Hi, I’m Kirsten Winkler. Welcome to episode 4 of German Hacks.
Here we are with stereotypes – in German “Klischees” once again, and today I would like to talk about some things about German people and their culture that I consider to be true. So, let’s see how I can demystify some things about the German character a bit.
OK, I hope you’re ready for a fun ride to hack German culture with me!
Certainly, a stereotype is always a simplified version of an opinion or an image about a nation, but sometimes these Klischees are based on reality whether that’s positive in some cases and rather unfortunate in others.
Deutsche sind unfreundlich – Germans are rude
We don’t see it like that, and if we knew that others perceive our behaviour as rude in a particular situation we would probably try to adjust and to rephrase it.
Germans simply want to be direct, we see that as something very positive for different reasons:
1) Being direct equals being honest for Germans. We will directly give our opinion on what we think about a proposal, an idea etc.
2) If a German person says yes, it means yes and you can count on that. The respective person will have thought their answer before telling you. On the other hand, this is true for a no. A no is a no, it’s not an instrument to negotiate for a better deal or something. We’re definitely not masters of disguise. You will know what we think when dealing with us, may it be in private life or doing business with Germans.
3) Germans don’t like to waste time with politeness and formulas. I have often found myself in situations here in France when I thought “OK, come to the point”! When you want something from me, say it directly (and don’t waste my time beating around the bush). I know that other cultures don’t see it as “um den heissen Brei herumreden”. This is what beating around the bush means in German. For them, it must be part of initiating a relationship or business relation, and they’ll come to the point next time because they feel the set the tone, established something. Not so Germans! We like to know what we’re up to the first time already. We like to be clear what something is about and not to waste our or the other party’s time.
For me, this is one of the nice things when I go to Germany as I know exactly what people think. No decoding, it’s just intuitive. But I know that others have to learn how to crack the code, just like I have to when I deal with other people.
Deutsche sind immer pünktlich – Germans are always punctual
Well, at least we do our outmost to be! Punctuality is considered a virtue, it shows your respect for friends and family and of course for your business partners.
It is seen as rude when someone is not punctual, a lack of respect for the other person. You should at least call when you can already see that you most likely will not be punctual.
9 o’clock means 9 – period. Don’t worry about politeness or think that the others might not be ready. When they told you at 9, they will be ready. So, being late is not seen as polite or to give the other party time to prepare, quite the opposite is true! It’s really impolite to let someone wait for you. Though I found this to be true in other countries when it comes to work and business appointments, Germans also apply this principle in their private life. When your host tells you you’re invited and to come at 8pm you should be there at 8.
Living abroad I’ve become a bit more relaxed over the years and won’t mind about 5 minutes or even 15 min (the famous academic quarter = das akademische Viertel) but I definitely switch back to German mode when I’m in Germany. My German friends wouldn’t understand or appreciate. Being late is what we call southern = südländisch.
The thing with the towels = Handtücher auf Liegen im Urlaub
That’s quite embarrassing to admit but it’s true.
When Germans are on holidays and the hotel or resort has a pool or beach, many scan the situation upon arrival to verify what the best places are to spend the sunbathing. To secure the “best places” each and every day, German are ready to do a lot. They get up very early in the morning, like 6ish, to put their towels on their favorite sun loungers.
If you’re what I would call a normal tourist and arrive at the beach at around 10 am wondering why there is no place anymore, the Germans will feel very smart. You’re going to hear phrases like “Hier ist besetzt” occupied / “Die Liegen sind reserviert” reserved, and admittedly the situation can get rather grotesque or escalade with people getting up a little earlier every day. Sad but true, I’m speaking from experience.
The same is true when you go on an organized trip by bus. Germans will check for the best seats (front row that is) and defend it by saying that they want to get the best pictures or film while the bus is driving. They’ll eat breakfast early to be the first ones to enter the bus.
So, in that sense Germans are quite competitive, but with a good sense of humor it can be quite fun to watch this, actually.
Next week, we’re going back to the language itself and talk about Slang in German. So, stay tuned. Tschüss, bye bye!
Title Music by: Dan-O at DanoSongs.com | Undiscovered Oceans
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