Culture shock for Germans when visiting Australia

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well being an INTP i sometimes get annoyed at Australian /yank/brit Youth Hostel room extrovert friendly mates, and wish i had some seriouss, unfriendly germans, but thats me.

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Neandertaler said what I think to be the most important thing here: "One of the things I always pointed out to them was that in Australia, when someone asks "How are you?", they don't (as a general rule) want to know."

I thought this applied to the USA. When in the lift (elevator!) in hotel in Burlington (Boston) & some young lady asked "How are you today" & I answered "Awful - have a terrible headache & didnt drink a drop yesterday" she clearly didnt want to know...

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You're not serious, are you?

Probably not (I know, I can't speak for them) but I do have to admit, the few times I have "cut in line" were because I did not realize the people were also in line. Happened just the other day at the grocery store, and old granny gave me an evil stare (the Catalan version). (Of course I let her back in line as soon as I realized my mistake.)

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(...) when someone asks "How are you?", they don't (as a general rule) want to know." (...)

I am aware that this thread is old and abandoned, but I would like to reply for the sake of future readers. I am a German female now living in the US, and I am stunned about this whole thread. There are clearly big cultural misunderstandings.

 

You Anglos might not be aware that the question "How are you" (wie geht es Dir/Ihnen) is a very VERY PERSONAL one!!! When asked this extremely personal question by a complete stranger, this is of course considered intrusive! My injury (divorce, lottery win, accident, family death case, fill in more...) is not the business of this shopgirl / waiter, who is actually there to SERVE me. When in a supermarket at a register, why would that person care about my sister's divorce or my nephew's skateboard accident?

 

Do you understand where I am going?

 

This question is ALWAYS (REALLY! Honestly! Always!!) asking for the SERIOUS things that happened to you lately. This can also be good, like the jackpot in the lottery for example. (But beware, don't tell that to anyone if you want to keep your new money!) But usually this question will be answered with the recent disasters, as we Germans point out more negatives than positives.

 

Yes, we complain, I know. Dunno why.

So, when asked "how it goes me", I will say that my husband is working too much for too little pay, that my foot is getting worse, that we didn't have a real summer again this year (at least we had 3 weeks warm weather this year, unlike 2008 when there was no summer at all), and so on.

 

This question is NOT A GREETING for a German, but it is really a very personal question, and I believe that you Brits, Yanks and Aussies just have not understood that. (No insults meant.) In your language the same question is a meaningless "Hi", but for a German this question is really serious and deep. And when a waiter is asking me that, I am thinking "that's not his business, what is he thinking!"

 

Of course, after 5 years of living in the US, I am aware how people fare here. And I am lying back to them, it goes automaticaly by now. When asked "How are you" I am saying "good" with no meaning at all, and I resent that person for that. I figure he/she is lying at me by faking an interest in my person which cannot be there (because he/she does not know me and therefore cannot possibly care or want to know). So in a shortcut: the person (unknown to me) asking me how I am is a liar and therefore will be resented.

 

And I don't feel good about myself to watch myself turning into a liar myself towards these people. I am faking friendliness where nothing can be there (for the lack of relationship), and I feel this is a personal flaw. I am cheating these people, basically. I comfort myself with the "they started it, I only replied" attitude. But it is still wrong.

 

As a sidenote: I found it interesting that Melbel said she would only be "nice" to Hubby's friends but not "friendly" anymore. In my German understanding "freundlich" is more superficial, while "nett" is deeper and actually heartfelt!!! So we have it exactly the other way around!!?? Isn't that something, huh?!

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When asked "How are you" I am saying "good" with no meaning at all, and I resent that person for that.

 

You are completely misunderstanding the question though. You should re-phrase the question in your mind not to mean how are you generally in your life but to mean how are you in this establishment in this moment, if it's a restaurant, are you happy with your table, is your knife dirty, did they forget to put salt and pepper on the table, if it's a store, did you find everything you were looking for or did you have any problems.

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If a waiter asked me "How are you" I would think he is nuts.

 

No properly trained or even only slightly trained waitstaff would ask something like that.

 

"Is everything satisfactory" or even "everyfing OK love?" is fine but "How are you" is not!

 

Is life in the colonies THAT much different?

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Is life in the colonies THAT much different?

Good question, Stevo.

 

And I don't know how the connection is there but this thread needs to cheer up with an awesome commercial.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbfJg2iVTsY&feature=related

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Germany has these meaningless colloquialisms as well though. Are you actually "greeting god" when you say Gruessgott to someone?

 

When I first got here I refused to because I don't believe in God but over time I've assimilated and now it's my standard. Shall I resent the Germans for making me a hypocrit as well?

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You are completely misunderstanding the question though. You should re-phrase the question in your mind not to mean how are you generally in your life but to mean how are you in this establishment in this moment, if it's a restaurant, are you happy with your table, is your knife dirty, did they forget to put salt and pepper on the table, if it's a store, did you find everything you were looking for or did you have any problems.

 

I think she knows that it is just a phrase, just illustrating the cultural difference: the English/American/Australian asks "how are you?" and doesn't really want to know, the German asks "wie geht's?" and expects an answer. In the end to the German the English/etc seems shallow, and to the English/etc the German seem intrusive. The fun starts when you move in both worlds...

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Sorry, if someone's been in Yankland for five years, they should have worked out some basic nuances by now.

 

Anyway, what's WRONG with a bit of superficiality? (If that's what we must call it.) When I go into a shop or a restaurant, what's wrong if the people serving look pleased to see me? They're not offering to marry me, are they? They're not borrowing money off me. They're just making their life and mine a bit pleasanter by applying some social lubricant.

 

In all seriousness, though, I do notice that people travelling overseas often lapse into national stereotypes. I've had some Australian friends, who are normally cultured, intelligent people, suddenly become ockers while they're over here, while I've been on business trips with Germans who turn into awkward unfriendly people. I wonder if asserting your own nationality in such an obvious way is a form of protection against the overwhelming foreignness of another country.

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Ive got to say that its sooooo very German to be rude... from a cultural experience (and I was always told the French were the rude ones!! Bahh)

 

Ive been in Germany 2 months now, and while my partner and I used to go out once a week for dinner, I find that i'd rather stay home and cook.. why?.. Im sick of the lack of politeness by staff!

Being a staff trainer back home, Im used to telling people when to pick up their game when it comes to customer service, shall I do that here to to the shop employees and waiters? maybe they just need a kick up the arse,(or a fist) and told how to smile and be pleasent!!

 

Trying to make new friends in germany seems like a task not worth the effort with what we've encountered so far as rude, stuck-up germans... or is that just my forign perception??

 

Aussies are a generaly friendly lot, we welcome every nationality into our country and don't expect you to be fluent in English (more than I can say for germans), Yes you will get the Standard, "hi, how are you" from shop keep, and sometimes we actually do care about your answer...

Strangers in the street may also spark up conversation, making conversation to waste a few minutes of the day, nothing wrong in that.

How are people ment to make new friends if they dont speak to strangers??

 

So "albgardis" thinks that we should all be stuck-up and offended when someone asks how we are, Im sure that there are people out there that if they didnt have someone ask them how they were would of ended their lives that day, Just to know someone see's them can be enough to keep people alive.

I personally had a "bum" sit next to me the other day in ULM, as I had a seat free next to me, we exchanged plesantrys and he smiled!.. he may not of spoken to a single person for a week... like I said, It can make the differance for some people!!

 

Getting back on topic...

 

Yes your husband was in the wrong that night, he disrespected you by not standing up for you, as these people clearly had no idea that anybody outside their imediate family could dare speak to them, and he disrespected you by not including you in conversation... you deserved an unschedualed girls night out!!

These "friends" I hope endure many, many more happy Australians that piss them off!! :P

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Hey, if 'wie geht es dir' is so incredibly personal, how come it was the first thing we got taught in my integration course at the Volkshochschule?

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Germany has these meaningless colloquialisms as well though. Are you actually "greeting god" when you say Gruessgott to someone?

 

When I first got here I refused to because I don't believe in God but over time I've assimilated and now it's my standard. Shall I resent the Germans for making me a hypocrit as well?

 

That is a Bavarian-only (!!!) greeting, not at all a German one! I am a believer of a different faith than the christian one and would never ever consider saying that. And since I am from the Northwest, I don't even consider Bavaria being real "German"...

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I think she knows that it is just a phrase, just illustrating the cultural difference: the English/American/Australian asks "how are you?" and doesn't really want to know, the German asks "wie geht's?" and expects an answer. In the end to the German the English/etc seems shallow, and to the English/etc the German seem intrusive. The fun starts when you move in both worlds...

 

Thank you! Yes! You got it right!

This is exactly what I meant, and it seems it was not clear (from my side).

 

Of course I am aware how these Americans mean that, of course I know they don't care. But that was not my point. You have explained my point better, and so short. Thank you very much.

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Contrast and compare this thread (and all the others) about how rude the Germans are with the one about Americans married to Germans

 

http://www.toytowngermany.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=147726

 

In there we have any number of people defending what to me is near the height of rudeness and bad manners by Americans as "cultural differences."

 

What you perceive to be "rude" IS the correct and formal way to behave here - in most cases you are the one in the wrong and if you can't get your head round that then you are going to have a hard life here until you either give up and go home or start on the drink or drugs.

 

 

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