What I know about Germans…

You know those times in your life when you just wish you would have thought of that, whatever that might be?

This is one of those things. I wish I would have thought of this. Blogger Liv Hambret has compiled a very comprehensive list of things she has learned about Germans from living in Germany amongst the Germans, which originally came to my attention in November 2012. This wonderful list is, well, just so wonderful that it has been published by überlin in paperback and electronic form. Cheers to you Liv and thanks for the list!!

This is a pretty amazingly long list, some of which I have written about myself because they really are a thing here in Germany. Here are a few of my favorites!

30. Germans simply do not understand thongs/flip flops/jandals as viable footwear. Even when it’s warm and sunny, and a boot is impractical or too warm for the feet to be comfortable. Outside of a very small, very obviously Summer window, they will stare, bewildered, at thonged feet and quietly wonder if the wearer is mad.

– I’ve seen this first hand. Germans think that “thongs/flip flops/jandals” are mainly house sandals. This is one way I flaunt my obvious foreign-ness, or obvious American-ness.

32. Germans lose their shit when the sun comes out and act in a manner I can only describe as suspicious. They flock to outdoor cafes and tip their faces to the sun … but remain in boots and jeans with a pashmina close by. Even when it’s 25 degrees. Even when it’s obvious the weather isn’t going to turn. Because …
33. Germans are always prepared for the rain.

– This is so true. The main greenspaces where I live are packed when the sun comes out with people sunbathing, barbequing and playing either Frisbee or football. It is really a little amazing. However, us Oregonians are so used to rain, real Oregonians don’t need umbrellas but are also always prepared for the rain too.

38. They love the breakfast meal and fill the table with four different types of cheese, five different types of meat and a basket of bread rolls.

– While us Portlander’s love brunch, we are obsessed, Germans love breakfast, which is like the European version of brunch I guess, because it can take just as long. It is nice in its own way. When we have people visit, we definitely make the extra effort in providing for a proper German breakfast. Really the only thing missing from our German breakfasts is the wicked Bloody Mary’s which are staples from the Portland brunch scene.

45. German men don’t tend to leer lewdly.
46. But, Germans stare. Not in a way designed to be particularly rude, but in an unabashed, piercing, inquisitive way that makes you wonder if you have food on your face or your skirt is tucked into your underpants.

– Holy crap, do they ever!! These days for the most part it just makes me laugh, especially when my husband wears his skirt, I mean kilt. I’ve given up trying to figure out why they stare and just chalk it up to one of those cultural differences. In America we are taught not to stare, I may never know why it isn’t something that is taught here.

47. Germans love doing Kaffe und Kuchen for all sorts of occasions.

This is one aspect of German culture that I really do love. Germans know how to enjoy eating cake and drinking coffee. It almost seems obligatory, like if you really want to be German, you must have afternoon Kaffe und Kuchen!

58. They are not ones to make small talk at the supermarket check-out. Or in general, really.
59. In fact, Germans hate small talk. Words without purpose are wasted words.
60. This is because Germans are generally extremely direct people. They do not see a need for conversational subtext. They say it as they see it, while keeping you at the appropriate arm’s length distance. Directness and distance are valued social commodities.

– Ever heard of the coconut and the peach? If you read this blog, you have. I have talked about the German’s utter lack of interest in small talk a number of times and why exactly that is (see the coconut and the peach reference). Many that I have spoken with about this understand the importance of small talk when dealing with Americans, Brits or other nationalities when conducting business, but many still refuse to do it because they refuse to see the actions utility. I almost feel this is like trying to discuss evolution to a creationist. I don’t know which conversation would be more challenging to have.

77. During large events (festivals, Summer grilling bonanzas) there will be people making serious money by collecting revellers’ beer bottles.

– Oh yeah they do! We don’t have a patio or a back yard. Shame, the perils of living in housing that is older than the United States of America in the city center. So, this is one aspect of German culture that I do really enjoy. The Hauptmarkt really is the center and heart of the city with all manner of festivals and parties taking place here year round. It is kinda like Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland which is nicknamed “Portland’s living room” for good reason.

It is also funny, kind of, to see the number of people wandering around during all of this merriment sorting through the trash picking out bottles with a deposit on them (called Pfand). It becomes a little excessive when these people come up to you and your group trying to pick up bottles that are not actually empty – that is really annoying!

80. Germans extract a curiously large amount of pleasure from the acts of giving, receiving and processing paperwork. They revel in it. Photocopy it. Sign it. Photocopy it again. Roll in it. Cover themselves with it and inhale the scent of paper.

– They just might not share these documents with their colleagues. This is one aspect of German culture I could leave behind. I loathe this aspect of the culture. While Germany is amazingly advanced in some aspects of its culture, in others it seems to be a century or two behind, this is one of those areas. I don’t think Germany digitizes any of their records or if they do they have only just begun. I understand it is a privacy issue, but it is also about efficiency, which is also important to Germans, right?! I’ve been caught a few times with different agencies having to hold my angry tongue because I know my English words of anger and frustration would be lost on the service agent at hand. Why, because I’ve submitted paperwork, that I have signed and copied myself (thankfully) only having to resubmit it because one department didn’t inform the rest of the establishment that I had completed said paperwork. This has happened more than once.

84. Germans have this … thing … with bureaucracy.

– This too I could do without. I don’t know which is worse, jumping through American flaming hoops of  bureaucratic bullshit or Deutsch bürokratischen brennende Reifen Bullshit. They both suck, at least back in America I can understand and yell at the bureaucrat. Whereas in Germany, I might not be able to yell at them, at least I know I’ll get something in the end – unlike in America.

97. The whole country quivers with excitement every New Years Eve when they sit down and watch Dinner for One. But the supremely odd thing isn’t a national obsession with a 1960s black and white sketch comedy from another country that has nothing to do with New Years Eve, but the fact that this is the one film the Germans don’t dub.

Oh yes they do!

99. Germans can’t queue. Full stop, the end. They don’t know how, they have no interest in trying. This is the one time Germans embrace a lack of system and what happens when a queue is called for is the unfortunate culmination of Germanic forcefulness and uncertainty in the face of a system-less world.

– This is another aspect of the culture I wish I could leave behind too. As I will also never understand why exactly Germans cannot, do not and will not properly line up for much of anything. I am telling you, every time I go to the Apotheke, or cheese counter, or toilet, or ANYWHERE that requires one to wait their turn, they just do not queue up. However, everyone BUT me seems to know some secret system of whose turn it is going to be next.

There are 151 things in total that Liv now knows about the Germans, please check out her book or blog to read about all of them.

3 thoughts on “What I know about Germans…

  1. I love Liv Hambret, I think she could write about paint drying and I would read it. She’s got a clear sense of what Germans are like and she’s great a picking fun at them.

    I have to say though, I wouldn’t wear flip flops in Germany – there’s too much broken glass everywhere. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

    • My friend fell once pretty hard while wearing flip flops a couple of years ago and really messed up his wrists. I really don’t like the options for flip flops here, they don’t offer enough cushion. The last time we were back in the USA we went to REI for a pair of Chaco’s and I wear them as soon as the weather warms up.

      Where we are they seem to keep the streets pretty clean but there are still the uneven cobblestones!!

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