If you have been to, or lived in, Germany, you may have experienced one of the following scenarios:
- You’ve parked your car at the shopping centre and get out of the car. Someone standing by tells you that you did not park very well and should probably straighten up.
- Your hedge is growing over the fence into your neighbour’s yard. Your neighbour tells you that you must cut it immediately, otherwise they will hire a gardener and you will receive their bill.
- You accidentally stand on the wrong side of the escalator. Someone taps you on the shoulder and tells you to move over because you’re in everyone’s way.
- You throw your trash into the trash can. An elderly lady scolds you, as if you are her grandchild, because you threw your paper into the general trash can, instead of the specially marked paper trash can located 50m away.
This is not because Germans are rude, they are simply direct.
If you have just arrived in Germany from Australia, it can sometimes be shocking that people would tell you things like this to your face with no regard for your feelings, but the simple fact is that Germans live in a society where they are able to express these thoughts. If you are standing in the way, they will tell you. If you throw your trash into the wrong trash can, they will tell you. If you’re taking too long on deciding what kind of bread roll you want at the bakery, you guessed it, they will tell you!
Whilst you may get a brief shock the first time you are told off for doing the wrong thing by a complete stranger, don’t take it to heart – they aren’t trying to upset you, they’re simply stating what’s on their mind. So if someone is standing in your way in Germany, don’t be afraid to tell them so, and if someone tells you that you are standing in their way, simply move aside (if you really want to confuse them, say ‘Entschuldigung’ (sorry) with a big smile on your face as you move aside).
Overall, the myth that Germans are direct is absolutely, 100%:
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