Culture shock for Germans when visiting Australia

192 posts in this topic

The proposition that Germans are generally well-mannered doesn't even warrant a serious response.

 

However, it has to be said that the proposition that Germans are somehow less "superficial" than those from the anglosphere is ludicrous. I think they're even more superficial.

 

I routinely get "Sehr Geehrte" emails from people who hate my guts. I get sarcastic "Einen Wunderschönen Guten Morgen"s from people who clearly don't mean it. Face it, the whole calling people "Herr" or "Frau" when the most they really deserve in the first place is a "mac" or "buddy" or "mate" is as superficial as it gets, as is calling some old biddy "Sehr Gnadige Frau" when you really mean "hey, lady". "Gruss Gott" or "Servus", says the guy who's about to deliver a diatribe on how everyone in the US is a religious wacko. "Meine Madamen und Herren" says the cheesy TV show host 500 times in one half hour. All fake.

 

In the anglosphere, if someone asks "how are you", the answer isn't always "fine". The occasions when one gets an "actually, not so hot; I have something to tell you" as a response underscore how, deep down, it remains a real question into one's well being. I've had a shop assistant ask "how are you doing" and I've replied "I'd be a lot better if someone would help me find what I'm looking for."

 

That said, who wouldn't prefer day-to-day dealings with people who say nice things and perhaps not really mean them versus people who say not nice things and unambiguously mean them?

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I am shocked at Melbels encounter in the restaurant in Aus.

Aussies are generally good and friendly people.

 

I am Irish (of German descent) and we also greet people here, with "how are you", as well.

I suppose the greeting is not a formal/personal enquiry as to the privacy of the other person.

But this can get lost in translation, especially with a person from Germany who could take

offence at such a personal greeting.

 

Having said that, I have found most Germans to be nothing but polite.

 

As an english speaking person, I do tend to avoid using the phrase/greeting "how are you" because it is an

insincere greeting, in reality.

I prefer to say, "hello, very nice to meet you" or some other appropriate greeting.

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Well, I'm an Australian of German descent, my Lübeck-born seafarer grandfather and his Danish wife emigrated to Australia in the 1920s and then proceeded to have my mother as their daughter, and he couldn't wait to get the hell out of Europe in general, and out of Germany in particular. And significantly, I can remember him saying that he didn't like Bavarians or Austrians. He loved Australia and the disarming informality of Australian people and quickly adapted to living in Oz. In contrast, the Bavarian boneheads in Melbel's story seem to have gone out of their way to make sweeping generalisations that Aussie friendliness toward strangers is 'superficial' or 'insincere'. How in the hell do they know if friendly Australian conduct toward others is superficial or insincere or not? What qualifies them to make such general and damning remarks? Can they read minds? No! It's just one very large large assumption on the Bavarians' part and nothing more. And they are hypocrites: Many Germans detest being labelled generally as Nazis or other perjoratives and take offence if they are so labelled, but they will slander other nationalities by making insultingly generalised remarks about people of such other nations. Hypocrisy borne of prejudice is the hallmark of many Europeans, not only Germans, IMO. On the other hand, I have met some really very pleasant Germans apart from my grandfater, including a very earthy-attractive and highly intelligent girl from Braunschweig who was as pleasant and interesting to be with as she was earthy and pretty: And she liked Australia, too; and once more in contrast to the Bavarian plum tarts in Melbel's story, Fräulein Braunschweig most certainly did not make stupidly generalised and highly offensive remarks about the people here.

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Don't worry, Ranger080, the way how these people behaved (as described in the original posting) is highly unusual. They must've been some really ignorant numbnuts.

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Someone mentioned "new world" vs. "old world"...Maybe in the "new world" (Australia, US, etc) you could only succeed if you worked with others to make a new settlement or to trade or whatever. In the "old world" there are so many people closer together that society worked if you kept more of a psychological distance.

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This is an interesting article:

 

"Cultural Differences between Australia and Germany

Thinkers and Drinkers"

 

http://www.convictcreations.com/culture/germany.html

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This applies for other countries outside of Australia, but do not get upset if they do not say your name cleanly and precisely. You will not be "Rralf" there, but "Raa-aalf," so be prepared to suck it up! (I met my boyfriend's sister at Christmas, and she was fine until she couldn't handle the way I said her brother's name. She had to say that I sounded American, but I thought it was funny, and just had a laugh about it.) Americans and Ozzies do not avoid dipthongs when we speak, unless we are very conscious not to!

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I am just reading through the whole of this old thread, and I am only half way. But it got me to thinking about German friendships and their sincerity. I met a woman when I first came here to meet my boyfriend, and we kept in touch via social networking, exchanging some gifts even. She got a new job in another city,about a year ago, and just stopped writing. My boyfriend had to meet her when she came down here again, and she said hello, but she hasn't written.

 

Another German woman I met online,who lives in Hessen, and is an old friend of my boyfriend, and with whom I exchanged a lot of personal information with, also became history. I am not complaining, although I liked both women, and would have liked to be in touch with both of them still. But, still,how are their friendships any less superficial than "American" ones? Do they actually tell you when you are a real, lifelong friend? Or do they only bestow friendships on people they have slept with/gone to school with?

 

The exchange of personal information and birthday and Christmas gifts did not "mean" friendship any more to these German women than to Americans. I do not get how their friendships are "more" sincere, in any case.

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Still reading this thread. I have been surprised sometimes, even at Aldi, when the greeting actually seems to get a little friendly, when I am not expecting it. Merry Christmas and Good New Year were said by individuals who seemed to want a little contact in their working day.

 

That said, I have often been amused by clerks who have not shown the slightest bit of interest in me who turn their voices on high and yell out "Tchu--uuss," mit dipthong!, when I am leaving the store. Talk about feeling fake when I return the greeting!

 

Usually, I am used to having a little back and forth with the cashier so that I am actually smiling when I am saying goodbye to them, and "meaning" the good bye.

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This was such an interesting thread to read through. I have often heard this complaint about Americans being insincere. But I always explain to my students that they shouldn't always translate everything so literally. In both languages we have sayings and polite exchanges that are just part of the cultures. Ours happens to be "How are you" (or the more formal "How do you do").

 

I realize this can be confusing and violating for the Germans but it goes both ways. For the first few years I lived in here and walked into a room and saw someone I knew and they said "Na?" I was always confused as to what the fuck I was supposed to say in response and then figured out the acceptable response was "Na" back or some social bullshit, but did I let it get on my keks? No I just fumbled and watched and learned. That's what you do when you are in another culture that is not your own.

 

My personal experience was at a party in Berlin. I was talking to this guy and he introduced himself to me and I said "Nice to meet you." And he then said "now why do Americans always say nice to meet you? They don't even know me." I said I say it not because I think you are nice but that the opportunity to meet someone new is nice. Whether you are nice or not is still left to be determined.

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Jet lag ...= grumpy people.. :rolleyes:

gosh I miss the sunny summer!

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It is quite easy to understand. The uneasiness about it, not overreacting, of course. Look at the way "you" (generally meant) react to crowding. Same sort of reacting to something that is not meant to be aggressive in the least. This kind of socialising is "mental crowding" to germans. It just crosses a line with them. You are used to the "personal space bubble" you have learnt to think other people will naturally respect by accepting your need for bodily distance, and germans are used to their personal space bubble regarding mental distance. Same thing, same reaction, just different needs and different cultural training. And as so many things, reacting like that and accusing other people of aggressiveness or superficiality is irrational. But human.

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My personal experience was at a party in Berlin.  I was talking to this guy and he introduced himself to me and I said "Nice to meet you." And he then said "now why do Americans always say nice to meet you?  They don't even know me." I said I say it not because I think you are nice but that the opportunity to meet someone new is nice.  Whether you are nice or not is still left to be determined.

 

 

Next time you can explain that "Nice to meet you" is the equivalent of "Angenehm" in German when shaking hands with a stranger you've just been introduced to. Not really used very often nowadays, except in formal introductions, maybe between new business associates etc.  

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I always think it's funny how if you're in a shop here and you ask a shop assistant if they have X and if they don't, they'll just answer "no" and walk off!

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I was talking to this guy and he introduced himself to me and I said "Nice to meet you." And he then said "now why do Americans always say nice to meet you? They don't even know me." I said I say it not because I think you are nice but that the opportunity to meet someone new is nice. Whether you are nice or not is still left to be determined.

 

 

I often say 'Schoen dich kennenzulernen' when I meet someone new here.

 

They do look at me in a surprised fashion but I thought that they were only surprised that the Aussie speaks German. I'm starting to realise that maybe it's just not a typical thing to say here. Although since most people understand English, they probably do the quick translation back and forth to understand my intent. I wonder how often I say things that make sense in English but are ridiculous in German - yet no one ever mentions it to me because they understand my intent? Probably numerous times a day!

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I know what you mean Aussie Girl. I never know what to say when I've just been introduced to a German, I often just say "nice to meet you" purely out of habit. My bf just informed me that in a social situation you can simply say "wie geht's?" after being introduced in the same way we'd say "how's it going?" after being introduced to someone. Apparently "schoen dich kennenzulernen" is more commonly used when you farewell the person you just met... but I don't think it really matters.

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I often say 'Schoen dich kennenzulernen' when I meet someone new here.

 

Bramble addressed this point three posts above yours, Aussie Girl. The "nice to meet you" concept just doesn't exist here in Germany - perhaps because they haven't yet decided whether it is indeed nice to have met you. Most people simply say "hallo" or "gruss' dich" when introduced to someone new (as noted, the traditional "angenehm" is a bit dated).

 

@m.m re "wie geht's": again, same words, different concept: many Germans will interpret this more as a "how are you" than "how's it going", and some of the higher-strung hoity-toity types might find that question a bit too personal coming from someone they've just met. Once again, you can never go wrong with "hallo".

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