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Monday, 6 October 2014

Misconceptions

Before heading to Germany, I read a number of etiquette guides on cultural differences and how to behave...I'm a firm believer of the 'when in Rome' theory, or in this case 'when in Berlin'. A theme in these guides kept popping up...'Germans are very serious people' and 'Germans do not suffer fools gladly' and 'Germans speak better English than you do'.

I will admit, I became a little scared of the Germans, even though I'd seen them en masse travelling around Europe, laughing and having a good time.

I had spent a month or two learning German from a CD in the car so I could cruise around with a few pleasantries and ask for things. I'd booked a few restaurants before I left, and all emails returned only in English, though I'd made the reservations in both languages. I'd taken this as a sign that they were unamused by my poor attempts to write in their language.

So I landed in Berlin with trepidation.

What I found, however, is that Germans are fun, friendly and outgoing. They are playful. We were having post marathon drinks at a beer garden, and a German started chatting with us. He had a very washed out accent that I couldn't place. I asked where he was from, to which he answered Berlin. I pointed out his odd accent was not a German one, to which he replied, "Oh, I'm putting that on for you, because you're Australian". He proceeded to talk to the American with an American twang and the Irish with an Irish lilt, switching as the conversation moved around.

In shops, everyone would answer me in German, even though it must have been obvious that I had limited ability, by how dreadful my accent was. If I looked confused, they'd repeat in English then switch back to German, so I felt remarkably fluent, even though I wasn't. They were very good natured in humouring my woeful attempts at the language.

The taxi drivers proudly pointed out monuments as we drove past, giving us mini-guided tours and helpful tips.

Not once did we encounter these gruff, humourless beings I'd read about (well, once, but that was our fault for not knowing the etiquette). How does this reputation come to pass, when it's evidently so far from the truth?

It was a great reminder, that while worthwhile reading up about cultural differences, to always keep an open mind. This can apply to people too, whose reputation precedes them. Just because your friend has issues with a person, doesn't mean you will too.

Just because one person has a bad experience doing something, doesn't mean you will. Don't bring the problems to the party.

In all things, it's worthwhile to be cautious but always keep an open mind. That is a big lesson for me, and a reminder I need to get from time to time so I don't cloud my own experiences.

Linking up with The Lounge on people

14 comments:

  1. That is so true !!!! We have a friend whose son lives in USA and she is always saying how rude the Americans are. When we were there on holiday - we encountered heaps of friendly helpful Americans who went out of their way to make our time as good as it could be. I have never been able to work out why she has that take on Americans and we don't - she is a lovely, friendly lady who isn't obnoxious and shirty like other travellers I know - travellers, who if they told me someone was rude or horrible, I wouldn't believe for a minute because I know it's actually them who provokes that sort of behaviour.
    Have a wonderful day !
    Me xox

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  2. I know and love quite a few Germans who live in Oz and they are much gruffer than the Germans in Germany. Not sure why. Maybe that's where it stems from?

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  3. I'm so glad they were more fun that you thought. Can you imagine if you had been greeted by all these stern faced Germans who told you off for talking bad english? It would be quite comical really :)

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  4. Don't bring the problems to the party - brilliant advice! I always travel with an open mind and our last trip to Vietnam I traveled with very little plans and my goodness the whole experience was so much better - taking each day as it came and following our curiosity!

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  5. I think travel is all about breaking down misconceptions. People are just people and I hate cultural stereotyping. Sounds like you had a great time.

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  6. I agree and I think this also applies to racism too. Having a. Ad experience with one person from another culture shouldn't change your opinion of that culture. I'd love to go to Germany one day. It's on my bucket list to visit.

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  7. When I lived in New York some 15 years ago I used to get pissed at people that told me how rude and arrogant New Yorkers were and they had never been there! I hope you had a fab time - Em, also visiting as part of #teamIBOT

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  8. I think if you buy into a stereotype then it's a bit like a self fulfilling prophecy. If you believe that all German's are gruff, then you will probably put up a bit of a protective stance and so people will mirror that response.

    I'm glad that you had a good time!

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  9. How impressive are you emailing in German?! Whenever we went to a different country, I would look through the lonely planet and work out how to say the basics - please, thank you, dos cerveza por favor - you know, the essentials :) We had no problems with Germans while we were there either.

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  10. I totally agree with your point of not painting all Germans with the same brush and making you own mind up when it comes to people in general. However I have met many fun Germans, they can certainly party and take the piss, but the ones I have met also have that strict regimented side to them. They are an orgainsed race and like things just so. Sounds like you had a great trip though !

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  11. This is too true. It's easy to be swept up in the generalisations and feelings/experiences of others when in reality, your experience is going to be so different. I had a lot of preconceived notions before we traveled to the US and it was really great to discover that (most) of them were wrong!

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  12. Guten tag! Having a pre-conceived notion of someone, especially an entire group of people, takes the fun out of life. Cultural sterotypes can be funny sometimes but it's so much more fun to make up your own mind. Sounds like a great trip. Cheers for linking with The Lounge. X

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  13. I think people are just people, it is true that different culture have different traits and ways of doing things but in my experience most are open to others rather than judgemental.

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