Culture shock for Germans when visiting Australia

192 posts in this topic

 

@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.

Alternately one could come out with a cheerful "Wie steht's?" or "Was geht ab?" and really ruffle their feathers.

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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!

 

Yea, that so annoys me, they don't try to suggest a replacement product or tell you what other shop might have it.

 

I read it on here before that Germans only talk to solve a problem or to exchange information so this is why they don't really do chit-chat - it's a bit of an exaggeration but it has an element of truth. Also, they don't really integrate that easily into other cultures, compared with how English-speakers can integrate into each others' culture anyway.

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...compared with how English-speakers can integrate into each others' culture anyway.

I'm stating the obvious, but that has absolutely nothing to do with a "superior ability" of Anglo-Americans to integrate. You just happen to speak the same language, which makes integration into each others culture for you much easier than for the non-English speaking crowd.

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If you're not doing well, and you say "good" anyway, it's not the other person's fault that you don't know how to casually say "things could be better". Sometimes people ask me how I'm doing and I'll go, "shitty," nonchalantly and with a smile on my face. Usually they laugh, sometimes they ask why things are shitty. You don't have to unload your whole life on someone in order to be honest. So if someone asks why things are shitty, I say, "ach, you know, shit happens. And how are you?" Your shitty life is only unhumorous because you have no sense of humor. Breathe.The most glaring personal flaw I see here is linked to the belief that one can only be friendly to people with whom one has a relationship. The rest of them we push shopping carts into.There are people out there in the universe (myself included) who are interested in just about everydamnbody. If I ask how you're doing, it's because I want to know. I am a nosy bitch who loves to be in your business, also, I am a person who likes people. I love socializing with any and everybody. You don't. That's fine. But you don't get to call me fake because I like to talk to strangers... I don't get to call you an uptight cunt because you make snap judgments about strangers, or do I? ...out of all the bounteous grace that is your (true) friendship. Wild bunny rabbits couldn't keep me away.

 

Great post!

 

 

It's not about defending their behaviour, it's always about excusing the bad behaviour, by attributing it to German 'social norms' when in actual fact it is bottom line lack of courtesy/etiquette.

 

True, I've said it before and I'll say it again. Why would it make my day any better meeting a sincere asshole instead of a insincere friendly person? (then again I'm one of those strange persons that kind of like the American (and Australian) way)

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Why would it make my day any better meeting a sincere asshole instead of a insincere friendly person? (then again I'm one of those strange persons that kind of like the American (and Australian) way)

 

To be honest, I hate this idea.

 

Of course I'd rather meet an insincere friendly person than a sincere arsehole. At least with the former you can perhaps think there was some friendliness involved, compared to the latter where all doubt is removed completely.

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Was recently back in Sydney and my (german) husband and I had the chattiest check-out chick at Woolies I have ever met.

 

The german husband LOVED it - he grew up in a small village and it reminded him of the friendliness he encountered while growing up - and although I grew up in a big city I loved it too.

 

I give her extra points because I used to be a Woolies check-out chick myself and was, in contrast, grumpy as hell standing on my feet for hours doing that dull dull work.

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It's not about defending their behaviour, it's always about excusing the bad behaviour, by attributing it to German 'social norms' when in actual fact it is bottom line lack of courtesy/etiquette.

 

 

 

I agree... Germans will often ask me how I find the German people, and whenever I bring certain German behaviours like not smiling back, not holding the door open (there are many times I have had doors slammed in my face), never admitting to being wrong regardless of how much evidence stands against them and just general unfriendliness I always always always get the same response. 'Oh, that is so typical German'... and it's always said in an unapproving sort of way, like Germans should know better than to behave this way. So it seems to me Germans know that this typical German behaviour is rude, but regardless of how many times I hear the phrase 'oh that's so typical German', I rarely see any of them make an effort to be more friendly. I guess its just easier to be sincere a-hole rather than a little friendly.

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Having had major ties to both countries I thought I could chime in and say my 2c. I can see a lot of Aussies on here having the natural Emotional reaction to OPs story, which is fully understandable from their point of view.

 

I spent half my life in Australia and I still find it annoying when people give me the "How are you?" when I enter a shop or at the checkout. Why? Because I know they are just doing their job and are forced to say that by their managers most of the time (note I didn't say always ;)). Me replying to this question is usually a waste of my time, their time and is completely useless in the grand scheme of things. Enter a German who is efficient to his/her bone and it can definitely rub them the wrong way, so people have to understand that.

 

I also found that the German way is much more agreeable with my nature. When I find a nice person (be that a shop keeper/owner or a friends friend) over in Germany and I did find them ;), I know they are being sincere and I will always go back and strike a conversation, because I know that my words are not wasted. That's how you forge bonds there and I really like that.

 

Over here it's very difficult to tell when someone is being sincere or when they're just being nice for "some reason". It can make it tough to meet and become friends with people. Having said that, I spent so much time here already that I can quickly tell if someone is a back-stabber or not. You develop a 'feel' for it lol. All my Aussie friends are sincere and good people.

 

Another thing which I can see was a factor in OPs story, Germans LOVE to complain. They complain about their country, their government, the weather, politics and when they don't have something to complain they will think it up. It's just the way they are and another reason why they thought it was ok to bash the Australian way to her (a big NO NO here lol). As an outsider, especially Aussie, it's a difficult thing to get used to, because people here are exactly the opposite. If they find something annoying (about a person or anything personal) they try to sugar coat it, so they don't appear rude.

 

I know (or surely hope) the OP moved on from this ordeal since it's a few years back, but because I'm someone who understands both cultures I can only say that if I was in her situation I would just tell them: "Andere Laender, andere Sitten" and leave it at that. If the topic comes up again I would just leave the table with an excuse. It's a culture clash and unfortunately there is no "Right or Wrong" when it comes to those.

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I spent half my life in Australia and I still find it annoying when people give me the "How are you?" when I enter a shop or at the checkout. Why? Because I know they are just doing their job and are forced to say that by their managers most of the time (note I didn't say always ).

 

This is absolutely untrue. People are not told by anyone to say "How are you?", it's a standard greeting, and it absolutely is an expectation that you will tell the person how you are and discuss it if you so like. People often do, or you can just say "Yeh, alright" and move on. It seems only Germans can be annoyed with someone asking them how they are, to the point that it's basically a cliche, even among Germans themselves these days. Next you'll be laying out your towel on the beach chair at 5am.

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I don't know why Germans are so bothered with the question "how are you?". It's like they feel it borders on invasion of privacy. At the same time, Germans have a somewhat similar custom which is walking around your workplace every morning, even if it takes half an hour out of your day, to shake everybody's hand and say good morning. Now, I am sure most of them don't actually care either if the other is having a good morning or not.

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Yep, I think you have it with the 'invasion of privacy' thing. I have fallen foul of this one lots of times, when I have asked way too many questions of a German to find out about something, and realised that they are in their 'eeek' zone and I am only half way through. They seem to be opposite with personal space, I am freaked out, and they move just that little bit closer...

 

The shaking hands individually thing is odd, time consuming as you say, very obtrusive in many settings, and certainly insincere.

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Well, I grew up in Britain, but I have problems with the question "How are you?". I hate it when people ask that or "Wie geht es Ihnen?" What do I say to that? How can I answer a question like that? I can't say 'fine' and leave it at that. There are too many factors in my life and one bit might not be working out or I might have felt different throughout the day and I don't know if I'm 'fine' or not. Asking me "How are you?" puts me in a quandary. How do I reply to that truthfully?

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There's no law that forbids you from replying with "so-so", "could be better" or "doing ok" but that it often as taken to mean that you want to discuss what is wrong in your life and may call for follow up questions.

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I have been known to answer the question honestly with "Suicidal." And this to German(ic) family members. That completely floors them. Do they then ask why you are feeling suicidal though? No. They grimmace but say nothing.

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I hate it when people ask that or "Wie geht es Ihnen?" What do I say to that? How can I answer a question like that?

 

Umm.. you answer the question?

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I don't know why Germans are so bothered with the question "how are you?". It's like they feel it borders on invasion of privacy.

 

Well, you answered it yourself. In German ears this question isn´t just a set phrase, but it means you are asking about the problems he has with his piles, the state of his marriage and how he is managing to service his debts and are expecting at least a short summary of his current situation. This simply isn´t a random stranger´s business.

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Umm.. you answer the question?

 

But how? If someone asked me right now... I'd have to say: "Well, to be honest, I'm feeling lousy. I don't understand why I'm not losing weight even though I've been following the classic advice of eat less and move more. I averaged 9 km a day in January and this month, I've been averaging 7.5 km a day. I got to the gym twice a week for weights and stretching. I eat so damned healthily and do not stuff myself. I'm just bursting out of my clothes and it's depressing. And then there's the worry that not enough work is coming in. And my hair looks awful. And the thought that I've got decades more like this to come depresses me. And someone's asked me to do something and I don't know where to start with it because I don't know the right people to ask and that's getting me down too - it's paralysing."

 

That's my answer now. I can't say 'fine' when I am not feeling fine.

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I wouldn't answer in that much detail straight up, but you absolutely can answer that you don't feel so great because your diet isn't working. The person asking the question would not find that unusual and it would probably lead to a conversation about the other stuff you mentioned.

 

If Germans find the question too personal, they don't have to offer up that information. If you find the question rude in general, you need to get a grip.

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I don't find it rude. II just find it hard to say 'fine' (as would be the usual case in the UK), when things are not fine. If you want to know how I am.. then be prepared for an answer like that. Because I can't to it any other way. I have to be truthful. And all this is going through my mind at the same time all the time. How am I? Like this: points a, b, c, d and e.

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I can completely understand that you don't want to answer with just "fine" if all is not well. But I miss that very general question. Here the Germans do not show their human side. I agree that it is a lot to do with privacy and crossing that line and answering every question very seriously.

 

When we were in Canada at Christmas - just after the ice storm - people would say hello, how are you at the shops, people were civil, not like here where they tolerate that you want to buy something in a shop. Even though at home, they might not have had power, no heat, etc. It just seems human. When we were in England last year, same thing, people would ask how you are and it just makes you feel human.

 

The handshake thing freaks me out and I don't like to do it but I respect their custom and participate.

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