Tag Archives: americanculture

10 Things Americans Do Better Than Germans

10 Things Americans Do Better Than Germans

This is a response to an article that I’ve previously written called “20+ Things Germans Do Better”. In the article I listed many serious points that Germans do better with a few cheeky comments here and there. I tried to mirror the same voice with this article.

Wearing Relaxed Clothing
(Hello, Sweatpants!)

sweatpants
(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @JTouchCo)

Americans pretty much rule the world when it comes to wearing relaxed clothing – specially sweatpants. In Germany, wearing sweatpants in public is a big taboo. However, in America, it’s not that big of a deal.  Here are some places where you can find Americans wearing sweatpants:

  • Coffee shops
  • University classes
  • Sidewalks
  • Arcades
  • Grocery stores
  • Restaurants
  • Airports
  • Shopping malls
  • …and the list goes on (I think you get my point 😉)

Update: A few of my German friends read this and said that it is changing a bit with the younger generation.

Integrated Work and Personal Life


(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @Infusionsoft Sales Marketing)

In Germany, there is a strong separation of work and personal life. Americans tend to blend that a lot more.  While they tend to work more hours, they often find ways to make their work life more fun. This includes being more conversational with their colleagues, becoming good friends with co-workers, and often doing fun things around the office like small parties, events, etc.,

Small Talk


(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @Beatrice Murich)

Americans LOVE small-talk. We love to ask questions like “How are you?” “How was your weekend?” “What are you up to?” which really don’t promote long conversations, but rather short and interesting dialogues mostly just to be friendly. Being friendly and polite is very important for Americans (which is often mistaken for being “fake” to Germans)

To further this point, I want to talk about conversations with strangers. For example, almost every time you walk inside a shop, an American will ask you (often quite loudly) “How are you?” “How can I help you today?” or “What brings you to our store? Are you looking for anything in particular?”  For me, I both love and miss this. While many Americans take this for granted and don’t really think twice about it, most Germans that I know find this to be weird. I think this is because in Germany, you don’t really get this, which brings me to my fourth point – customer service.

Customer Service


(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @Jeff Djevdet)

In the US, we have an expression: The customer is always right. In Germany, they say: “The customer is king.”  While the expressions have a very similar meaning, the execution is often very different in real life. For example, if you are unsatisfied with the food at a restaurant, a recent purchase at a local store, or even a signed contract – there are ways to get refunds, make deals, or at least find a friendly face/voice. In Germany, the rules are – very strictly – the rules. This means that getting refunds without a proper (and TIMELY) receipt is damn near impossible and quite often the customer is not king. In fact, the customer in Germany is quite the opposite being both wrong and a waste of their seemingly important time.  I mean, I can’t remember the last time someone from a customer service department said: “sorry”.

I remember expressing concern about the details of a web hosting contract with a company and the lady on the phone literally said: Man! What do you want me to say to your question!? I can’t answer that! It’s all about the contract.

Lack of Privacy


(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @Blue Coat Photos)

Many of my students have quite often commented on how Americans share everything online. What they mean is that Americans post quite literally everything online. Sadly, I have to agree. You can virtually stalk almost any American online through social media. Germans, in general, are much more private than the Americans. But to be honest, I still post a lot online!

Propaganda Culture


(Image source: wikipedia)

Americans really boast this idea that you can be whoever you want to be and become whoever you want to become – “The American Dream”. However, this tends to be far from reality. It is true that hard work and dedication is rewarding, and limitless opportunities do exist, but they are very hard (or nearly impossible) to reach. Most Americans are considered to be successful if:

  • They make 40-50k or more a year
  • Are happy with their job
  • Own a house
  • Have a family

I personally think that some people have this idea that by living in America you can become rich, get a trophy husband/wife, drive an expensive car, and live in a mansion. This may be the “dream”, but it’s not reality.

Being “Loud”

I think Americans tend to be louder than many other people from European countries (not just Germany). We often take pride in having a loud voice, standing a bit taller, taking risks, and generally just having a strong presence.  We like loud voices and confidence.

For example, several of my students have made comments to me saying that I am a “typical American”.  I ask them what makes them say that. They say it’s the way that I walk and talk. I speak with a loud voice and try to have short conversations with nearly everyone (and it’s true).

Ego-centrism/Arrogance

I think Americans can also be arrogant to the point where it becomes borderline egocentric. For example, when I first moved here, I honestly didn’t do much research into cultural differences and just assumed that Germany wasn’t that much different than America.  Side note — Isn’t that part of the definition of Ego-centrism? I mean, I literally thought Germany would be like America. I thought that because my country was so big and so great that Germany should behave the same way. Boy, did I have a shock!

Looking back, I did have a small touch of an arrogance when I had first arrived. When a German tried to correct a cultural behavior of mine, I often blew if off and disregarded their feedback. I thought to myself: it’s not that big of a deal, I’m just going to do it. This was rude. But, slowly over time, I integrated myself and learned not only a respect for German culture, but for foreign cultures as well.  This is a gift that Germany has given me – a gift that I am incredibly thankful for.

Destroying the Planet

Americans make up an estimated 5% of the world’s population. However, the US uses 25% of the world’s resources – burning up nearly 25% of the coal, 26% of the oil, and 27% of the world’s natural gas. (source: dosomething.org)

While the times are changing, a lot of Americans have a complete disregard for the environment and continue to contribute to high amounts of pollution. Germany is 100% the opposite. They have a reward system in place for returning bottles, heavy laws and regulations on waste management, and even provide tax incentives for using cleaner energy!  Side note – I am sure that they have more, but unfortunately, I don’t know all of them. The ones that I have listed above are ones that I have experienced first-hand. I know that they also have regulations on energy for both residential and commercial uses, but I don’t really know enough about it to talk about it.

Smiling 


(Image Source: Flickr, Creative Commons License user @Bryan Allison)

Finally, I think Americans are better at simply smiling more often.  It doesn’t matter if we have had a bad day, week, month, year, life, whatever… we always try to smile. I think this is something that gets a bit lost in Germany (and many other European countries).

 

What do you think of my list? Similar to my list about Germans, I tried to be both honest, fair, and a bit cheeky. If you disagree or think I missed something, please let me know in the comments below!

 

Thanks for my reading my blog!

German vs American Culture: Jaywalking and Grocery Shopping

Jaywalking in Germany

If you ask any American about jaywalking, they will probably shrug their shoulders and wonder why you are asking. For us, this is a completely normal activity. It's not that we blindly cross an intersection without looking, but if the sign is red and there aren't any cars coming, we just simply cross.  No harm, no foul, right? 😉

If you ask a German about jaywalking, they will probably answer with a very quick and short answer: no.  It's funny, because quite often a lot of Germans know that Americans jaywalk and they don't really approve or understand it.

It took me years to come up with a theory as to why the Germans are so adverse to jaywalking. I think it's basically for two reasons.

  1. Germans walk a lot more than Americans (this includes a lot of young and unsupervised children).
  2. The traffic system in general is very efficient. Basically, the lights change faster (they even have a special yellow light to warn you that the light is about to become green) and everything is so well-timed, that it can sometimes be harder to guess if it's "safe" to jaywalk.  (Okay, as I'm typing this, the first part of the theory is much more solid.)

A crosswalk for pedestrians in Wuppertal, Germany. (image source: Google Maps)

Grocery Store Shopping in Germany

Generally speaking, the grocery stores are smaller in Germany and the aisles are more narrow.  They do have some bigger stores but those tend to be either more expensive or what I consider to be "inconvenient". I say inconvenient because the cheaper "big grocery chains" mostly require you to park in an indoor parking garage that sometimes takes awhile to get in and out of.

But even with the smaller spaces, most shoppers in Germany are friendly. There have been a few occasions where I have felt a bit angry due to someone aggressively jumping the line or people who don't respect personal space the same way that I try to do. But I suppose that really happens everywhere.

Note: I've posted some pictures below of various supermarkets and grocery stores in Germany.

Finally, the other big "shock" for me was the check-out process. First of all, I want to say that I love how fast it is. I can always rely on a speedy cashier and fast checkout process. Another good point about German grocery stores is that customers waiting in line will often invite you to go ahead of them if you only have a couple of items (I love this and try to do it for others, too!).
On the downside, after paying .10 (or so) for a bag or two, you need to bag it yourself. That's right! There aren't any baggers in Germany! So after the speedy cashier nearly throws your food (or at least what feels like throwing) through the checkout line, you either can put seven items or less into a bag very quickly or you need to place the items in the cart so you can bag them after you politely take your leave.
It's faster this way, but sometimes I miss the relaxing experience of an American grocery store. The cashiers in the USA also tend to be a bit slower and more social.

 

German Grocery Stores Compared to USA
German Grocery Stores Compared to USA
German Grocery Stores Compared to USA

Pictures:
Left: German discount grocery store (image credit: www.golocal.de)
Top-Right: Inside of a Rewe Superstore: (image credit: www.rewe.de)
Bottom-Right: Lidl Grocery Store (image credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons)