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.
I was complained at recently by the owner of a ukelele shop when asking if he spoke English. He said ”yes I do, if you can’t be bothered to learn German”.I replied (in German), actually I can speak German, but I haven’t brushed up on my ukelele vocabulary!” he was a bit surprised by that ha ha
That’s really funny! It is a high standard to expect ukelele terminology! I often find that I know most of what folks are saying, but I’m just missing a word or two here or there. And I’m always afraid those are the important words. So, more studying is in order…
I love this post! I’ve traveled a lot in Germany, and lived in Poland and the Czech Republic. This is too funny!
You got some things wrong here, but I guess that’s because you use Berlin as a blueprint for Germany. That’s like thinking US = NYC or France = Paris.
Let’s be specific:
“sidewalks are super bumpy” – That’s what I see in the US! All over the place! In fact, In Germany you can sue the city if parts of the sidewalk stick out more than X cm (I forgot what X was, but there are rules for that). You can also sue your neighbor if he doesn’t defrost his chunk of the sidewalk and you fall!
“employer tell him that he was too old” – that is downright stupid, because anti-discrimination laws forbid that. You friend can sue and get compensation!
Well, but you are right: just because you CAN sue, doesn’t mean people do it all the time.
Yes I’m probably guilty of generalizing from my individual experience. I should get ready to sue half of Berlin because hardly anyone shovels their walks here. The stores and businesses do, but that’s about it. And you’re right, people can sue; they just don’t do it very often, at least not to the degree they do in the U.S. What part of Germany do you live in?
I’m always very happy when I find someone who went to the trouble of learnign my language. German IS hard… but not as hard as Chinese. It’s a consolation. 😉