Before you came to Germany, what stereotypes and clichés did you have in mind ? Did you picture Germans with white socks and sandals, perhaps drinking a beer while Schlagermusik played in the background? Okay, that is of course an exaggeration, but there are clichés that Germans like me live up to. Let me give you a closer look at typical German behaviour that you may encounter on occasion.
Clichés and stereotypes exist in every country in the world. Some of them are false, and some are true. As a newbie to German culture, it can make your life easier to keep a few of them in mind. They can help you understand the culture better, but it is also important to not take them too seriously.
Germans like to watch the clock
8:17, 12:52 or 15:43 — I am sure you have seen these times when you booked an appointment to register with the city. Buses and trains are also scheduled down to the minute. Yes, Germans are known for punctuality and like to keep an eye on the time. People in Germany get stressed when the bus is late. If they come late to work, to an appointment or to a meeting, it is considered very impolite. If you’re more than 10 minutes late to an appointment at the doctor's office, the doctor might assign the appointment to someone else. Not everyone is good at punctuality — Germans and even German trains are late sometimes. However, it’s always best to tell the person, your employer, colleagues or the doctor's office about your delay. Speaking for myself, I’ll always text or call someone if I’m running more than five minutes late — even if I’m just meeting a friend. Punctuality and not making someone wait is a signs of respect.
No beating around the bush
Germans are known for their directness. If you ask a German a question, you will most likely get an answer that’s straight to the point. This is the case in many points of daily life as well as in the workplace. There are definitely cultures that are more open-minded and less serious, but you shouldn’t underestimate the Germans. They might not be world champions in small talk and flowery phrases, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have fun and don’t care about you. If you make German friends, you can expect a caring and honest friendship. You will enjoy the directness in communication and will always know where you stand.
Safety is a top priority
This can indeed be an overwhelming topic for newcomers to Germany. Besides a social safety net, Germans count on insurance. Insurance for life, accidents, households, cars, bicycles, mobile phones, and yes, even for pets. Did you know that you can insure yourself against getting stuck in an elevator? You can get insurance for literally anything, and if needed, you can even hire an insurance agent. Of course, your decision depends on your wants, needs and personal circumstances. Germans pay into social security systems and believe in a “we care for each other” culture. Therefore, it’s important to know that there are also legal requirements for purchasing insurance, which I'm sure you learned about when you enrolled as a student. Having health insurance is one of them.
Back to white socks and sandals, Schlagermusik and beer bellies, I know that Schlagermusik is a very special type of German music and not everyone's taste for sure (try Roland Kaiser or Helene Fischer). With our 5,000 different brands of beer, you can indeed consider Germans to be beer lovers. And yes, I have seen people strolling along the streets in white socks and sandals. But let's be honest, hasn't this special kind of clothing combination now been on trend anyway? So go out there, learn the language, connect with Germans and enjoy your cold beer :-)
This article is from the 7th edition of Pioneer Magazine.
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