After the first days I have now almost gotten through the phase when I turn around frequently and think "Hey, they speak German!", am amazed by the blue highway signs (not green!), and can't pass by any bakery without buying something. In a case of severe jetlag I spent a full minute staring at my mother's cotton pads where it reads 'weich und fusselfrei', wondering what it means, and ordered a-glass-of-water-without-ice-please forgetting that a) no need to speak English b) they don't usually put ice in it anyhow, at least not as long as the outside temperature is below 30°C and c) the water isn't for free.
What's new in Germany? Not much actually.
Despite what I've been told, they still don't give you cashback at the register ("Nee, da kommt ka Geld raus").
The topic of the month is apparently sex. Yeah, I mean, what else. It's all Germans ever talk about, right? Just read this blog. But seriously, apparently a women called Charlotte Roche wrote a book, titled "Feuchtgebiete", which made it on the top of the amazon.com worldwide bestseller table. I find myself unable to translate the title (it's a pun). And now all of Germany talks about female secondary sexual characteristics.
Besides this, optimism is reaching unimaginable hights because the unemployment rate apparently has been dropping further, and spring is everywhere. Stefan says I missed the cherry tree bloom, but here's some apple trees:
Btw, I coincidentally came across this text about the American-German interaction
"Table 2. Politeness: American Friendliness.
- Not broaching controversial issues like politics or religion when desiring to maintain a friendly atmosphere
- Using politeness formulae (routine formulae) with strangers or acquaintances: Hi, how are you? It was nice meeting you. Have a nice day. Let's get together sometime. It was nice talking to you
- Maintaining "the customer is always right"
- Not saying anything negative, especially to a stranger (usually)
- Expressing some willingness to talk to strangers about family situation
- Saying "excuse me" when touching or bumping into a stranger in public
- Using first names right away
- Talking "informally"
- Using chitchat, small talk
Table 3. Politeness: German Respect.
- Broaching controversial issues like politics when desiring to get to know a person better
- Using routine formulae: saying Guten Tag or some variant when greeting strangers, saying Auf Wiedersehen or some variant when leaving
- Often considering salespeople experts
- Using last names only with an earned title or Frau or Herr ("Ms" or "Mr.") when addressing strangers and people one doesn't know well
- Using the respectful form of "you," Sie
- Expressing willingness to talk with tourists on the train; topics may vary across cultures
- Expressing honesty and directness
- Showing distaste for small talk
Problems occur, however, when Germans and Americans meet, for Germans often interpret American "friendliness" behaviors as the beginning of deeper friendships, which the Americans may not be intending at all. Americans, even if unconsciously, tend to know these distinctions exist. They know when friendliness is meant, and they know when a different relationship--a deeper, more enduring friendship is developing. More than once the German-speaking interviewees in this book talked about their first reactions to Americans' statements like "Hi, how are you?" and "Let's get together sometime," which the Germans took literally. They were quite disappointed when the Americans looked shocked at their detailed explanations about how they were, or when they never did "get together" with them.
Conversely, Americans can interpret German "respect" as distance or aloofness, or negative honest assessment as rudeness. If a supermarket clerk were not to say anything to many Americans upon reaching the cashier, it would be perceived as a problem, most probably unfriendliness. Similarly, telling a friend how bad she looks would also be construed as rude.
The American and German behaviors may be interpreted within the framework of Helga Kotthoff's hypotheses that Germans stress "honesty" in such encounters, while Americans wish to maintain an agreeable attitude and do not want to "disappoint" their interlocutors.
Thus, when they meet, if they are expecting behavior from the others that they find in their own cultures, Americans and Germans often do not have their expectations met, and they become disappointed in the members of the other culture.
Sometimes the stories are funny; at other times they are disturbing, when interviewees have had experiences that depressed, angered, or enraged them. German readings of Americans and vice versa cause many of us to have the following negative and positive opinions of each other, aptly summarized by Hall and Hall:
Germans often describe Americans as being overly familiar, intrusive, historically and politically naive, poorly educated, narrow in viewpoint, undisciplined, lacking in taste, profligate, unmindful of the proper care of property, vacillating in decision making, shallow, boastful, and overly self-confident ....
On the positive side, Germans often see Americans as friendly, open, resourceful, energetic, innovative, and, in general, capable in business ... [with] greater freedom, generally happier, ... more productive and creative than many other people ...; [and having] opportunities to succeed ....
[Americans find Germans] highly disciplined, well educated, neat and orderly, ... systematic, well organized, meticulous, ... efficient .... Some Americans find them hard to get to know--not unfriendly, but reserved. On the negative side, ... Germans are pushy in service lines ... and often insensitive to the feelings of others."
For more details, read this interesting article. I am very relieved that I can hencethereforth blame my distaste for smalltalk on my place of birth.