It’s for good reason that the words “Made in Germany” are regarded around the world as a seal of quality craftsmanship. Germany is especially renowned for its engineering products, such as cars and household appliances. Germans prefer to buy items that will last, stay in good order and use less power. In other words, they’re willing to pay a bit more for quality.
So, if you happen to visit Germany, some shopping is in order. But what should you buy when in Germany? You certainly can’t fit a Porsche convertible or a Bosch refrigerator in your carry-on, so you may want to limit your search to smaller items. With that in mind, here are a few classic presents that you might want to buy as gifts or souvenirs from Germany.
The history behind the fame of German products
First, a bit of history. Everyone trusts a product bearing the label “Made in Germany,” and that reputation goes back quite some time. Germany began to become renowned for the quality of its exports around the time of its unification under Bismarck, in the late 19th century.
While Britain and France held the initial lead in industrialization, the divided German states proved to be a powerful force when they finally came together. The newly united Germany steamed ahead into what historians dub the Second Industrial Revolution. Not only did Germany have access to vast supplies of coal and iron, but its central European location was ideal for developing strong trade networks.
As the economic boom of the Gründerzeit (founding time) of the united German Empire shook Europe, developments in mechanical engineering, chemicals and electrical goods made rapid progress. World-renowned corporations such as Siemens and Bayer were founded during this time. The development of the combustion engine towards the end of the 19th century was also a key moment, paving the way for Germany’s reputation for reliable and well-designed cars.
Of course, “Made in Germany” craftsmanship applies to many other consumer products, as well. To this day, German-made goods claim a stellar reputation with international customers!
Best gifts and souvenirs from Germany
1. Carved Christmas decorations and wooden toys
Germany’s beautiful Christmas markets are globally renowned, and the country’s Christmas culture is rich and intriguing. With that in mind, some hand-carved Christmas decorations will definitely be a very welcome present!
Gingerbread nutcrackers are an authentic German gift. It’s believed that these beautiful, decorative nutcrackers are a symbol of power and strength. According to legend, they serve to keep watch over the family and ward off evil spirits.
The German Christmas smoking man incense burner (called a Räuchermännchen in German) is also a beautiful classic gift. They are known as “smokers” in English and are produced in areas such as the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) and the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). They come in various sizes. Some are painted, many have white beards and/or mustaches, and some smoke a pipe. They come apart at the waist and there is a small metal plate where you place the incense and light it. They are guaranteed to come out year after year at Christmastime.
2. Cuckoo clocks
Cuckoo clocks are very popular with Germans and tourists alike. They originated in the Black Forest and often resemble a small alpine hut with big eaves, a balcony and a hole where the cuckoo pops out. Cuckoo clocks usually have two pendulum chains with a cone at either end. They come in various qualities and at various prices.
Some consider these decorative clocks kitschig (kitschy), but well-made ones can be as beautiful as they are useful. They are usually battery-powered nowadays and can be set so they won’t go off at night. It’s best to buy one approved by the Black Forest Cuckoo Clock Association.
3. Steiff Teddy Bear
These bears are recognized around the world for their quality. They are authenticated by the Steiff trademark button in their ear. Some of the original bears are collector’s items worth thousands of euros.
There is a whole range of Steiff Kuscheltiere (stuffed animals), so you might want to pick up the whole menagerie! But be warned, they don’t come cheap!
Germany (alongside its Belgian and Swiss neighbors) is renowned the world over for the quality of its chocolate. You can’t go to Germany without picking up a few bars of Ritter Sport in a range of varieties. (Hazelnut, cashew, almond, cappuccino and nougat are just a few of their many options.) Milka and Schogetten are also very popular.
Be sure to also keep an eye out for local chocolatiers, especially if you don’t mind paying a little extra for the luxury. In Munich, Reber Mozart-Kugeln (dark chocolate balls with marzipan, pistachio and nougat in the center) are very popular. Look for a gold wrapper with the face of Mozart emblazoned on its front!
5. Pieces of the Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall fell over thirty years ago, pulled down by a mix of global politico-economic forces and sledgehammer-wielding Berliners. Demolishing dozens of miles of border wall has resulted not only in one of the grand shifts in recent global history, but also a minor industry of Mauer-chip sales. If you’re lucky, it’ll have a few chips of spray paint left on one side. Who can put a price on history, right? (The answer: Every tourist trap in Berlin.)
Are these random pieces of concrete chipped from any old wall or building in Berlin? Probably. Does the recipient of this heartfelt, “historic” gift need to know? Of course not.
6. The Wurst is yet to come
You are probably aware that Germany has a very wide range of sausage types. EEvery region seems to have its own traditional specialtiesspecialties, such as Würzburger Bratwurst or Nürnberger Rostbratwurst. There are even even laws about the percentage of meat that has to go into sausages!!
You could buy some Bratwurst (for barbecuingbarbecuing), Leberwurst (to spread on bread) or maybe Bockwurst (a large Frankfurter). Or, you could make up a hamper with some Butterkäse (soft German cheese), Sauerkraut, Bavarian mustard and Bauernbrot (farmer’s yeast bread). Of course, as some of these goods are perishable, you would need to buy them at the last minute and hope they don’t spoil on your trip home.
Pack your cases!
Now that you have your shopping list in order, you’ll hopefully be well-prepared to pick up the sweet treats, authentic decorations and adorable toys for you and your loved ones. Whether you opt for sausages or a small chunk of concrete, it’s hard to go wrong in this country of many wonders. And who knows? Maybe these souvenirs will make you miss Germany so much that you’ll plan your next trip back soon!