How to tell when Germans are really being rude versus just being German


If you want to confirm the fact that the internet is not improving people’s IQs, just type “rude Germans” into your favorite search engine. Boom! You’ll get over 1.9 million results, most of which were written by morons. (But “rude French” pulls an amazing 39.1 million results!) Few of these online commentaries run counter to the usual “rude Germans” rant and the negative stereotype that so many Americans, Brits and others have of Germans. Even fewer of these web articles, forum posts and blogs offer any useful, helpful information on the topic of “rude” Germans, French, or other Europeans.

The Rudest Countries
I recently saw a CNN online article that listed the “10 Rudest Countries” in the world. As usual, France took first place in the rudeness race. Germany only came in fourth, right behind the UK. The USA placed seventh. But a survey like this, by the skycanner.com cheap flights travel site, is subject to all sorts of distortion, including cultural biases, language difficulties, personality differences, and ignorance, to name just a few.

What a person perceives as rudeness may only be a cultural misunderstanding. What is considered rude in one country or culture may not be regarded as rude in another. But every culture has people who are rude, no matter which culture it may be. Certain impolite behaviors are unacceptable in almost any culture. Sometimes an expat or traveler is actually right to consider someone rude! Continue reading

German Toilets

Disclaimer: This post – as indicated in the title – is about toilets. Though there are no stories detailing dirty business, it is implied. If you prefer more heart-warming topics, why not consider my posts about my favorite Berliner and having a baby in Germany.

Behold! A German Toilet Photo: Erin Porter

The mysterious German Toilet
Photo: Erin Porter

Why are toilets feminine?  The toilet is “die Toilette auf Deutsch. One of the many pronouns that make no sense, I have time to contemplate this oddity of German as I use one every day and have sampled facilities across Germany. I would consider myself an expert.

And I think German toilets may be superior. Hear me out…

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3 Ways I Embarrassed Myself at the German Sauna

Photo: Erin Porter

About to get N-A-K-E-D

Don’t worry guys, I brought a towel to sit (and sweat) on in the sauna and didn’t try to wear my swimsuit into the nude areas. I’m not a German sauna newbie. I’ve been once before.

That one time was at touristy Tropical Island. I highly recommend it if you are also a spa novice. It is a full-on water park with slides and waterfalls and artificial beach front. But deep in its center lies an area cloaked in palm trees and signs barring entry for those under 16. We waffled back and forth if we were actually going into this adult-only zone before putting on our big boy pants (or taking them off, in this case) and entering.

As Germans consider regular spa going a part of good health and not a luxury, the average Germ knows what to do in the sauna. Not so for a couple of expats from Seattle. We clumsily felt our way through the process of showering, storing our clothes in a cubby and dramatically dropping the towel to enter a steamy room full of naked Germans. And – no surprise for those who’ve done it before – it wasn’t so bad! We emerged thoroughly moist and with muscles that had deeply relaxed so that we were basically moving puddles. It was fabulous.

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Celebrities Who’ve Called Berlin Home

David Bowie

David Bowie – Chicago. Photographer: Adam Bielawski

For the past few days the world has been in mourning. David Bowie has died. And like the rest of the world, Berlin is laying claim to its adopted son.

Bowie lived in Berlin in the 1970s, departing LA and Switzerland for something altogether more hedonistic. He was flatmates with Iggy Pop (oh, to be a fly on that WG wall) in swinging Schöneberg at Hauptstraße 155. There are stories of the two of them shutting down this club, throwing down beers at that Kneipe (bar) and recording at a legendary studio. But in ever-changing Berlin most of these locations have been transformed into hotels, sex clubs and – perhaps most bizarrely – a dentist office.

Bowie is not the first eccentric rock star to feel a sense a heimat with Berlin. The city has long emitted a pull for creative types, both home-grown and foreign. Here is a non-exhaustive list of foreign celebrities who’ve called Berlin home.

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US Women Destroy Germany’s World Cup Dreams

The USWNT Made Good Last Night

The USWNT Made Good Last Night

The headline in today’s Bild online says it all: US-Girls zerstören unseren WM-Traum. In a contest between the top two teams in the world last night, the United States came out on top 2-0 in a surprisingly dominant performance, outlasting a loaded German side in the most anticipated match of the tournament. Germany was heavily favored going into the game, despite a nailbiter against France last weekend. But the USWNT made good on the promise they brought into the tournament to peak at the right time and pulled off the win in front of the rabidly pro-USA crowd in Montreal.

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Amis and Abis: Roadblocks to Getting your Bachelor’s Degree in Germany

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

Source: Felix Kästle/dpa (c)

My student advising service, Eight Hours and Change, was recently featured in a story on National Public Radio’s Marketplace in a story that discussed the German university system. The main takeaway from this piece for most readers and listeners in America was the astonishing revelation that German universities are (mostly) tuition-free, and, as a result, I’ve been inundated with inquiries from every state and several territories.

For bachelor-seeking students, this can be an awkward conversation. After confirming that the vast majority of subjects can be studied at minimal cost, I have to move on to the caveat. Yes, its possible for Americans to study here for free, but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it.

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10 Ways That Europe is Different from the USA


First, let me tell you about the inspiration for today’s blog post.

Recently a friend suggested that I read what turned out to be a rather disheartening rant published by an online expat website. (The names shall remain anonymous in order to protect the guilty.) The writer, an American lady, was complaining about her life in Germany, a lament brought on by a recent visit to her local Apotheke (pharmacy). She was whining about the fact that she had to take the extra time and trouble to consult with a German pharmacist (in German of all things) in order to obtain a medication that she could have bought over the counter in the US.

Bikes and pedestrians

Germans and other Europeans walk and ride bikes more often than Americans.
PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Several people left comments pointing out that the German system actually provided the benefit of helpful, professional advice that would have required a visit to the doctor in the US. True, you can’t just go to a supermarket and buy a bottle of aspirin in Germany, but you can go to your local Apotheke and get sound advice about which pain reliever would be best for your situation. While living or traveling in Germany and Austria, I have made several trips to the pharmacist to get help with a medical problem. In every case, the pharmacist either provided a good solution or, in one case, told me to see a physician. (What I thought was a sprained finger turned out to be a broken one.) Continue reading

Being “Normal”

Tonight I had dinner with a friend who has been living here in Germany for about as long as I have. We first met virtually through a Facebook post of a mutual friend and discovered we were both in Heidelberg. The commonalities continued when we talked on the phone for the first time. She was pregnant with twins and basically immobile, so we had time to chat. She had spent her high school years in my home town, went to the rival high school, attended the same university I did at the same time, and studied at the same university in England at the same time as my best friend. She also had a German husband and her son was close to Olivia’s age. Whenever we meet up, which due to our busy lives is not as often as I would like, it feels a bit like I found someone who “gets” me.

After years and years abroad you tend to forget what it is like to talk to someone with the same or similar background to you, not only in the sense of being American, but also speaking to someone who grew up around the same time and has the same pop cultural references, for example. K. gets the jokes about Sesame Street and Schoolhouse Rock. She knows what a Trapper Keeper is. These may seem like small things, but no matter how long you live in a particular country, you will never have that same history with the people who grew up there.  Continue reading