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What Is Your Perception of Germany?


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Tony: The reason why the Germans in your area were so nice to you so near to the war is the same reason that it proved impossible to establish an effective guerilla group, the 'Werwoelfe,' to fight the Allied occupation armies after the defeat of the German military in World War II. The Germans are too much inclined to be good, law-abiding citizens, so they won't do anything illegal, even if it is joining an underground movement to support the cause they were just fighting for. As soon as it becomes 'underground' rather than 'official,' it's unacceptable. (Baader-Meinhof Gang excepted)

 

A cartoon in a German magazine showed a clump of skeletons lying around a broken red light before a crosswalk beside a forest road, perpetually stuck on the image showing that no one was to cross the street. Hey, 'Don't Walk' means 'Don't Walk.'

 

Curiously, though, that obedience doesn't apply to paying taxes, since everywhere I rented an apartment in Germany I would always be greeted with a wink and a 'you're a man of the world' speech about how if foreigners didn't pay taxes in Germany, there was no way to trace rental income collected from them, so if I didn't report anything then they wouldn't either, and we could split the difference on the renter's tax savings.

 

What was said about Englishmen being famous for their system of forming lines and then violating it routinely is quite true. Every time a line moves forward a person, the Englishman standing in back of you will begin to move up and slightly to the side, until eventually he is standing next to you. Then, when the line reaches the front desk, suddenly he scoots in in front of you. The only way to deal with this situation is to make sure to speak to the Englishman in back of you in line as soon as he shows up, complaining about how long you've been waiting already, that is, before he got there. This makes it too clear for him to get away with his usual trick. But this happens so often, I have to wonder whether they teach this in school in the U.K.

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There is. I even posted in this thread. And I quite enjoy reading it, btw.

 

TonyMcC: you are being ironic about the Englishmen being notorious line-standers, are you? There actually is a (German?) joke about an Englishman at a bus station telling the German who arrives after him: "excuse me sir, this is a line".

 

Just a friendly observation - the people waiting for a bus would form a disorganised group around the open door and surge forward as soon as they could. A bit of shoulder to shoulder shoving was quite in order. Once you realised that was the way to do it you just joined in without causing offence. Mind you, this was over 50 years ago and so what actually was the situation then has possibly become something of a joke over the years! However, I repeat that I enjoyed my time in Germany and enjoyed my contact with German people. I have a particularly lovely memory of being a guest on Christmas Eve and joining a family in singing carols as Christmas Day arrived.

Edited by TonyMcC
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My perception of germans (from those i have met however briefly) is that they're pretty decent folk, bit of a weird sense of humour (but they do have one, different doesn't mean absent)

 

and, as with all nations on earth, they have their fair share of tosspots who let the side down (points to the waiter who mumbled something about 'f***ing british(didn't know the rest as i only know a little german) as he walked away and then came back with something other than what i ordered.)

 

The only thing i find disappointing about germany is the lack of german restaurants in other countries.

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TonyMcC: I think your observation is still valid in many cities. I think one of the reasons is that the drivers are so impatient that people rather jump in before (s)he just closes the door and drives off, worse, shouts at them. Happened to me a few times.

It is a bit better when older people are involved, though (i.e. people tend to be somewhat more polite around them, most of the time).

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Germany is also the only country in the world where I have lived or travelled where the cab drivers -- who are theoretically hoping for a good tip, aren't they? -- are spontaneously aggressively rude to their fares. This derives perhaps from the odd, statist, authoritarian assumption in Germany that the person with the office, the facility, behind the counter, with the authority is Hitler and everyone else is in Auschwitz. Thus the sales lady shrieks at you because you brought her three items of the same product and she rang up the price before you notified her that all the prices were different; a bookstore owner insists that you walk three miles to your bank to get some cash because he mistakenly wrote up the sale for the complete works of Fichte as cash and all you have is a credit card and he doesn't want to have to write out a new sales slip; the academic administrator who just invited you into his office to process a form pounds his desk and bellows at you when you speak up on entering the office, because it turns out the other people in the office don't work there but are also waiting for his attention, etc. It just never ends. All this happens under cheery signs proclaiming 'Der Kunde ist Koenig!' and 'Nie wieder wird Krieg aus Deutschen Boden hervorgehen!' Yeah, right, war will never again PROCEED from German territory, since it is constantly going on within it, only on an endless, exhausting micro-level.

 

The other creepy thing is that after living there for many years it still seemed to me as though everyone I knew, from strangers to friends to girlfriends, was perpetually projecting some distorted self-image or pretending to be someone they weren't. It was as if you couldn't shake them loose from their constant pretense of being someone to get them actually just to be someone. The same is true in England, though it takes a very different form. You can stay for a week with a couple who have been married to each other for 30 years and they are still acting around the house as though they were two people who were going on their first awkward date with each other.

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I live in Germany myself and I find Marat's posts funny because he's mentioning points I'm noticing myself. Especially the projecting and pretending part, which is one the biggests problems which bother me. They are barely just themselves in a loose way, often they'll hate you for being yourself - which is where the projecting part kicks in.

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You can stay for a week with a couple who have been married to each other for 30 years and they are still acting around the house as though they were two people who were going on their first awkward date with each other.

 

 

Actually I think it is something different Germans are very private people. In the US, everyone is your friend. In a very extrovert shallow way (at the beginning, which can deepen with time, of course).

In Germany only if you are truly of the inner circle, so to say, do they truly open up. Living a week with them is nothing. They will treat you like an honored guest, but not as a part of their family. But if you are their friend, it is usually a serious friendship. There are supposedly local differences, though. Northern Germans are supposed to be more gruff but loyal, Bavarians are essentially aliens and Berliner are... well they are themselves.

It is a bit similar to Chinese, I have noticed. Except that the letter have a fake friendly outer face, whereas the German's outer face is something more like faint disapproval.

Being "yourself" as you put it, would be considered extrovert by many (which is something I found kind of exasperating in the beginning in the US, the "fakeness" of interactions).

I have to admit, German is an acquired taste. But then, what isn't?

 

 

Edited by CharonY
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Tony: The reason why the Germans in your area were so nice to you so near to the war is the same reason that it proved impossible to establish an effective guerilla group, the 'Werwoelfe,' to fight the Allied occupation armies after the defeat of the German military in World War II. The Germans are too much inclined to be good, law-abiding citizens, so they won't do anything illegal, even if it is joining an underground movement to support the cause they were just fighting for. As soon as it becomes 'underground' rather than 'official,' it's unacceptable. (Baader-Meinhof Gang excepted)

 

A cartoon in a German magazine showed a clump of skeletons lying around a broken red light before a crosswalk beside a forest road, perpetually stuck on the image showing that no one was to cross the street. Hey, 'Don't Walk' means 'Don't Walk.'

 

Curiously, though, that obedience doesn't apply to paying taxes, since everywhere I rented an apartment in Germany I would always be greeted with a wink and a 'you're a man of the world' speech about how if foreigners didn't pay taxes in Germany, there was no way to trace rental income collected from them, so if I didn't report anything then they wouldn't either, and we could split the difference on the renter's tax savings.

 

What was said about Englishmen being famous for their system of forming lines and then violating it routinely is quite true. Every time a line moves forward a person, the Englishman standing in back of you will begin to move up and slightly to the side, until eventually he is standing next to you. Then, when the line reaches the front desk, suddenly he scoots in in front of you. The only way to deal with this situation is to make sure to speak to the Englishman in back of you in line as soon as he shows up, complaining about how long you've been waiting already, that is, before he got there. This makes it too clear for him to get away with his usual trick. But this happens so often, I have to wonder whether they teach this in school in the U.K.

 

I think the mention of German adherence to the rules is a very important one, considering how much the US relationship with authority has changed.

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  • 2 weeks later...
The other creepy thing is that after living there for many years it still seemed to me as though everyone I knew, from strangers to friends to girlfriends, was perpetually projecting some distorted self-image or pretending to be someone they weren't. It was as if you couldn't shake them loose from their constant pretense of being someone to get them actually just to be someone.

 

Actually this brings up something I've been told and would like the germans here to comment on.

 

To give a bit of background, I was a project manager in the Exhibition industry (trade shows, expos, that sort of thing) and we often had german backpackers working for us. One day we were talking about differences they had noticed and the "High Vis" shirts and vests we wore got mentioned. They said a big difference between Germany and Australia is that we think nothing of wearing our high vis gear to and from work and will quite happily wear it to the pub for a drink after work, whereas in Germany people would change out of their uniforms to go home. Where we think nothing of walking into a pub in safety shirt and steel cap boots, a german would "rather not".

 

They said it was like a status thing, not letting the strangers around you know that you work with your hands or have a more "manual" job.

 

This seems so odd to me that I've never been sure whether or not they were pulling my leg. Could those with experience comment please?

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Actually this brings up something I've been told and would like the germans here to comment on.

 

To give a bit of background, I was a project manager in the Exhibition industry (trade shows, expos, that sort of thing) and we often had german backpackers working for us. One day we were talking about differences they had noticed and the "High Vis" shirts and vests we wore got mentioned. They said a big difference between Germany and Australia is that we think nothing of wearing our high vis gear to and from work and will quite happily wear it to the pub for a drink after work, whereas in Germany people would change out of their uniforms to go home. Where we think nothing of walking into a pub in safety shirt and steel cap boots, a german would "rather not".

 

They said it was like a status thing, not letting the strangers around you know that you work with your hands or have a more "manual" job.

 

This seems so odd to me that I've never been sure whether or not they were pulling my leg. Could those with experience comment please?

 

There may be a little bit to it, but it depends on the overall occasion. In Germany there is a social pub culture, where you go in the evening to meet up, drink and talk. Often people change into non-work clothes to relax (and coming in in work clothes would be slightly impolite, i guess). There are certain pubs that cater for after-work drinks (which are shorter events) and I have seen plenty of people in working clothes there, especially when there is someplace to sit outside (Biergarten). However, people working in areas that create a lot of dirt, usually wash up and change and rarely go into restaurants in pubs, to avoid making a mess, obviously.

 

There may be local differences, though. I am talking about mos of the north-western half of Germany.

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Actually this brings up something I've been told and would like the germans here to comment on.

 

[...] Where we think nothing of walking into a pub in safety shirt and steel cap boots, a german would "rather not".

They said it was like a status thing, not letting the strangers around you know that you work with your hands or have a more "manual" job.

It's true that in Germany you'd "rather not" go to a pub in work clothes. But I believe that's more because it is uncommon to go to a pub directly after work without going home first (the dedicated "after work" events mentioned by CharonY exist, though - I just never went there). Not letting strangers around you know that you work with your hands sounds like a strange reason to me, I've never heard of people who'd have a problem with that. People usually would just as well not go to a bar in the suit they wear at work.

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