When you first come to Germany as a refugee, there are a number of things that you need to remember. Not everything is as clear as it may seem: There are laws and social norms that need to be adhered to.

In Germany, women have the same rights as men. Often they are just as successful as men in their careers. They can dress however they please – be that reserved or a little more racy. Nobody will take offence at this. Violence against women is forbidden. This applies just the same in marriage.

In contrast to some countries in the Middle East and Africa, working without a work permit in Germany is against the law. If someone is caught working in this situation they can be fined or even imprisoned.

The tax system in Germany is complicated. But still, avoiding paying tax here is illegal. According to the law, it is considered a “theft against the community.” Paying taxes is an obligation, just like voting is a right. Foreigners that work in Germany have to pay taxes.

Protecting the environment is important to most Germans. A lot of money has been invested in cleaning up rivers and improving air quality. Recycling’s important, too: garbage is carefully separated before being thrown out. Paper, plastics, food refuse and other recycle free garbage should all go in different, color-coded bins. Keep chucking plastic in the bin for paper, and someone may complain.

Even if you are catching up with friends that you haven’t seen for a long time, being too loud in your apartment annoys your neighbours. This is especially an issue at night time in Germany. Generally, you have to keep pretty quiet from 10pm in the evening to 6am the next morning.

In many cultures, hugging, kissing or giving gifts to local kids in the neighbourhood is normal. In Germany, it all depends on what the parents of the kids have allowed. Children shouldn’t be approached in this manner, no matter how friendly they are to strangers.

German society is built on respectfulness and tolerance. Everyone is allowed to pursue their own religious, sexual and other preferences, provided they don’t infringe anyone else’s rights in the process. Homosexuals are respected just as people of different faiths would i know if i had herpes – or indeed of no religious faith at all.

Hitting children in Germany is a criminal offence. Corporal punishment is not accepted as a way of raising kids, neither at home nor at school. In fact, German law states: “Children have a right to a violence-free upbringing. Physical and psychological punishment and other degrading treatment is forbidden.”

Negotiating a lower price is something that some people enjoy and is part of daily life in many countries. But this isn’t the way things are done in Germany, neither in supermarkets, nor in most shops. You can always look online for bargains!