This is the sequel of Living in Germany: What to Expect article, which I posted couples of months ago. Read the first part here.
There are some interesting stereotypes about German people, e.g. they are not funny or they are cold people with no heart. Is it true? I can’t say. But what I can tell is I have observed some Germans’ characters and I would like to share it with you. Everything I write here is based on my personal experience living in Deutschland, so don’t get offended, I love you guys and I cherish every moment when I lived there. Peace.
Here we go.
6. People stare
On the street, inside of the train, in a coffee shop, and well basically everywhere… Germans tend to intensely observe other human being and they don’t even bother to hide their curiosity. I mean, it’s not harassing or disgusting stare, just simply harmless stare towards any the kind of ‘interesting’ people, not necessarily foreigner.
I think my ex-boyfriend was the worst starer ever. I even had to tell him to stop staring at someone many times, because when he did it, he could fix his eyes toward the object and didn’t really care how’s the object feeling under his curious eyes. I thought it’s impolite but he said he just looked at them because they are interesting. The objects? Varied, from a football lover who wore his favorite team’s attributes from head to toe, a girl who carried huge instrument and sat in front of us, or hipsters with cool moustache at a party (he wanted one!). It’s funny but also I feel a bit awkward to let him do that.
The bottom-line is, don’t worry when you got stared. Don’t get intimidated. No, no, you don’t have anything on your face. They’re just… full of curiousity.
7. Friend is a special title
On my first weekend, I made a plan to meet an Indonesian girl who was also living in Hamburg. I knew her from Facebook group. Before I left the house, I told my host dad that I would meet my friend. He asked if I already knew her in Indonesia, and I said no, it would be our first meeting that day. Then, he became really confused how could I refer that girl as a friend.
For German and some other European countries with reserved culture, friend is a special person who you know very well and probably he/she is already in your life for a while until the person earns that ‘friend’ title. Not just someone you know or ever heard about.
Since they are kids, German are taught to pick their friend carefully. In birthday party, instead of inviting all the kids from the neighborhood or their classmates, they are only allowed to invite 6-8 friends and they will start making list from several months before.
One time, I was invited to join a birthday party from a guy who referred me as acquaintance. Well, I don’t know him well enough but I just decided to come anyway. Worst decision of the year, because it turned out to be very awkward and boring house party for me, since everybody already knew each other for a long time, except me. I felt sorry for him to intrude his private party but I didn’t understand why he invited me at the first place and didn’t inform me that I will be the only ‘outsider’.
In Germany, you could live under the same roof with a person for years, but only refers him as flatmate, or work for years with someone who only deserves to be called college or co-worker (in Indonesia we call it ‘teman kantor’ or friend from work). Someone you barely know should only be referred as acquaintance.
In Indonesia, many people refer someone as their friend after one time meet up, being friend on social media, or it’s a friend of a friend of a friend of yours, or even when a friend told you someone who a friend of a friend know.
And no, Facebook friend is not a real friend.
Now, I am also more selective on referring someone as a friend. Well, you need to earn the title! Also, there’s interesting article about friendship that I got from a good friend. Worth to read: 10 Types of Odd Friendships You’re Probably Part Of.
8. They are funny (seriously), but you need time until you can get their jokes
They are not known as the funniest people in the world, but they surely have humor. Not the kind of stupid jokes, but more like jokes which requires you to think first before you are able to laugh. Sometimes quite dark jokes, and their favorite jokes is actually… making fun of themselves (as a German).
They love to mocked themselves and knew their own weird materials. For example, they like to refer themselves as ‘German machine’ when they’re work too much. They’d laugh when I make fun of their obsession of rules and punctuality. Or they usually make fun of accents from different region.
One time I had dinner with my boyfriend’s family and there’s Weißwurst in the menu.
Weißwurst is a traditional Bavarian white sausage and you need special skill to eat it. His dad asked me if I ever ate Weißwurst before, and I said yes, I even know that Obama had to eat Weißwurst with Merkel when he visited Germany for G7 Summit in 2015. “Do you know what is Weißwurst made from?”, he asked quizzically with a flat expression. “Um, yeah I think it’s made from pork and veal?”. He shook his head, “I think you don’t want to eat this again after you know what it’s made from”. I tried to understand what he’s trying to say. “Um, because it’s made from horse meat?”, I heard a rumor that some sausage producer uses horse meat for their products. “No.” His wife and my boyfriend looked at me pretty amused. “It is actually made from… Bavarian wurst. That’s why it’s white.” It took me some seconds until I realized what did he mean, and I was screaming “Eww, that’s disgusting!!!”. They were laughing and then I pledged that I will never eat any Weißwurst ever again (and now I’m vegetarian, what a coincidence).
They are very good at managing their flat expression when telling you a joke. So, you need time until you are aware of the humor. And it’s not very common there to laugh out loud as Indonesian people do. Maybe their muscle aren’t trained to do so 🙂
9. Privacy is a big deal. Very.
The fact that Facebook lost a case against German government regarding data privacy should tell you enough about how much they’re concern about their privacy and way more conscious regarding the data security.
I know many young Germans don’t have Facebook, or even when they do, they use fake name (only put their first name, twice) or hides their face. My ex was shocked when he found out that I had 1,800 friends on Facebook. “How do you have 1,800 friends? Do you ever meet them all? Do you ever speak to all of them?” And so on. He also brought the topic in front of his friends and in turn his friends also asked me the same questions. Until one day I became very annoyed (because it’s true, not all the Facebook friends are my real friends, some of them even only friends of friends who I never actually meet or speak with), and I filter my Facebook friends until now it’s less than 1,000. Well, many people in Indonesia have more than 5,000 Facebook friends and even several Facebook accounts because they have reached the limit of friends.
Learning from them, I also become more cautious regarding information I publish online because when you put it on the internet, it will be there forever. And you don’t even know who use the data and information and for what. Internet is a dangerous place, guys.
10. ‘You are really nice’
As Indonesian, I heard this statement really often. First time I was flattered, but after a few months, I was used to it and I didn’t even feel like it’s a special compliment anymore because everybody just said the same! I feel like I was the nicest person in the country. (Meanwhile, in Indonesia a lot of people regard me as someone who is way more straight-forward compared to the average people).
This supposedly good quality sometimes gave me problem though, since some people think that I was flirting when I was actually just being nice and polite. The different level of niceness is not a bad thing, but after some non-nice experiences, I tried to be more careful, even though of course I cannot change my personality.
Well, well, those are my impression of Germans based of my observation. I don’t mean to judge anyone or make generalization, as this is very personal view of mine and just some suggestion of expectation for people who’re going to move there. Don’t take it personally and I hope you enjoy the reading. See you on my next post!
Auf Wiedersehen 🙂