If you have read my first blog post about my country, you will probably have come across some very commonly known stereotypes. Well, I thought that, if you are interested in Germans enough to read two posts about them, you might be eager to hear stuff that the world is not quite aware of as much. Here are TEN MORE THINGS to know about my culture:
We don’t have it.
Well, ok, that might be too harsh to say. Truth is, Germans do know how to joke. They’d be quite serious at work until they got to know their boss and colleagues enough to safely assume that a joke won’t get them fired. And of course we are not socially awkward. It’s not like Germans would invite each other to a BBQ party only to sit there and gloomily talk about death, politics and the downfall of their favorite soccer team. It might be that our humor is not as distinct as the dark British humor or as outward going as the Russian one. We might not be as much of a natural talent at being happy and excited as Kenyans or Americans but we do know how to have a good time with each other. It might just take a little longer to warm up to you, don’t take it personal..it’s a German thing.
2. Zank iou fo traaveling wis Deutsche Bahn
Foreign Languages are very important to Germans. Being both a nation that likes to travel and surrounded by several European countries that do not speak German (like France, Denmark or Poland), Germans take their level of language serious. Unfortunately, this only really kicks in with my generation. Due to Germany’s division between 1960-1989, the parent generation from Western Germany is more affiliated with French and English, while parents from Eastern Germany had to learn Russian in school. And our grandparents..well…I’m afraid they were busy hiding from bombs. My generation, however, starts learning English in 3rd grade and another language of your choice (Russian, French or Latin in former eastern German regions and French, Latin or Spanish in former western German regions) in 7th grade. You see, when we graduate school, we have a wide net of language skills- theoretically. ‘Cause, when your English teacher comes into the room and greats you with “Good morning, todey ve vill discus zome oza azpects of ze American Revoluion zat we started lazt week.”, there is only so much you can take away from class.
3.) Eastern Germany
You have stumbled across “East and Western German regions” a couple of times now, so let me explain- after 1945, the four allies France, UK, USA and Russia felt a bit lost at what to do with Germany and, over the years, developed more and more disputes concerning this (I feel like diplomacy was not their greatest strength in the 20th century). Eventually, Russia was like: “FINE people, if you don’t agree with us we will do it ANYWAYS”, to which the other three alleys said something like: “Well, dear Russia, you can suck it!” and, over time, it happened to lead to a division of Germany into West (under influence of the Western Allies) and East (controlled by Russia). The two parts couldn’t have been more different. Western Germany was a free democracy, capitalimsn and consumerism at its peak. Eastern Germany was a free democracy according to the constitution though, last time I checked, democracy was not defined through state control, five-year-plans, limitations to personal rights in all aspects (even if a relative in Western Germany had died, it was not granted that you could be allowed to travel to their funeral) and insane abhorrence. Well, after almost 30 years of division, Germany was being reunited. By then, however, the two parts could not have been more different from each other- democracy meets communism. Althought the wall came down over 20 years ago, the unification process is still going on. The economically weaker East is intensely being supported by the state, unemployment and poverty are still much much greater there and many elder people are of the opinion that we were better off when the wall was still standing. It’s hard to describe in one paragraph and (being from Eastern Germany and quite familiar with prejudices against “Those underprivileged, stupid Easterners), I could write a novel about the differences. For you, it’s enough to remember that Eastern German cities like Leipzig, Dresden or Weimar are just as culturally interesting as Hamburg, Frankfurt and Heidelberg, so why not stop by en route? 🙂
Fair enough, we aren’t the most patient of countries. That might have to do with our sense for punctuality. We hate waiting for guests, shipments to arrive, soccer scores to come out, economical situations to become better and world hunger to be solved. Same goes for particularly slow walkers, drivers, speakers or workers. Efficiency is a German virtue and multitasking the way to go. Upside- hiring a German worker is probably the best investment into your company 😉
5.) Garden not equal Backyard
Unless you live in the countryside or in beforementioned one-horse-town, it is unlikely that your property is big enough for a garden with garden house. Plus, to Germans, the garden is both a means to grow your own herbs and vegetables and fruits as well as a holiday place and refugee if you will.There are garden colonies, garden wars, a whole gardening culture. It is strictly regulated (of course) what your little house is supposed to be equipped with, if you are allowed to live in it (mostly you aren’t) and what sort of tax you have to pay for it.
6.) Twitter the what now?!
Once something arrives in my part of the country, you can be sure it’s outdated. It took four years for Facebook to settle in Germany, we only recently got Forever 21 or Pull and Bear, can only dream of more than 4 Ben and Jerry flavors, not to mention BaskinRobbins, TacoBell or Staplers. And while we make up for the missing fast food chains, it is the technological innovation that scares the crap outta us. Germans are late adopters and the older they are, the later they adopt. My parents love Skype but use any opportunity to question Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, iPads and iPhones. Touch screens are not simplifying but annoying and sensible for dirt. Germans tend to be realists and, from personal experience, hesitant in changing something if it doesn’t need to be changed. Innovative thinking could definitely still be enhanced.
7.) Grocery Shopping or Why we don’t have Wal-mart (anymore)
In 1997, Wal-mart started to swamp the German market- and failed. I remember when we had one around the corner and my parents kept complaining about it. It didn’t have the products that big German retailers had, they were confused by the Greeters at the door and the people packing groceries into bags felt inefficient to them. Apart from that, Germans are used (and eager) to chase after the cheapest prices, even if that means driving from one small discounter to the next. Wal-mart’s prices had not been competitive enough- they were more expensive through justifying that the offered all groceries one could possibly want in one spot- didn’t work. There were several other issues that would take too long to illustrate, just keep in mind to assign a German as head of the internationalization team, not an American who doesn’t speak a word of German…
8.) Credit Cards
We have them, we use then- occasionally. The credit card culture is not really a culture in Germany, I use mine for unavoidable online transactions. You get a debit card when creating a bank account and those are widely recognized in the country. DO NOT try to pay with credit card in a cab or a small store, many still don’t accept credit cards!
9.) German walking
Pushing for the ionosphere, Germans are a good example for the relationship between regional temperatures and boy height. On average, a German man is brimming over a proud 1.78m (5’10”), a German woman over 1.65m (5’5”). I am a 5’9.7”. Same for Americans but Chinese men have an average height of 1.64m (5′ 5”), the women are of 1.54 m (5′ 0.8″) tall (cutiest). Up till the day I enrolled in an international university, I was not aware of how fast Germans are walking. Like…what we consider “a lovely stroll through the park” is called Nordic Walking in other parts of the world. It gets worse when Germans think they are too late or risk a delay if they slow down. We must have an incredible skill for sprinting while somehow still walking, its insane and I feel sorry for the American and the Venezuelan friend who always tried to keep pace with three tall German girls. I just can’t walk slower, I hate walking slow and maybe that’s the part I am most “German” in.
It is true- there is a paradise without speed limits on highways and it’s called Germany’s Autobahnenland. In fact, there used to be a couple of agencies you could book to get Autobahn holiday- they provide you with a rental Mercedes and sit next you while you speed through Germany. Our high ways are quite well kept and IF they are almost empty, you can easily speed up to 200km/h. During holiday season, however, it is almost impossible not to get stuck in traffic, so plan carefully. Also, if it is indeed on your bucket list to race in a German car across a German highway, do it soon. The state is currently discussing to introduce speed limits similar to the ones in the States to reduce the risk of accidents. Tschüß Raser!
All in all, I believe that stereotypes aren’t born from nothing; yet, they should not create prejudices. Being aware of cultural differences will make it easier to avoid impolite mistakes or stupid questions and, vice versa, understand certain actions better.
Any stereotypes or general questions you always had about Germany? Post them here, I’d be happy to comment and explain 🙂
Cheers guys, go and book your German vacatiooon!