One of my friends asked me the other day," What makes the German culture different from the American culture?"
I suppose because we have so many German friends and we have now lived in Germany a total of 5 years (4 years in the late 90's and now a year) I don't often think about that question anymore.
There are many things that make it different.
I think for me personally, I would say it's honesty of the people. Don't ask them a question unless you really want an honest opinion. It takes many Americans by surprise. If you were to ask a German if they think your new jacket is nice, don't be surprised to hear, "No, I find it quite ugly."
In a way, our culture tries to make the truth a little more palatable by answering that question with,
"It suits you, but I don't think it's my style."
In general, Germans are a rules oriented society. Give them a rule and they will follow it.
So what's all this talk got to do with honesty?
Let me give you an example.
Here in Baden-Württemberg farmers plant flowers in some of their empty fields.
The rule: Pick your flowers and pay for them.
We love going to get the fresh flowers at this time of year.
Typically, you'll find sunflowers, gladioluses and
dahlias. This field is about a mile from our house.
Notice the clippers and knives on the cement at the base of the sign.
No farmer or farmer's wife to be seen!
Mac grabs the clippers and sets to work to cut some glads for me.
They are a lovely sight as you drive through the countryside.
Now you place your flowers on the handmade counter while you pay for your flowers. The sign tells you how much each of the flowers cost. You drop your money in the white "honesty" box under the sign.
Would this work in the states? In England?
I really don't know.
It works here because of their culture, honest and rules oriented.
Having said that.....don't even get me started on what a difficult time German's have standing in a line or "queue" as they say in England. I have been poked in the bottom, elbowed in the sides and thumped with handbags many times when a sale was on in a store, although they are better about it than they used to be in the 90's.
Maybe a bit of our culture is rubbing off on them!