One of the things that threw me when I first arrived in Germany—and this is something that still throws me sometimes even after six months—is the fact that many exterior doors in German businesses open to the inside.
Now this may not sound like such a big deal until you stop to think about it. When is the last time you had to pull a door open when you left a store? I bet you can’t remember. That’s because, in 1942, the nightclub The Coconaut Grove burned down, killing 492 people. The reason for so many deaths? The doors opened inward, trapping people against them as they pressed outward in the rush to escape the flames.
This tragedy led to a reform in fire codes in the US, requiring all public buildings to have exterior doors that open outwards.
I’ve lived my whole life pushing doors open as I leave stores, offices, and all manner of public buildings… until I got to Germany. And after six months I still get thrown off my stride when I push without thinking and the door doesn’t open!
Just remember: Ziehen = Pull, Drücken = Push!