5 big communication differences between Americans and Germans

Top 5 communication differences us vs. Germany

Expat Guidance abroad

Living in the US as a German gives me the opportunity to observe many small differences throughout my day. In the following, I have written down 5 big communication-related habits that are very distinct in each country. It is always easy to become irritated by the behavior of other cultures. Please take in mind while reading that I don’t want to offend anyone and that there is no right or wrong but familiar and unfamiliar.

test

Communication difference between the us & Germany No 1

Germans don't like to be loud

One fundamental difference between Americans and Germans is the volume in which they communicate their feelings and talk to each other. While Americans seem to be very self-confident, the Germans shy away from acting too noticeable. Often I realize this difference when going to a restaurant. For me and my other European friends it’s sometimes hard to understand what the other person is trying to say as the background noise is unpleasantly high for what we are used to.
So far, none of my friends back home said that I have adopted the habit of speaking in a higher voice. Though let’s wait and see as raising your own voice is the only way to keep your conversation flowing.

Communication difference between the us & Germany No 2

The use and meaning of comforting phrases

 Recently I came across a fittingly graphic which puts the difference in using specific adjectives and expressions into perspective:

communication, cultural differences, expat life, sharethelove

As you can see it is hard to evaluate a compliment or judgement if basic phrases are used that differently.

At the beginning, I enjoyed all the compliments I received when walking around the streets in the US. However, after some time abroad, you start to question yourself how honest these compliments really are. Even the doctor in the medical practice will compliment you several times during a treatment. Of course, you feel amazing and flattered at the beginning but after a while you start to question these phrases and wonder if you interpreted all the small encounters in a totally wrong way. This also happened when I met new people and I thought we had a good time. For sure it was a learning curve to find out that “Let’s get a coffee sometime” actually does not mean that you will ever see the person again.  In my experience, it is just good to know about the differences so that you are not disappointed if the words are not followed by the anticipated action. As long as I am aware of these slight variations in meaning, I decided to enjoy the positive tone which accompanies you throughout the day.

Let's connect on Social Media

Want some good vibes in your mail?

Share the article with a friend

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on xing
Share on email

Communication difference between the us & Germany No 3

The welcome dance

After only a few hours in the US you will immediately realize that there is a specific choreography for greeting people around you.
The dance normally starts with the person approaching you, asking how you are doing and you on the other side immediately respond with a smile that you are doing great, you thank for asking and of course ask the other person back. It took me a while to take my time for this introduction. In my German efficiency it just felt wired to say that many words when you just want to quickly pay something in the supermarket or order a coffee. I always wondered how the other sales person must feel like doing this all day long. 

Hello! How do you do?
I am great, thank you. How are you?
I am great, thanks for asking. What can I do for you?

While I totally got used to this cultural habit, I met Germans with question marks in their eyes when doing this communication dance back in Germany. I did the mistake of greeting a German salesperson like that during my Christmas holidays and you can totally see the seconds of irritation this provokes. A German would not usually ask a strange person how they are doing unless there is already a certain connection or a specific interest. Moreover, we Germans would then wait for an honest, real-time answer and not the universal word “good”.

Communication difference between the us & Germany No 4

The passion for chit-chat

Americans are the best in making the most out of every second of waiting time. I love that you can actually still see that people look up from their phone starting to chit-chat with a random person about a random topic when queuing for something. I like the idea of making each others day just a bit brighter by sharing some thoughts although it’s mostly superficial.

 

For me as a foreigner it’s also a great way to get in contact with the locals and find out where they are coming from and where they are heading. It’s also a good source to get some really good recommendations for the next holiday and for sure I became an expert in talking about the really brutal weather in Chicago 🙂

Communication difference between the us & Germany No 5

Smartphone consumption

It’s still a fun fact for me that Americans don’t like to use Whats app but instead prefer the official text message provider. What’s app is seen as too secure and therefore criminals are said to use this messaging service. Really funny if you consider that there is a debate in Germany about whats app being not safe and data sensitive enough 🙂

Besides that, the intensity of using the smartphone is also quite different. Everybody on the street is looking at their phone and everybody in the metro as well. While this is also evolving in Germany its still another level.

Moreover, you will often see couples and families sitting in the restaurant, eating while everybody is looking on their phone. Last time I checked back in Germany I have not seen that a lot and I hope it is nothing we will catch up with.

Also businesses tend to use the phone in a more intense way to communicate with their customers. Without a social security number AND an American mobile number, you are stuck in so many different situations. Every provider and shop will ask you for your mobile number and it was crazy to find out that so many of them could not serve me, as the process did not allow to move on without filling in a valid mobile number. Even in a lot of restaurant the waiter won’t approach you anymore to tell you that your table is ready but you will receive a text message. 

So, what do you think about my top 5 communication differences between US and Germany? Of course you could list so many more smaller and bigger things. However these are my top 5 from my daily perspective.  

Do you share my experience or want to add something?  I am looking forward to an exchange in the comments below. 

Thanks for sharing the love and stopping by

Kate from Share the Love, expat, expat wife, expat life

Send this article to a friend & share the love:

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this article with a friend and share the love:

Share on facebook
Share on whatsapp
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on xing
Share on email

You also might like:

What are you aiming for in your career?

What are you striving for in your career? What was your original motivation when applying for your first job, and what has changed along the way? Naturally, we are more fulfilled and successful when we are striving for something professionally that is also aligned with who we are as a person. If you are thinking about a career change or you are unsure where to head next to now is the time to check your motivation. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to the concept of career anchors and how that simple test can be a helpful guide to you for your personal career planning.

Read More »
katharinavonknobloch, expat coach, sharethelove

The aimless & spoilt expat spouse – an opinion piece

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across yet another media coverage about expat spouses and the fact that those well-educated women are throwing away their career ambitions to follow their husband abroad. Interestingly enough, the comments below the post have been even more prejudiced than the article itself. I wonder why it is so hard to change the image of the expat spouse and what we can do to become recognized as what we are: amazing, brave, solution-oriented globe trotters with a lot of understanding for global issues?

Read More »
expat, world, privilege, responsibility

Do we have an obligation as expats?

Reflecting on my experience at the Families in Global Transition Conference in Bangkok a couple of weeks ago, there is one sentence that is imprinted in my head: “We are equipped – more than others – to make a change.”
I keep wondering: Is that true? Are we in a privileged situation that should trigger us to act?

Read More »

HOW TO GAIN THE CONFIDENCE TO BECOME A PUBLIC SPEAKER​

Moving abroad can have an impact on your confidence. Especially if you have trouble in getting back into a routine or in some work right from the beginning. In this article, I want to introduce you to Khethiwe, a confidence coach located in South Africa. I interviewed her about her approach to start a couple of portable businesses, her advice for expat partners, and how to regain confidence after moving abroad. She shared her experience with being a public speaker and a coach. If you are interested in getting started in that field, stay tuned for her tips!

Read More »
interview, entrepreneur, expat

How to start your own company? Interview with Umamah

The phenomenon that some expat partners take the plunge and start their own business abroad has interested me since we moved countries a couple of years ago. I have already talked about the phenomenon of Expat-Preneurship here. Today, I want you to introduce you to an inspiring entrepreneur who actually started a business that might be of benefit to a lot of us before moving places.

Read More »


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *