20 December 2011

Different? The Same?

The more time I spend here in Germany the more I realize how different Americans are to Europeans. Basically, people are all the same: school, spouse, kids, a good life. However, we just don't think or behave the same.

Germans are more, humm, aloof or standoffish. They are very abrupt and straight forward. It used to bother me a lot because I thought no one liked me. How insecure is that? I volunteered/worked at this nonprofit; I thought that the lady who ran the place hated me. I would avoid her at all costs. Come to find out we were just different. I have also found that the older generation is different from the younger one. That's everywhere. There are exceptions on both sides. I did have a doctor, that was not much older than myself, tell me 'I just don't understand why you're asking questions.' I was beyond thankful when my OB showed up!

Americans tend to live in a bubble. We're taught that we are right, the way we live is the right way and there is no better place in the world to be. The more time I spend abroad the more I realize this is just wrong. I am so grateful to be an American, but there are other great societies too. There are so many different cultures and languages here. It's completely normal to hear German, English, French, Russian or other languages all in one outing. You drive for a few hours and you're in a different country with all new customs and traditions. Are Europeans just more adaptable than us? Our states decided to form a union, so it may be a little different but its all the same. Is that the big difference? That Europeans are just more aware of other countries?


  1. You make an interesting point. We have friends in Germany - they are natives there. They have visited us many times but we have not been there except for the first visit. Why don't we travel as much as they do? Maybe because of the adaptability factor you mentioned?

  2. My Danish friend doesn't understand why an American doesn't have a passport until you need one. I think for us even the thought of an international trip is a big deal. Air fare alone is a huge budget buster. I think international travel is just 'normal'. Don't foret the Euro is stronger than the dollar too. I get excited when its 72 cents on the dollar, lol :)

  3. We took a little culture class shortly after getting here with a teacher who has been here since 1990. She told us that people do tend to think Germans are aloof, unfriendly, abrupt etc. As she explained it, it's not that they're that, it's just that they're German. If you ask a German a question, they give you the answer, and that's it. Part of it, she says, is the language. In English we have a lot of phrases for things that make it prettier (for example we tend to call a toilette a bathroom or restroom instead of its purpose) but the German language is more straightforward. If a German cuts you off in line, it's not because they're rude, but because you left the large space between people an American is accustomed to, while to a German mind, you weren't in line you were standing in the way.

    Overall, people here have seemed to be very friendly. If you ask them to help or need them to speak English most are very willing, some even enthusiastic to do so. They may be a little more abrupt but still helpful.

    As far as why Europeans travel more than Americans, I don't think it's that they're more aware necessarily, but that they have more opportunity. In America, the closet other countries are Canada and Mexico, and those are a long distance away from many states. From this part of Germany you can bike to France and there are many other bordering and close by countries. Germany could fit inside several of our American states.

    When Europeans see Americans not traveling to other countries, I think they forget how big ours is. There is so much to do and see that many don't ever see more than a few States, let alone countries. I lived in America 26 years and only saw just over a quarter of the States, most of those only in passing. But I moved from Toledo, OH, to Orlando FL, which is roughly the distance of moving from London to Berlin, and I don't know many who've done that.

    I think that international travel is a good thing to do regardless of location, and the opportunity to be in a position to see more countries was a good part of why I was excited to move to Germany, but it's not always feasible for Americans. Our tickets would have been about $1500 per person if we'd had to fly on our own. I don't know many people with that kind of money. Even the cheapest I have seen (around $700) are a stretch.

    And then there's vacation. Europeans get several weeks of vacation. The average American gets two, if they're lucky. If that's all someone gets it's more likely they'll stick to somewhere they can drive or take a train than overseas...whereas, a European in addition to having more time off can get to many other countries by such modes of transportation which are not an option for Americans.

  4. Wow that looks like so much more than it did as I was writing it in this tiny scrolling box. Haha hopefully it's interesting :-/


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