Open a browser and navigate to Google. If you begin searching “why are Germans…” you need not finish typing- Google provides only one suggestion to complete your sentence: “why are Germans so rude?” Moving to a new country, whether…
Moving to Germany with no job offers and even fewer plans was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I quickly learned how different cultures can be; although many people in Germany speak English, everything from humor to manners can be anything but transparent to outside eyes looking in.
An ex-pat’s real life experiences
Fact or fiction?
Open a browser and navigate to Google. If you begin searching “why are Germans…” you need not finish typing- Google provides only one suggestion to complete your sentence: “why are Germans so rude?”
Moving to a new country, whether for a new job, love or adventure, is always scary. But I can say form personal experience that the prospect was made much worse by all the stereotypes about Germans and their cold, rude nature. Living abroad has also taught me a lot about my own culture. I’ve learned firsthand the way that others view us, and that has really sharpened my own notions of what it means to be American. I wondered, was the bubbly, loud, impossibly polite (all stereotypes I’ve heard about Americans since moving abroad) American the antonym for the cold, direct, impossibly punctual German?
I’ve been incredibly lucky in that my partner is a native German speaker- with that “in,” I came to realize that I had it a lot easier than someone moving to Germany with absolutely no connection to the language or culture. It also helped me find clarification for a lot of really awkward situations. Example? Take the time a “rude” German cut me in line at the movie theater concession stand. Angered (well, pissed off actually), I defiantly said, “Es tut mir leid, aber ich stehe vor euch an die Schlange und ihr musst einfach warten.”
Their response was anything but apologetic (see this). The issue? All cultures handle personal space differently; without exception, Americans need a certain-sized bubble of personal space. It turns out it is just larger than that of the Germans. I was simply standing too far away from the person in line in front of me! With the guidance of my partner and German friends, I was lucky enough to figure it out after only two such tense encounters.
But those instances got me thinking: can the Germans really be so bad, or, as in the illustrious words of Marvin Gaye, are we all just sensitive people?
It ain’t all roses
In case I’ve oversimplified the process of integration, let me explicitly say that fully immersing myself in German culture has at times been incredibly isolating and scary. Being at odds with every norm, cultural more, and idea really tests you. In those moments, I’ve had to dig deep and find my true grit. My biggest piece of advice is this: learn to laugh at everything. We really are all just sensitive people; the trouble comes along when we forget
that. With that said, fully immersing myself in German culture has also been one of the most eye-opening, life-changing and beautiful things I’ve ever done.
Resources for integration
Get down and dirty with the Germans- their bark is worse than their bite
– Expatica.com/de- though I prefer Toytown, Expatica is also a good general forum.
– Toytowngermany.com- extensive forum for all things ex-pat (srsly, all things).
– Internations- members-only (though easy to join) hosted events in many cities.
– Meetup.com- meet expats or like-interested people in casual, friendly settings. It sounds weird, but it’s how I’ve met some of my closest friends in Germany!
– Many German cities have English language newspapers or magazines to keep you informed- but more on this later.
Get in the grey area and get weird. You’ll not regret it.