Oh, my: These Germans are sooo shocking!
Yesterday I wrote about some common stereotypes Americans harbor against Germans. While that brief list is far from being complete, I also stumbled across a few nice little differences many Americans face when interacting with Germans.
The Spiegel magazine, one of the most read news outlets in Germany, recently ran a story on four U.S. exchange students and their experiences in the country of Goethe & Schiller. These young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 were “shocked” at the “immorality” they discovered in Germany.
Shocking? Immoral? Strange etiquette? Goodness, what are we getting ourselves into? Will the VW and Wacker people challenge our morals when they arrive?
Probably not. But it won’t hurt to know that some of their standards might be slightly different from those prevalent in the Southeast.
One of the students found it irritating to see scantily dressed women in TV commercials for dating lines. She even characterized her first visit to a public sauna as “immoral” – men and women were sitting side by side, completely naked. “Where did I end up here?” she asked herself, knowing that back home this was unimaginable.
Lesson 1: When it comes to nudity and sexuality most Germans are much more open-minded than Americans. Albeit liberal, they don’t just put up with everything sexual, as you can see here.
All the students in the story came to one common conclusion: The Germany they had imagined is a whole different ball game than the real Germany. And so are the people. One girl discovered that most Germans consider themselves as ecology-minded. They embrace recycling, public mass transit, green energy and the fight against the climate crisis. On the flip-side most Germans think Americans are the exact opposite: they drive gas-guzzlers and use too much electricity/water/natural resources.
Lesson 2: In urban areas Germans (and Europeans in general) have advanced public transport systems which are much more efficient than individual transit. Most people realize that and use the trains, buses, subways and streetcars.
Since the Spiegel was talking to students it doesn’t come as a surprise that these young Americans cited huge differences when it comes to the knowledge of foreign languages. The German school system has been putting much emphasis on language training for decades. English as a second language (ESL) is mandatory for all students. Most higher-ed institutions also push for a second foreign language with the popular choices being French, Spanish, Russian, Italian or Chinese.
Lesson 3: Don’t be afraid to talk to them. The Germans may sound a little funny at times, but they understand you and they can speak English well enough to make it through the Southeast. Just go easy on the “y’all” …