When we hear about cultures, the most known stereotypes about that culture (whether they are good or bad) come automatically into our minds. It’s natural and not necessarily bad to know them, at the end, they exist for a reason. However, there is a thin line between being uninformed and racist, and asking about cultural stereotypes out of curiosity, as long as that line is not crossed, it’s totally fine to ask.
There have been countless times after I started introducing Germany into my life in which people back home have asked me whether Germans are cold and unfriendly or whether they are really organized and punctual or whether they drink beer all the time, also every now and then made fun of the Germans for sounding angry all the time or even introduced some Hitler/Nazi joke (the poor Germans can’t just catch a break), what not.
So after living with German family for a year and having the pleasure to meet many locals, this is what I have to say about the most common stereotypes:
Germans do have a good sense of humor, but there’s a catch.
They love satirical humor and jokes with a point. However each sense of humor has very much to do with culture as well, so don’t expect to always understand their jokes.
I tend to have a bad sense of humor, I see Germans making jokes all the time and I sometimes don’t get them. I discovered that to understand German humor, you have to make certain connections which have to be really thought through or have some good knowledge about the background and stories behind these jokes.
But hey, once you get everything, you’ll get a good laugh.
Yes, Germans can be well disciplined and organized, but they also can be a big mess.
Many Germans, as well as simply organized people from any country, like to put everything back in its place as soon as possible once something has been used, know when to prioritize their tasks and how to stay consequent with them. However, Germany, just like in any other country, culture, and religion, has people who are extreme.
I learned from an overly organized German person that there is a certain order to wash dishes and that washing them in another order is equal to stupidity. But I also learned from a very messy German person that saying “I’ll wash the [mountain of] dishes later” really means “I’ll wash them once you start getting really annoyed about it.”
For Germans, the importance of punctuality depends on every occasion, but it will always be better to be punctual.
The thing about German punctuality is that they know when to absolutely be on time and when it is acceptable to relax. The importance of punctuality depends on where, what, and with whom. Being unpunctual to a business meeting can obviously be catastrophic [unless you are the boss], being late to a date is a no-go, being late to a dinner with friends can be not too nice, and being unpunctual to meet friends at a bar or a party is not a big deal.
At the end, being on time can never hurt. 😉
Germans love drinking good beer, of course.
They do love beer, they don’t drink all the time, but there is always a good reason for a beer or two. Beer is simply good, end of story.
Germans aren’t unromantic, they just show romance through details and don’t make a show about it.
The meaning of romance is so adaptable to cultures and personalities. In Germany, for example, having an engagement ring is not really a thing, whereas in [continental] America is more of a big deal.
What many get wrong about being romantic, is that there are only certain ways to be romantic, and these are those you see on movies.
Being romantic is relative. For some, it can mean roses, a love journal on Facebook, a public declaration of marriage, a dedicated flash mob, a poem, you name it. For others, roses are a waste of money, the romance has to be private and kept between two, and small details are what really count, and I have found the latter to be more common among Germans.
Germans are actually very friendly people, they just like their space and try to give you yours out of respect.
People tend to confuse being reserved with being cold and unfriendly, and the poor Germans are described as so. What I can say after my experience is that Germans are very nice and open when it comes to meeting new people, but they are just not like us Latin- and North-Americans who get comfortable around each other quicker (and sometimes too quick, I would say) and don’t go out randomly distributing compliments or like to be fake-friendly. They rather be more authentic in that matter, and I kind of agree on that.
There is simply a contrast in personalities and that is totally fine.
I guess at the end it’s about interpreting and understanding each culture correctly, it’s normal to feel a difference in how people treat each other in different countries and how they live their lives every day. We just have to be open when socializing with people from other cultures and really think twice before making any judgment before even trying to understand their culture.
My “inspiring” message to all: Don’t always stay with stereotypes and don’t judge other cultures for being different, if you come to another country and expect the people to be just the same as they are at home, then maybe you should just stay at home and continue living in a bubble.