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

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.

Continue reading

Making a small contribution – refugees in Berlin

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

One of the biggest grass-roots organizations set up to help refugees in Germany

The situation is all over the news, it’s what people are earnestly discussing over dinner, it has moved the country on a national scale – I’m talking about Europe’s migrant crisis and the role Germany is playing.

This is not the time nor place to be political. All I’ll aim to do here is offer a few fleeting observations as an expat in the Hauptstadt (capital) and give a few tips on what you can do to help if you’re so inclined.  Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Free College Degrees in Germany

Get ’em while they’re hot. If you are a German-related news junkie like we all are at the German Way, you might have seen your Facebook or Twitter feeds filled with headlines like these, “Free Tuition in Germany for All American Students” earlier this month.

While it is true, Americans along with all other non-Germans, can study in Germany tuition free, this isn’t actually new news. A sudden lifting of tuition for American students has not just occurred; it’s just that Lower Saxony, the last German federal state to have charged tuition, dropped their fees to create this attention-grabbing headline.

So if you are now wondering what the catch is, since there’s no free lunch, especially in a land that isn’t known for giving out smiles for free, you might be disappointed. There isn’t any real catch or hidden deal of indentured servitude, but an American considering taking up Germany on its offer for a free Bachelor’s should weigh the differences in outcome and expectations before making a decision.

Heidelberg University

The library at Heidelberg University was built in 1905. The Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg was founded in 1386, making it Germany’s oldest and one of the oldest universities in Europe. PHOTO: TBE/iStock/Thinkstock

Continue reading

A Golden Cup

German flagTomorrow one of the most coveted trophies in sport will come to Berlin. Today Germany woke up collectively hungover but with a jubilant smile on its face. Yesterday, just before midnight, the nation erupted into euphoria when the German football team won the World Cup.

Around the world, online and print media is chock full with articles on that extraordinary night: why the Germans won, how they won, what the players’ wives and girlfriends wore, what Rihanna did to celebrate the goal, what type of beer Joachim Löw (the German coach) and Angela Merkel drank when they celebrated together in the hotel. Sitting here in Berlin there can be no other topic to write about today, but as neither football expert nor celebrity gossip connoisseur, I ask myself what relevant and original ideas can I add. The English expat’s view perhaps …

First this – how Germany became England’s favourite. For English fans, Germany would not be the obvious team to support once our own boys failed so miserably to progress beyond the group stages (yet again). Most Germans would not perceive a direct rivalry between the two teams, but most English do. Continue reading

The Famous Swabian Hausfrau

I was delighted to find an article in the February 1, 2014 edition of The Economist dedicated to the mindset of the Swabian Hausfrau. The article links the economic mindset of this stereotype from Germany’s Southwest to the economic mindset of Germans within Europe. It is a deftly created argument and the article is surprisingly detailed in its research of the origins of the Swabian mindset. Unfortunately they weren’t as thorough in their research into the origins of Maultaschen, and were duly called on their sloppiness two weeks later in the Letters to the Editor.
Continue reading

Playing Monk in Switzerland

It’s unusual for me to find that it’s my turn to blog and not have a topic or two that I’m bursting to write about. When that happens, I virtually leaf through Spiegel online and its English section, The Local and Deutsche Welle. My Facebook feed also sometimes triggers some inspiration, so the common piece of news that has led me to today’s topic is Switzerland’s vote to reinstate an immigrant quota.

I’m not actually setting out to discuss this disturbing vote, but I’ll summarize it here: basically, a very narrow majority of Swiss (50.3%), mostly in the rural German parts of the country, have bought in to the fears that Switzerland will become overcrowded if they don’t put a cap on the number of foreigners coming in. That cap has been set to 80,000 immigrants. The short-sighted truth is that these voters succumbed to some scare-mongering thinking that these immigrants were only refugees, migrant workers and benefit-sucking immigrants. Sadly, Switzerland’s history of keeping refugees out is just as disturbing today as it was during the Holocaust. 284,200 Germans currently live in Switzerland. That’s second to Italians. As Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has said, this referendum is going to “cause a lot of problems for Switzerland.” Continue reading