Actually I had planned to post something totally different today but I can’t resist to share one of the sources of my delight! I was playing around with youtube the other day and coincidentally stumbled upon a video about Shocking things about Germany. Which lead to two videos about Cultural Differences and a few more about quirky things and prejudices about Germany and Germans all posted by expats from the US currently residing in Germany. I felt more than entertained!
Of course I can’t resist to butt in out loud! By the way if I translated the German saying in English I had to say: I couldn’t resist to add my mustard! Okay I agree our language is a little strange.
So I have selected a few observations about the difference between Germans and US Americans I found particularly interesting, have experienced myself or just made me shout “THAT IS SO TRUE!!!!!!!!!!” at my computer screen!
Germans don’t do small talk
This is so true! Whereas I find it really nice that in the US people just greet you with a casual ‘How are you doing?’ this will NEVER happen in Germany. When I first came to the US last year it took me a little off guard and I had to google what an appropriate response would be. If a German asks you how you’re doing there is a genuine interest in how you’re doing so we expect a proper answer. So we also indeed give a detailed answer when someone asks. For us there’s nothing casual about this question. I personally totally suck at small talk. I either keep my mouth shut or I am getting really personal really quickly.Smallltalk makes me feel really awkward.
Germans don’t talk about Politics, Religion, Money
Okay this is in my case partially true. I know that Germans like to avoid those topics because they want to avoid offending other people. In my case I don’t mind talking about politics but I won’t have to contribute much. It just doesn’t interest me.
You can also talk to me about religion. Indeed I am really interested in other people’s religion as long as they don’t get preachy about it. I am not a religious person and it doesn’t matter to me at all what you believe in. But this applies to talking about it. It’s actually pretty strange to me when I read people citing the bible or talking about their relationship to their god publicly on the internet.
Money is a tricky thing. Talking about money indeed feels strange. When I say for example ‘the coffee machine cost me 200 Euros’ or even when I say ‘this was rather cheap’ my mind is flooded with questions like: What do you think now? Was 200 Euros an appropriate price? Do you think I am a snobby rich person because you don’t consider this cheap at all? Would you have forked out 200 Euros for this coffee machine? Could I have possibly offended you with my evaluation of cheap? …. so I much rather avoid talking money.
Striking up conversations with strangers
Yes, Germans don’t do this! It’s totally strange and when someone tries to chat with a stranger here this person is promptly labeled as a nutjob! And people often react pretty defensive and keep it really short. I usually just play around with my phone or have my nose in a book to avoid conversations with strangers. I am more like ‘ don’t even look at me!’
But people in the US and UK do this and I actually find it very nice. And for me this changes totally when I am in the UK or US. I am nice, I am open, I don’t mind talking to a cashier, chat with a farmer at the farmer’s market and even enjoy it. Or like the time when I applied for my social security number in London. I sat in the clerk’s office for over an hour chatting about Germany, live in the UK and our families. NEVER EVER would that be possible in Germany. You go in, feel like you’re a pain in the ass and then leave relieved after a few minutes.
Last name vs. first name
I am not at all German about this. If it was up to me everyone would call me by my first name. I am casual and relaxed about it. In Germany this is generally used to label the status of the relationship of two people. Like people you just met, work with (direct colleagues are often on first name terms) or generally don’t know very well you usually call by their last name. When you meet people in a more private context, like friends of friends you’re usually approaching them by their first name. It’s a bit complicated.
When I started to work in the UK it was totally strange to me at first. Like when I met a guy in his 50s who approached me saying ‘Hi, you must be Julia. I am Brian, the CFO. Call me if you need anything from me, I am lazy with my emails!’ And I was like ‘Okay… Brian! CFO Brian!’ Aaaaaaakwaaaaard!!!!!!!!! But I really came to like this attitude.
One other observation I made about myself is that when a German asks me who I am I say my first and last name whereas when an English-speaking person wants to know my name I usually just say my first name.
Germans are not patriotic. Not at all. We’re only flying our flag when it’s Soccer World Cup. And even then it’s kinda awkward. That might be because of our history but I also think that has something to do with our attitude towards achievement. We usually are only proud of things we actively achieved. When you compliment a German’s pullover it’s considered nice and all but it doesn’t mean anything really. But when you compliment a German’s nicely groomed front yard it means a lot.
Same concept applies to patriotism. I am loosely referring to one of the comment in one of those videos here: Falling off a woman’s vagina in a specific place of the world is nothing to be proud of! You might feel grateful, not proud!
How we feel about it might be easy to explain with the Soccer World Cup again. Last year when we travelled to the US shortly after Germany won the Soccer Word Cup it was amazing how many people congratulated us, high-fived us and generally said things like ‘You must be really proud!’ And we were like: Yes, the guys really deserved it but it was not like we actively contributed. It was not us playing this tournament!
Apparently it’s hard to befriend a German. My first reaction was BULLSHIT! Then I thought about it.
I can’t comment on the getting-to-know-an-American part in the video at all but I do support the evaluation of how (or maybe not) you get friends with a German. Actually I have to say that it’s not very hard to become a friend once you have passed the almost insurmountable barrier of getting to know a German. As already stated you just don’t talk to strangers here so go figure how to find someone to talk to in the first place.
Personally I am very reluctant to label a person as a friend. Maybe because as soon as someone is indeed a friend I feel kinda protective about this person and do really care. I am loyal and I want to have a real and deep relationship with a true friend. Someone I sometimes go out with is not a real friend, the people I work out with are neither my friends, nor are my colleagues. I mean anyone of those can become a friend but it rarely ever happens. In my friendships I need deepness. So I’d much rather have a few really good friendships than a lot of shallow relationships. And I am shameless and need to totally loosen up with a friend. No thinking about how the things I say and do come across. There are not many people there who match that. So for me personally, yes it’s hard to become friends.
In the end of the day, those are really funny videos and I am looking forward to watch more of them. It’s so funny to see how people from a different cultural background see your culture. Especially as Germany and the USA are often lumped together as the ‘Western civilisation’
What do you think about all this?
Have a great Friday and a lovely weekend