As an American living in Berlin, I’ve noticed a few cultural differences.
It’s clear that Germans do some things better than Americans: free preschool, public transportation, beer festivals. . .
And some things Americans do better: fast Internet, customer service–oh and landing on the moon. . . (which some Germans don’t believe happened. . . that’s another story.)
But there are a few things about German culture that I’m totally ambivalent about. I really don’t know if I love them or hate them:
1. You can drink beer everywhere!
Good: There are no open container laws in Germany like there are in the U.S. Tell me again which one is the land of the free? You can bring a bottle of wine (or three) to a picnic in the park and not have to hide it. You can drink a beer on the train ride home from work or just walking down the street. But,
Bad: Wait, why are there so many drunk people all over the place?
2. Germans are less lawsuit-happy than Americans.
Good: There’s a greater sense of personal responsibility. Everyone is expected to obey the rules and watch out for themselves.
Bad: The sidewalks are super bumpy, and some playgrounds are downright terrifying. Then there’s that time a friend had a potential employer tell him that he was too old for a job–in writing. Don’t see that happening in the good ol’ litigious U.S. of A.
3. The Germans let it all hang out.
Good: They have less body shame, so you can change your clothes right on the beach, no biggie. You can sunbathe in the park al fresco if you want. On hot days, little kids are free to run around naked like the wild little animals they are.
Bad: For some reason, old, out-of-shape people seem to really love the whole nudity thing. I’ve seen enough naked elderly men to last me a lifetime. Sometimes, I could use a little less “all” hanging out, Danke.
4. Many Germans are bilingual.
Good: Almost every German knows a little English, which makes it pretty easy to get around, shop, eat out, ask people for directions, visit the doctor’s office, etc.
Bad: I haven’t been forced to learn German. (I’m trying. I really am! German is just so dang hard!) Many Germans are sympathetic to my American monolingual handicap. But not all. I was once lectured by a homeless person telling me I should learn German because I’m in Germany. He was speaking, of course, in English.