Everywhere we go, seeing and meeting new people in a new culture, we notice differences. Every nation has its own stereotypes and awkward manners. After living among the Lisbonese for several months, we stayed in Germany for over a month.
This blog post is dedicated to the Germans. We stayed in Germany for over a month but Tina already has been living there her whole life. In this post, we share what we think are the Germans’ most noticeable peculiarities – the good and the bad.
Work and study
It’s already a stereotype of Germans that they work a lot. Having good job seems to be a status symbol in Germany. Nobody wants to have a “low” job. Lacking a minimum wage and good social services, it’s not easy to survive on an underpaid job or on unemployment. This may be the reason why people take their studies so serious. Students will always strive for the best grades and spend hours of their free time doing homework. Nobody will ever have time for anything. “No, I still have to study” is the standard response when you want to meet up with someone, albeit weekend or holiday. Overhearing young people talk, conversations are always related to school. German schools are always in high regard, possibly because students are a lot more motivated to actually learn something instead of being there just to get their diploma, making teachers more motivated in return.
Nostalgia and oldfashionedness
Youth groups such as goths, punkers, skaters, etc. have nearly gone extinct since the end of the nineties. When you visit an average German city, it feels like coming back in time when you see these people hanging out on the streets; posters advertising “90s parties” and concrete pillars advertising tobacco products (these ads are banned elsewhere in Europe). And public toilets still have toilet ladies, sitting in front of the toilets with a dish for tips. I must have been around 10 years old when I last saw this, and even then, it wasn’t a common sight. In Germany though, toilet ladies are still everywhere, even in a place like Burger King.
Entertainment and technology
TV shows that people grew tired of 10 years ago, are still being broadcast in Germany. Big shows that were entertaining for a few years, have never stopped. Even garbage like Big Brother, which I couldn’t stand to watch for more than 5 minutes, is still running. Don’t people grow tired of old stuff here? Also, ancient technology such as Teletext is still used daily.
Also for newer technology, laws have been implemented to make sure Germany doesn’t change too fast. Follow your series, watch a movie or listen to some music: just normal things to do online. But not in Germany. Like in the 20th century, you should buy an album if you want to listen to music. Want a movie? Go to the cinema or wait for a TV channel to show it with German dubbing. Nearly all online videos containing music are banned in Germany. Also, most streaming videos, such as webcams, are blocked, no matter what content you want to watch. And don’t even think about using a filesharing application: you will get a huge fine for downloading or uploading copyrighted material; if you pay for the internet connection, you will be guilty of a crime, even if it wasn’t even you yourself who committed this “crime” – no need for a prosecutor to prove anything, all the evidence they need is your IP address and their word. For travelers who often rely on internet to book a host for the night or to get a map to navigate a new city, this can be troublesome as you won’t easily find a place that offers free wifi access to guests. A lot of reasons to use the internet are taken away, so why use it at all, apart from practical reasons? It seems a lot of people don’t; whereas in many other countries, you will see people playing around with their smartphones everywhere, in Germany people still read. Take a tram or metro ride and all you see are people reading books or newspapers or working on homework assignments.
This is how most of YouTube looks in Germany:
Germans are in love with America
When it comes to holidays, Germans love to celebrate American style. In November, Halloween is widely celebrated. Shops sell Halloween costumes and you will even see people dressed up for Halloween parties. In the evening, kids come to ring the doorbell expecting to get some candy. But why do Germans celebrate this holiday? Germany is not a Celtic country nor is it full of Irish immigrants (who introduced the tradition to America).
Some weeks after Halloween, there is Thanksgiving. A typical American holiday, followed by Black Friday: a day when a lot of Americans have a day off and shops take advantage of this by giving major discounts. Walking around in Germany, nearly every shop offers Black Friday discounts. However, there seems to be no sign of any Thanksgiving celebration nor is it a day many people would take a day off.
The biggest winter holiday is of course Christmas. A lot of people decorate their houses and also town centers will have decoration. Although this alone is common worldwide, Germans also have Christmas markets. Typically held in town centers, the German Christmas markets always have a nice atmosphere to it. Traditional German snacks and are being sold. A warm glühwein, although overpriced at the market, is good to keep you warm during the cold evenings. However: why does Christmas have to start in November? By the time time it’s actually Christmas, it already feels like it should have ended a long time ago.
When traveling, sometimes it is necessary to ask a stranger for directions. This doesn’t always go easy in Germany. Twice, people just ignored me and kept walking, not even making any eye contact. When asking for information from people working on a bus or a train, don’t expect a friendly answer. Short answers such as a grunt followed by “Ask him”, “I don’t know” or “It’s there” are most common, with them barely raising their arm to point in some general direction. Germans would certainly never use a word such as “please”. Language has to be efficient. As Germans are concerned, why say “Please, take a seat” when a short “Sit!” will do? As you will notice by the exclamation marks on warning signs, Germans love to command people.
NSP espionage. Animal rights. Refugee policy. These some of the reasons people get on the streets, revolting against the current situation. Germans take it a step further. They will take any excuse to organize a protest. Even against small issues, concerning only certain districts or regions, huge masses of people gather to show their disagreement. Often they themselves aren’t even directly affected.
Germans don’t like each other
Bavarians, Saxons, Schwaben, Berliners – one country, many dialects and stereotypes. Every region claims to be the best in certain areas. They are proud of their own traditions, language and community. If they visit the neighboring regions, the first they recognize is that they’re different. This mostly means they are worse. They can’t understand each other and they are not willing to adapt to the new environment. Their attitude towards people from other parts of Germany is usually arrogant, feeling superior to the other.
Food and drinks
Germans eat pretzels (called Brezel) almost every day. Made from dough, brought to its salty taste with lye (sodium hydroxide) and shaped in the typical pretzel form – you can buy them in little pretzel stands that are found everywhere. It’s a quick snack if you don’t have much time. During Oktoberfest season, pretzels are served with beer. Another common snack is döner kebab. As Germany has a lot of Turkish immigrants, there are a lot of them.
The Germans most favorite drink is a cold beer. The tradition of German breweries is well established, offering a variety of different beers, from light to dark beer. The prices for beer are relatively low. Half a liter for 25 cents is a good price and you’re allowed to drink in public so people often sit around in parks having a drink, often bringing something to grill. You do have to pay a deposit for bottles and cans. You can return the empty containers to get your money back or you can just leave it somewhere by the street for collectors to gather them. It doesn’t really count as littering as it still has monetary value for others. Germans like to drink as well, so any occasion is used to organize a party. Not only at their own home but also outside, often in so-called open air festivals.
When the days start getting colder, there is a warm alternative to beer: glühwein, hot, spicey wine. Whereas wine is not so popular, glühwein is consumed by almost every German. For children there is a non-alcoholic version called kinderpunsch. If you are in Germany during winter, stop by at one of the Christmas markets for a hot wine.
Discrimination based on gender seems to be commonplace in German. Places (e.g. gyms) refusing entrance to a certain gender and even women’s only parking can be found: