Germans rarely admit that they're wrong

205 posts in this topic

You guys ever notice this? Not to say all Germans are alike or anything like that, but have you guys ever notice that a lot of Germans have a real problem admitting they're wrong in a conversation or an argument? It's like pulling teeth. I got one very close to it once, and they just got really mad and started yelling at me instead LOL. I've lived here for a few years, speak the language reasonably well, and have rarely ever heard a German admit they were wrong. Not even so much as a "hmm, I didn't know that." That just struck me as odd. Anybody else?

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correct. Although, my n = 1, my German husband. ;)

 

I have said to him more than once that "I don't know" is an acceptable answer. LOL

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It's a much more Japanese-style "warlord culture", so it's all about "not showing any weakness". There's no perceived social utility in showing people how nice you are, and since people feel they'll never lose their jobs, they never worry about being called on to face the consequences. When politicians lose elections here, they just show up on Monday morning at the same office and just keep working as if nothing ever happened.

 

It's why self-deprecating humor falls flat here.

 

And perhaps why Germans' global reputation tends to be one of arrogance ... but of an especially grating "big hat, no cattle" sort.

 

Just head over to the recent thread on German educational qualifications for as much of that 'tude as you can pile on your plate.

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My mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law are all German. They are always right and never wrong. They believe the other person is always at fault.

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completely agreed - this has been my experience for the past 6 years here... and they never apologize, because of course, they're never wrong :) best way to deal with the yelling is to yell back even louder... even if it's just gibberish. there's some built in mechanism that respects aggression in argument situations. He who yells loudest is correct. On the flipside, I appreciate doing business here because at least in my industry, they generally talk straight and keep commitments. Not as common in my homeland.

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Ditto. I have almost never heard my German husband or his family admit to being in the wrong. Heaven forbid that anyone here should show themselves to be weak or to have made a statement that is incorrect (and admit it).

 

Expacticus is correct - the whole social scene is quite different to (for example) the UK, where the self-deprecating comments are completely understood and are part of the social communication. In Germany they will just think that you are daft if you say such things. Why would you make fun of yourself!!! Are you nuts???

 

I must say I do miss the Brit humour and silly comments. :ph34r:

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I can also verify that a German NEVER EVER apologises for being wrong.

 

Here are some examples:

 

I'm visiting my German aunt and Gran in Berlin.

"Where's my old hairdryer? The one I left here last time I was here."

"We've only got this 40-year-old one."

"No, I left one behind last time. A small, white one."

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did. I distinctly remember it."

"No, you didn't."

Ad nauseam until I am in tears. I know what I did. I don't halucinate.

 

Aunt: "Well, the only place it could be is here," getting up on a stool to look at the topmost shelf in a cupboard in the kitchen, and handing down said hairdryer. "Well, there was no need for you to burst into tears."

 

Apologise? It'd kill her.

 

Second example.

 

I'm in a language school. I ordered some books for the course by filling in an order card and handing it over to one of the three harpies that run the school who then went and handed it in at the place they buy their books.

 

"Here are the books you wanted," says one of the harpies, not the one I handed the order card into (she's on holiday).

"Um, they're not the books I ordered."

"Yes, they are."

"No, they're not. I ordered X."

"These are the books the woman gave me. You must have filled the order card out incorrectly."

"No, I didn't."

Etc.

 

One week later, the other harpy is back.

"Here are the books you ordered. It turned out that the woman in the shop handed over the wrong books."

 

Apology came there none.

 

My theory is that the word 'sorry' would kill them. Their tongue would probably swell up and choke them.

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Oh come on... Global reputation of Germany and Germans is very good... Certainly not one of overbording arrogance. Just becausethat is your opinion you can't make it world opinion... Even your idiom about the big hats actually comes from another country... Couldn't you have at least made about something like big lederhosen small sausage...

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A long time ago, when I was renewing my German visa for the first time, I had looked up everything ahead of time and knew exactly what paperwork and forms were required. The beamte made a mistake, and I politely but firmly pointed it out to him. His response? "Sie haben ziemlich Recht."

 

I later told my German in-laws about the conversation and we laughed ourselves silly. He couldn't say that I was right. He had to qualify it with "ziemlich" which means in this context "kind of" or "pretty much" or even "some". He couldn't admit I was 100% right. ;)

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Oh come on... Global reputation of Germany and Germans is very good... Certainly not one of overbording arrogance. Just becausethat is your opinion you can't make it world opinion... Even your idiom about the big hats actually comes from another country... Couldn't you have at least made about something like big lederhosen small sausage...

Oh come on! We've lived with it for absolutely yonks. Nice people (some) but they will almost never admit being in the wrong. Admitting to being in the wrong is a WEAKNESS, don't you see duckie?

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Well the obvious case is when you reclaim money from a bank or credit card, or indeed any 'service' institution.

 

While not admitting any responsibility (!), we will refund the €17,564 we mistakenly booked from your account. No word of apology or interest for the missing money then...

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It depends on the approach you take. If you confront us with an error or mistake in a way that makes us loose face, we'll fight to keep it.

Leave us an honourable way out and we'll take it (and the blame as well).

It takes a lot of diplomacy. Maybe that's why we Germans traditionally have such a good relationship with all Asian countries, especially with Japan. Same code of honour.

 

@Poppet: that's a combined problem of honour and hierarchy: the clerc you complain with is not allowed to pay anything back to you. He must get permission from his boss who must get permission from his boss and so on. In the end, the bosses will blame the clerc for the mistake, of course. He knows that and therefore hesitates to help you. Also, there is a lot of paperwork involved, which delayes the process.

Try to be firm but very polite. Tell the clerc you understand his position and truely pity him and you are sorry to cause him inconvenience. That'll make up for the dressing down he has to expect from his boss and he'll be far more cooperative because you'll make him feel he's doing a nice and friendly customer a personal favour.

If the friendly approach doesn't work, speak with his boss.

 

@Expaticus: I strongly disagree with you. We Germans do indeed have the ability to laugh about ourselves. We just do it in a very subdued and refined way that might escape foreigners (no offense meant, it's just that you don't notice the fine undercurrents, just like I don't get them in your language). Also, there is a certain difference in Humour between Northerners and Southerners. People in Northern Germany and the former GDR tend to have much less sense of humour (or a different one, maybe) than for example we Bavarians who are quite laid back and enjoy a good laugh.

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While not admitting any responsibility (!), we will refund the €17,564 we mistakenly booked from your account. No word of apology or interest for the missing money then...

Of course, because if they admit, you might be able to sue them. They learnt that from the Americans... :rolleyes:

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Leave us an honourable way out and we'll take it (and the blame you for the mistake as well).

Fixed it for you.

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Of course, because if they admit, you might be able to sue them. They learnt that from the Americans...

I don't agree with that, but even if so, the student has become the master.

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The phrase "While not admitting any responsibility" is perfect legalese. No doubt put there by the legal department.

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@huggle: well no. After almost 20 years here I don't do clerks. And I am always firm (!) and mostly polite. Except in Karstadt, Mönckebergstr., HH.

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There's no perceived social utility in showing people how nice you are, and since people feel they'll never lose their jobs, they never worry about being called on to face the consequences.

EXACTLY! In fact, I will go you one better. The high ideal here is to find someone to blame before any possible solution can be found. AND since no one will admit to fault, it slows everything down to a standstill. This was the subject matter of a specific question I asked of a potential new employer here 11 years ago (an interview is as much for you as it is for them!). They answered correctly and so they got the benefit of hiring me.

 

But seriously, the culture is set up to blame others but not themselves. Probably why foreigners don't feel welcome here. They get the blame and don't know how to deflect it German style. *insert shoulder shrugging I don't know smiley*

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I would almost agree with this (and do agree with this topic in the service industry here), but my American mother is the queen of not being able to admit any wrong and severely lacks apology skills.

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