Germans. They’re a quirky bunch! But you gotta love ’em!
When you think of them, you probably have the stereotypical images in your head of a people who produce some damn good cars, love sausages, beer festivals and are always punctual and efficient.
After living in another country for a certain period of time, you are bound to have a handful of quirks that just drive you up the wall about your new home country. No matter how hard you either try to accept it or ignore it, it’s always there, festering in the background and you just want to scream “Why do you do this!, Stop it!”
I was recently inspired to write this post after one of those annoying habits came knocking on my door the other day when I had a little discussion with a parent from one of my students, which got me thinking about the quirky little habits Germans do, which they probably don’t realize they do! To them, it’s perfectly normal, but to the outside world, they’re strange little habits that can drive a person mad!
1. Don’t Leave a Voicemail or Check it
You remember those voice mailboxes when you call someone right? People still use those, oder? I do, but maybe I’m old fashioned. If I call you, and you don’t answer, I’ll leave you a voice mail and you can call me back when you have time. I’m not going to sit there and call you a hundred times. That would be rude.
Nope. What’s a voice mailbox? WHERE is it on my phone? Let me just call you a million times, a phone number you probably don’t recognize and HOPE that you will call me back. If after some time, you don’t, I’ll just give up.
Germans expect that you will call them back, without leaving a message. “But I called three times” she said. I looked at her and said, “Did you leave a voicemail?” to which she almost gasped in appall at the very thought, and replied, “No”. I responded, “I personally would not call back a number I don’t recognize if they didn’t leave a message” to which she replied, “Echt?” (reallllly?) Yes, really.
To understand WHY Germans do this, you need to understand the culture. In the past, phone companies charged a lot for you to call someone or even to check your own voicemail, so people just stopped leaving messages. Now they just hope you’ll simply call them back because they called.
2. Sitting in the Dark
I know that Germans are really eco-friendly and have obsessive compulsive disorders when it comes to recycling and trying to make the world more green. That’s great! I don’t have a problem with that. More power to ya!
What I find slightly strange is the constant need to keep the lights off. I can understand if it’s a super sunny day, you don’t need to waste the electricity. But more times than not, I have walked into a room and the lights are still off and it’s a bit dark, even in a business. I find this confusing and off-putting because you’re not sure whether or not the company is open for business, and it’s rather strange to walk into a dark business. Now, this may just be the one company I’m talking about, or there may be more of them.
It’s weird. Turn on the lights!
3. Invade Your Personal Bubble While Standing in Line
You know when you’re standing in line, with enough breathing room in front of you to give the person ahead of you personal space? Ya, I’m talking about that space. Out of respect and courtesy, and privacy for that matter, I stand a few feet back. I don’t need nor do I want to know how much you’re spending on your groceries.
That one little gap of space, your personal bubble between you and the person in front of or behind you. That’s enough space for a German to squeeze in there and cut in front of you, as if you weren’t evening standing in line. And before you know it, you’re breathing down their neck because they’ve just invaded your personal bubble. MY BUBBLE!
Hellllllo! Did you not see me standing here? I’m not just standing here breathing air in for fun. Goodness, get in line at the end of the line!
Or they bump into the back of you with their shopping cart because they want to inch forward and follow their food on the conveyor belt, as if it will run away without them. Hey man, do you NOT see me standing here? Back up, yo and give me some privacy!
4. Saying “Hello” & “Goodbye” to Strangers
In Germany, it’s quite common for someone to walk into a store or into a room full of people like at the dentist office and say “Hallo” or “Grüß Gott” (in Bavaria). It’s a nice way to be acknowledged and make your presence be known, in case they didn’t see you walk in in the first place. This I can understand.
Saying hello to strangers you pass in the hallway?…. eh, ok, maybe. But to force someone to say hello back to you is a bit extreme and rather annoying.
I was once caught off guard by a complete stranger saying hello to me while I was walking down the stairs and she was going up. I acknowledged her with a slight smile and it just happened to be one of those moments, my voice got caught in my throat when I went to reply. She didn’t quite hear me, stopped, turned around and forcefully said, “Grüß Gott” to be a second time, to which I probably had a shocked expression that some stranger so desperately wanted a return greeting.
In America, a smile is sufficient, but we would never force someone to say hello. And I’m sure you’re shaking your head thinking, “Geesh, she’s a b****!” I’m not, I’m just not accustomed to really acknowledging strangers so abruptly.
5. The Constant STARE
What’s.With.The.Constant.Need.To.STARE??? Honestly? Didn’t your mama ever teach you it’s rude to stare? Apparently not!
Yes, I”m wearing sandals and a summer dress and it’s only 65*F and sunny outside. Yes, I’m speaking English. Yes, my jacket is bright pink.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s rude. It’s annoying. STOP IT!
6. House Slippers
Oh Germans! You’re so laughable with your cute little quirks!
Any German household will always have multiple house slippers to offer guests when they come for a visit. It’s customary to take off your dirty street shoes before entering the house so as not to bring filth into the home. And it’s for your health that they offer house slippers. And probably so you don’t smudge your sweaty feet on their clean floors.
But I am NOT going to die or get sick if I don’t wear your worn-by-multiple-people slippers. I’m not going to die if I don’t even have socks on in the spring! I don’t want to contract someone else’s footingitis. Yuck!
So don’t freak out, when a Californian, who LIKES to have bare feet, wears sandals at the first sign of sunshine, kindly declines your offer to wear some house shoes.
7. Catching the “Zug”
Nothing can be more frustrating on a hot day than someone getting up and closing the window without kindly asking everyone else in the room if it’s would be acceptable to close the window. You cringe inside the minute the window closes and the room begins to get hot and stuffy, and soon you can smell the BO of the person next to you.
All because someone got the “Zug“ on the back of their neck and a shiver down their spine.
Suddenly, they’re afraid that they’re about to catch a cold, wrap a scarf around their neck and put their jacket back on. And did I mention it was still summer, 80*F+?
You’re not the only person in the room, homie!
8. Wearing Winter Jackets & Scarves Until They Are Absolutely 100% Sure Winter Isn’t Coming Back
Nothing makes me break out in a sweat more than looking at Germans walking around on a nice sunny day 70*F or being at the mall and seeing EVERYONE still wearing their thick winter coats and scarves. Every time I try to continue wearing a winter jacket past March, I feel like I’m melting to death.
There are a few weeks in April and beginning of May every year where the temperatures drop again, but I still have my sandals on with a light jacket and a light scarf while everyone else is still dressed head to toe in winter gear.
Only once the weather has reached a steady temperature of 80*F+ will they pack away their winter gear. But I still see women wear scarves well into summer, and I think, “How is she not sweating to death?”
9. Transform Ice Cream Shops into Crepe Shops in Winter
Do you even understand how difficult it is to handle this dilemma!? I want ice cream year-round! Even when it’s cold outside! And sometimes the best ice cream is enjoyed when it IS cold outside! Not just in the summer when it’s too hot and your ice cream is melting all over your shoes!
If you want ice cream in winter, you’ll have to look for either a restaurant/cafe or a grocery store! All of those delicious ice cream parlors pack up at the end of fall and don’t return again until spring begins to warm up. They magically transform into a crepe parlor, which I have absolutely NO qualms about, but where is the ice cream? The gelato!? Since when is ice cream SEASONAL?!
I lived in Montana for 3 years where it often snows up to your knees or more (on a good year) and temperatures drop to -14*F and guess what? Us crazy folks were still lining up for ice cream! I Scream, YOU Scream, WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM is clearly not a motto here!
10. Cold, SWEET Popcorn
Having worked in a movie theater for many years as a teen and being a big movie buff, there is nothing more dissatisfying than a bag of cold popcorn that has been sitting out for a while. **Cringe**
At German movie theaters, you have two options: 1. Sweet Popcorn 2. Salty Popcorn. With NO butter. Anyone got dry mouth? I don’t even know WHERE they pop fresh popcorn because you won’t see it behind the counter. It will have already been popped somewhere else and transported to the concessions stand, where a good 90% of the time, the popcorn is already cold. WHY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHYYY!? Why can’t you just pop the popcorn right there, and offer fresh, hot, buttery, delicious popcorn?
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