Communicating with Germans

You can always tell the difference between Germans and non-Germans in this country by the way they communicate. For example, when a German tries to speak to me and I reply with, “Tut mir leid, mein Deutsch ist nicht gut” (Sorry, my German isn’t good), they always respond by continuing to use big words and speak really quickly in German. I suppose it’s all in hopes that you’ll pick up on one or two words or that perhaps you’re lying about not being good in German and will finally break down and just talk to them. Foreigners, on the other hand, will speak slowly using small words and incomplete sentences because they’re more interested in actually communicating than using proper grammar.

For example, my husband and I live above a car maintenance company, and one day over the summer, I came home from the grocery store and was stopped by a gentleman who spoke quick German to me. I told him my German wasn’t good so he responded by motioning to a certain part of the parking lot and saying, “Parkplatz” and then pointing to himself and saying, “Mein…. in Juli.” Ok. I get it. He’s the new renter for the garage and those parking spaces are all his in July. “Alles klar,” I said. (Everything’s clear or I understand). Easy as that. I pride myself in being a decent English speaker, but even I’m not too proud to use small words and incomplete sentences for the sake of communicating.

On the other hand, a lady came by my apartment today and refused to slow down or use smaller words even though I told her twice that I was having a hard time understanding. This is typical of Germans. I understood the words “wohnung” (apartment) and “miet” (to rent) so I’m quite certain she was inquiring about renting the apartment below us. I know I should have a better attitude, but I refused to even try to speak to her because she was so brutally unaccommodating to me. I spoke enough German that she had to know I was trying to learn but she still refused to slow down or use smaller words so I refused to attempt to stumble through telling her I didn’t even know our neighbor was moving out.

I have literally never had a single German slow down, speak clearly, or use small words for me, but foreigners do it every single time. And honestly, I don’t think it’s something Germans do on purpose, either. I really believe this is just part of their culture. It’s so ingrained in them that they don’t know how to be any other way. I’ve had the privilege of speaking with many Germans (in English) lately because all of my German teachers are required to be natives of Germany. Many of them have confirmed that they recognize the flaw in their culture that most of them are totally unable to sympathize with or accommodate people. One teacher specifically told me that now that she’s married to an American man, she is realizing just how German she really is and they are both working to accommodate one another better (a feat I know too well).

I love Germans. I really do. This is just another quirk of theirs that I find amusing. I’m sure any Germans living in the U.S. have plenty of quirky stories to tell about Americans, too. Like, for example, how freaking sensitive we all are and how we go to Walmart in yoga pants or sweatpants of all things! 🙂 My husband and I literally had an argument because I put on jogging pants for a walk and he wanted me to wear jeans. Later, one of my German teachers confirmed that it’s very important to be wearing real pants at all times (even on a walk), but that is a story for another day.

Tschüss! (Bye!)

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