Those Germans, eh? Being a Brit, there are some things they do that I don’t quite understand, but I still love them. I mean, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love them, of course. And, as I’m sure you’re aware if you know me well, I mean in no way to cause offence with this post. And I know full well my example responses are mostly exaggerating and don’t apply to all Germans. Just like how all Brits don’t immediately stop what they’re doing to drink tea at exactly 5pm (yeah, in all seriousness, that’s not a thing, I hate to break it to you).
I guess this post overlaps slightly with my post about what I have had to get used to living in Germany. But what other things do the Germans do that I find a little bit different/unusual/a teency weency bit annoying?
Well… I’m going to give some scenarios (some of which I’ve actually experienced here) and then give my personal British response, and what you may then see as a response from a typical German.
Scenario 1: At the supermarket
The classic: You’re in the supermarket at the tills. There are three people in front of you. A second till has just opened. What do you do?
Me as a Brit: Let the people in front of me who aren’t being served go across to the second till.
A typical German response: Grab your things and leg it to the second till, pushing over anyone who dares to get in your way, making sure you’re the first there, despite you having waited the least amount of time in the original queue.
“TIME IS MONEY!”, exclaimed a German who I was with once jokingly, when we had no plans whatsoever in the evening.
Scenario 2: Being asked for directions
You’re asked how far away the city centre is from the place you’re at. How do you reply?
Me as a Brit: “About 10 minutes if you walk.”
A typical German response: “About 1.5 kilometres.” (How am I supposed to know how long that’s going to take me though?!)
Scenario 3: Buying a mattress
You need to buy a mattress. Someone asks you how big the mattress has to be. What do you say?
Me as a Brit: “Uh, queen-size.”
A typical German response: “180 by 200 cm.” (I really don’t know how big that is off the top of my head, sorry.)
Scenarios 2 and 3 also apply to size of houses (we generally say amount of bedrooms and the Germans say the exact size in metres squared) and I also once had the experience at a hairdresser’s where she was frantically asking me “0.5cm? 1cm? 1.5cm??” after I’d asked her to cut it a tiny bit shorter.
Scenario 4: Driving
You’re driving and get to a red light. There are 3 cars in front of you. The light has just turned green. What do you do?
Me as a Brit: Wait patiently for about 2 seconds. Then tut under my breath if I notice the car in the front hasn’t set off yet.
A typical German response: If the car in front doesn’t move within the next 0.0001 milliseconds, beep your horn loudly. That’ll teach ’em.
Scenario 5: On the high street
You’re on the high street. It’s busy. You need to stop for some reason (you need to tie your shoelaces, your phone is ringing, you realise it’s 4:50pm…). What do you do?
Me as a Brit: Walk to the side of the path and do whatever it is I stopped to do.
A typical German response: Stop smack bang in the middle of the path and do what it was that you need to do whilst people try and swerve around you. The best example of this actually happened to me on my way home this afternoon: I was walking along, minding my own business, coming up to a hill where there’s half steps and half ramp for bikes. A girl on a bike behind me overtakes and her phone starts ringing. What does she do? She stops, and in doing so swerves slightly to the left, blocking the steps. What did she do after that? Checked her phone. And didn’t move. Most definitely a one-off, but it still made me laugh.
Scenario 6: Eating out for lunch
You’re having lunch with colleagues. Time to order a drink (a soft drink, of course). What do you order?
Me as a Brit: Hmm… maybe a coke. Or a lemonade. Or maybe just a water… Oooh or a fanta…
A typical German response: Apfelschorle (fizzy apple juice). I mean, there’s not much point of the drinks menu having anything else on it. (Interestingly enough when I’m on a flight from England to Germany or vice versa, I can see in front of me who’s German and who’s English by seeing what they order. 9/10 Germans order Apfelschorle, I swear.)
Scenario 7: In the waiting room at the doctor’s
You’re sat in the waiting room at the doctor’s and someone else who has come to wait enters the room. You don’t know them. What do you do?
Me as a Brit: Double-check to see if I know the person, then turn away and pretend they’re not there, hoping to avoid awkward eye contact.
A typical German response: Say “hello” to them. Even if you don’t know them. It avoids any awkwardness then. But then don’t say anything else. When you leave, flip a coin: heads say “bye”, tails just walk out. (Is there a rule?!)
Scenario 8: On a hot day
It’s a hot day and you get home from work. You look at your socks and can’t wait to take them off.
Me as a Brit: Take them off as fast as possible.
A typical German response: Laugh at the silly thought of taking your socks off and put Hausschuhe (similar to slippers) on top of your socks. You then put a scarf on, because better safe than sorry. There’s then a 70% chance you wake up the next day with a cold. In July.
It would actually be interesting to hear thoughts on things us Brits do that are strange for others. Extra challenge: try not to use the words “polite”, “tea” or “queen”.