Germans rarely admit that they're wrong

205 posts in this topic

I have to agree that the culture here does not have an acknowledgement of mistakes. I do think that Germans live according to a plan. Everything is planned, very detailed planning and once something goes wrong, they just ignore it and continue with the plan. It is like they are brainwashed to only follow a plan, no imagination.


Germans are very exact. The common word I hear from my team is "genau"..."exactly". They are very precise in everything that they do but this is so hard to live and work with.


I had to do damage control for the use of the word "never" by some Latin colleagues. One of my team actually challenged them because they felt the word was not true. Now, of course, in our area "never" does not really happen but it was used to state the importance of the issue. This context was completely lost on my team. Context is not needed here with their direct communication and I think acknowledging an error or mistake is context for Germans...just isn't important.


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Location : any tech. shop

Me : Good morning, Do you have blue-green wirgle widgets with splange flanges made in bronze or sprargyp? *

Shop assistant : No - such a thing does not exist.

Me : pulling said article from carrier bag - one like this that isn't broken

Shop assistant : No - such a thing does not exist.


Whatever happened to

i) "no, we don't sell those"

ii) "no, never heard of such"

iii) "have you tried techyland up the high street" ?


IMHO Apologies are so rare in Germany that when they happen they get highlighted on a forum somewhere.


* can be food, a technical gadget, furniture, book whatever




** according to Tom Hillenbrand / Tom Koenig / Spiegel-Warteschleife

the Catalogue / Online company Otto DOES apologise to customers.

It specifically changed the teflon-legal verbage from answers to customer

complaints letters and now says things like "sorry, we're late" or

"we apologize for the wrong jacket being sent, we'll replace it straight away".


So some parts of Germany are moving against the tide.


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Because many Germans take themselves very/too seriously, admitting you're wrong is personally humilating (by no means a trait exclusive to Germans: some people just can't apologise). This is similar to the already-mentioned Asian loss of face.


However, I would suggest that in some cases, admitting fault can get you sacked from your job and/or make you liable in law (think ruinous liability suits: look at the number of doctors who are "forbidden" from apologising by their liability insurance companies in cases of medical malpractice).


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This is largely true, unfortunately. Totally depends on personalities like anything, but I have some awesome examples:


- I correct the english on my coworker's technical training document.

- Coworker sends me an email after I've left questioning my use of "since" in a sentence.

- I correct her in the morning before she gets in with a response, clarifying that in common english, "since" can be used either to describe occurrences after a specific time, or to describe logical reasoning ("we did x, since y was present")

- No response or thank you or request for clarification


Repeat ad nauseum for german misuses or overuses of the phrases "critical", "up to now", "usually"/"normally"/"generally"


My roommates getting mad at me for putting the honey into the microwave for a minute to heat it a bit and soften it up:

Them: You can't do that! It destroys all the enzymes and the work the bees did!

Me: Pretty sure that it's done all the time. Never heard of that, ever.

Them: Yes it is because XXX and we've been told that since we were children.

Me: Okay, google will solve this.


Me: Yeah no evidence for that.

Them: Maybe it's a difference of opinion/culture.

Me: Okay, my girlfriend's father has been a beekeeper for years. I'll ask her.


Me: Yeah, so she spent years helping dad and packaging the honey for her dad's small business. They used to always heat up the honey if it was crystallized.

Them: Funny how we learn different things as children!


Repeat ad nauseum for leaving windows open in the middle of the winter to prevent mold, whilst getting annoyed at me heating my room while I'm gone for five minutes. Or, having a debate about how much energy is wasted by turning on the lights at dusk instead of when it's actually dark. Do the math... it's literally barely pennies difference.


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How fortuitous to find this thread back! I've just been on the phone to Australia to try and sort out an issue I had in my music school on Saturday.


Student to me "Ok, I really need to say this because it's starting to annoy me. You ALWAYS play this part too fast, and that's why there are ALWAYS problems here"


Me (a little taken aback) - "Ummm - in comparison to who? I'm the one teaching you this piece. We're not even halfway through and there are lots of adjustments to be made yet."


Student - "Tja - but it's ALWAYS you playing this bit too fast. It's confusing everyone else!"


Me (still taken aback) - "Again, I'm playing fast in comparison to...? To you? Are you saying you're right and I'm wrong?"


Student - "I'm saying you're too fast"


Me (sighing) - "Are you saying I'm playing faster than the last time I showed you this part?"


Student - "It's ALWAYS a problem because you're too fast!!"


(I should note - ALWAYS = 6 lessons of this new piece)


Me - "Did you not hear me tell you I'm going to teach you the individual parts slowly, before we put it all together and play it at the proper speed? Maybe after 4 weeks off and all the training I did in Australia over Christmas, I'm just playing a little faster than I taught you? if that's the case, I apologise. I don't mean to confuse anyone."




Me - "I'm happy you're practising together but do you remember the other songs you practised? You just reinforced all the mistakes you were making and we had to start again from the beginning. Remember how hard that was? And I remember I asked you to practise ONLY once you had me on film to follow?"


Student - "No. Anyway - it doesn't matter. Let's keep going...."


I'm usually happy to accept suggestions in class, but this just pissed me off. There's a method to my teaching but I wasn't even allowed to explain that. Even admitting I may have been wrong after practising differently the past month wasn't enough.


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