

be comforting – tröstend sein

nuances – Nuance, Feinheit

be aware of – sich im Klaren sein

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