Germany vs America

Posted on 05. Nov, 2010 by in Culture, Current Events, Geography, History, Language, People, School, Traditions, Travel, Uncategorized

As this is a German-american readers section, in describing the differences between cultures, yet noticing the cap is getting smaller in trying to compare the two nations, as a result of my own research, Germany is in fact moving closer to Americas direction, whether they notice this or not.

Maybe this is part of the development of a culture, yet we still try to point out certain events and traditions within Germany that we hope will never change.

The most prominent issue is actually ( eigentlich ) reading ( Lesen)  how universities and schools ( Schulen ) teach in English language only, possibly trying to make it easier for foreign students taking courses, many street signs, direction signs, slang words etc. the way of life ( leben)  is heading towards ( Richtung )  America.

To love Germany is to love its history, its culture, its political and economical system, the government’s institutions, the whole everything. Obviously, Germany’s history cannot be loved, and so it is a pretty safe bet that someone wearing a shirt with a German flag on it is either a soldier or a foreigner or a neo-Nazi. At best, it is considered to be in bad taste to claim that one is proud to be a German, whereas in America its consider patriotic to hang a flag outside the house.

The jobless youth in big German cities and in the eastern part of the country however often present an aggressive nationalistic attitude, to the extent of harassing, beating and even killing foreigners with the wrong skin color. This kind of violence is unheard of in the US. Yet we must not forget that in any nation such violence can exist and happens anywhere in the world, no matter skin color nationality ( Nationalität )  etc.

There is also a kind of snobbishness  in Germany’s educated classes about the myopia of Americans: “they don’t care what’s going on in the world, they don’t travel abroad, they still don’t understand why they are hated around the world, they think they are always right etc.” While all of this may be partially true, it conveniently ignores the very noble and enlightened treatment that Japan and West Germany received after the Second World War, and the fact that the US was the driving force behind the creation of the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ( Menschenrecht)

But because we must try and see the differences between the two, one very fine one is actually Bureaucracy.

In Germany, it is impossible to have a car with a valid license plate and not carry car insurance. If you apply for a license plate, you have to present proof of insurance; if you drop your insurance; the insurance company forwards your name to the appropriate agency, which will invalidate your license plate. Non-valid license plates are easy to spot from far away. This simple system ensures that everyone who drives carries car insurance. The US bureaucracies are apparently not able to create a similar system. Accidents with uninsured drivers are a major problem here. It goes so far that insurance companies sell special insurance policies covering the case that you are victim  ( Opfer ) of an accident and the guilty party does not carry insurance and cannot pay. ( Zahlen)

And then there is privacy…

Germany has extremely strict privacy laws the supreme court has acknowledged a right  ( Rechte )to “informational self-determination” and everyone storing personal data about others has to obtain consent from these persons, has to allow them access to their records, and can use the data only for the purpose they were originally collected for. The federal government and all states have privacy ombudsmen who take citizen’s complaints and make sure that the privacy laws are enforced and extended where appropriate. Germans value their privacy highly and essentially everybody agrees with this. Yet in the US this is the total opposite, credit card companies keep databases about your purchases and sell the information; supermarkets issue frequent-buyer cards in order to track your preferences; if you buy a TV set in an electronics store, they ask for your name and address; the post office sells information about who moved where; the Internet set-top box WebTV dials up Microsoft every night to upload information about your web surfing habits; automatic face recognition cameras are used in sports arenas and casinos; surveillance cameras are common in public city areas etc. etc.

In fact there are so many differences ( Unterschiede ) we could not list them all at ones, from environmental sensitivity to aggression and violence, often the US is pointed out as aggressive etc. Though your more likely to experience the opposite, traffic is more relaxed, people are more trusting tend to leave doors unlocked, something you will most likely never see in Germany. Politeness to strangers etc. is a common practice; you don’t need to watch out that someone cuts you off at the supermarket etc.

Honestly I do find it a bit funny on how Germans whom never been to America tend to have a wonderful opinion of the US, that often speaks no truth. ( keine Wahrheit ) Partially maybe this has something to do with the media, yet any German living in the US would agree with me on these few notes…Or? Because this is a very complex and broad subject, I’d like to invite readers again from all sides , whether your German in America or Americans in Germany and express what you think on this matter.

actually ( eigentlich )

reading ( Lesen)

schools ( Schulen)

Life- ( Leben)

Towards ( hinzu)

Right – ( Rechte)

Human Right- ( Menschenrecht)

no truth- ( Keine Wahrheit)

differences- (Unterschiede)

Pay- ( Zahlen)

victim- ( Opfer)

Learn the german words here

33 Responses to “Germany vs America”

  1. André 5 November 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    I would actually disagree with some of this article. I really don’t know anyone in the US who would leave doors unlocked be it car doors or doors to the house. It’s not done.

    I also would disagree with the tone of your last paragraph. It carries a somewhat anti-American sentiment. We aren’t perfect, but what country is? But to say that wonderful opinions of America aren’t true is pretty harsh.

    Und Sie sollen Ihre Rechtschreibung und Grammatik überprüfen…

  2. sandra 5 November 2010 at 4:20 pm #

    Dear André,
    Thank you for your comment and pointing out my mistakes, as you note yourself, no country is perfect- therefore no human either.
    But would you please be so kind to point out what grammar mistakes? This would help the readers as well as myself!
    With kind regards,

  3. Tanja 5 November 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Quote: “The jobless youth in big German cities and in the eastern part of the country however often present an aggressive nationalistic attitude, to the extent of harassing, beating and even killing foreigners with the wrong skin color. This kind of violence is unheard of in the US. ”

    Instead, we have jobless youth in America harassing, beating and killing homeless people. You can even watch it on Youtube. :(

    Quote: “To love Germany is to love its history, its culture, its political and economical system, the government’s institutions, the whole everything. Obviously, Germany’s history cannot be loved…”

    Not every bit of American history is shiny gold although it would be really nice to think so; instead it has plenty of problems of its own — from eminent domain and the attempted eradication of native Americans and their culture, to slavery, to the Civil War, to Japanese internment camps, etc. You can always say that they had “good intentions”, maybe. German history has had many more centuries to deal with its people whether “native” or not than the United States of America, and a much more recent negative international legacy with people from all sides, victor or loser or enemy or survivor, who are still alive to talk about it and do so, not just read about it in whatever “authorized” history books are provided in public schools.

    But the point here is to learn from history both the good and bad, so as not to repeat the same unkind or even atrocious mistakes with a blatant disregard for humanity, whether German or American or some other nationality. That is my hope in any case.

  4. Alan 5 November 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    I grew up in rural Missouri and I knew people that never locked their doors. My grandparents never locked their doors, although they would lock the gate at the end of the driveway a half mile away. I’ve also seen a lot of trucks just parked with the windows open in the nearest small town. I don’t know if the doors are unlocked, but if the windows are down I’d say that’s a rather moot point.

  5. Tomas 5 November 2010 at 4:52 pm #

    The type of violence you talk about in Germany that is ‘unheard’ of in the US. Unfortunately you are quite mistaken. There is a very high percentage of violent crime rate in large cities and a lot of that has to do with gangs. The US has a far higher violent crime rate than Germany, including race crime throughout this past century, from slavery, to the KKK’s lynching, to black attacks on whites and black attacks on blacks. But no nation is without this type of violent crime, or most nations arent.

    In my opinion the US is like a double edged sword as far as reputation. There is no other nation that helps out other countries more than the US, beit medical aid, food, money even military help but on the other side, the US does tend to step into things a bit more quickly without thorough thought and implications, unlike a few decades ago. A lot of Americans are relatively uninformed to what happens outside its borders and that is self inflicted. They just dont care. However, there are a lot of other Americans that do know whats going on and do care. The nice thing to know is that many Europeans do distinguish between Americans and the American government.

    As far as Germans being able to show their pride… its happening already. It really started to show after WM2006. Germans had something to really be proud of… not so much the 3rd place showing but how well the tournament was hosted. I heard from soooooo many people how efficient Germany handled transportation, the events, everything. But that is the way Germany is, efficient. Things and time change and its just a matter of time before Germans will be like any other country showing their pride by wearing shirts with the Bundesflagge. Im so damn proud I have a tattoo for Germany and die Nationalelf. My family in Germany loves it!

    As far as Germany being more like American, I hope not. This is not to say that I dont love America, I do, however my main concern with the EU is that I hope this deals strictly with business and doesnt leak over into cultures. Like I said I love America but what I really love about Europe is the different cultures within the continent. America doesnt have that. North American doesnt really have that. Other than Mexico, between the US and Canada… there really isnt much of a culture because these 2 countries are relatively young.

    Its always good to change with the winds of time but it doesnt mean you have to lose your identity and culture.

  6. Fernando Salazar 5 November 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    One of the best German-USA comparisons I’ve read goes below, the author Axel Boldt has been continuously updating it.


  7. Germany-loving American 5 November 2010 at 7:39 pm #

    I would disagree about public politeness. While it can be improved everywhere, and the US is no exception, I found living in the eastern part of the country to be very emotionally cold. I found people to be very rude in public, especially when I opened my mouth and revealed myself to be a non-German (although I do speak decent German). (And the supermarket was probably the worst place of all.) While I understand the economic and cultural basis for this behavior in the former DDR, it’s dispiriting that customer service is virtually non-existent.

    However, that’s not a very important difference. What is much more socially important, and was shocking and horrifying to me as an American living in Germany was the integration “debate” and racist attitudes that even the coolest and best-educated Germans espouse. I can’t say one won’t find similar sentiments in the US, but it is rare among PhD. candidates or young people here, unlike the many people I met in Germany.

    The American understanding that we should always seek progress, and that immigrants have the ability to become American, and may and should become citizens, is fundamental to our success in adapting to a globalized world. While there is a minority who would disagree, the country should no more be judged on their basis than Germany should be on neo-Nazis. The American constitution dictates continual evolution toward our ideals, and that’s the big difference between the US and Europe. Y’all think you’re good already, and that both leads to deplorable yet socially acceptable racism in the people and in policy, and it hampers the country’s success.

  8. Germany-loving American 5 November 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    @Sandra – just checking your/you’re and its/it’s/its’ would be a huge help to readers and to the quality of the writing.

    @Tomas I find it incredible that you say that North America doesn’t have different cultures. We are the center of immigration in the world! I went to college in Toronto, the most multicultural city in the world. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York City. I have found many Europeans with the attitude that “there isn’t much of a culture in North America,” and it’s not only unrealistic, it doesn’t add anything to our debate or understanding between people. The US and Canada have vibrant, diverse cultures, and while diversity is not highly valued by some Europeans (even though you claim to value it yourself while disparaging our cultures), it should be respected in general as a value of another country.

  9. mary 6 November 2010 at 3:07 am #

    Either Sandra is really upset, or she offers her opinion in this way to make us all comment :) I’ve lived about 20 years in US and Germany and love both places. German history has a lot more to offer than the Holocaust (What about the Romans there, how the tribes formed the country, or Beethoven?) which is what I assume she’s referring to. Of course nobody is proud of that. I’m sure no one is proud of all the dark parts of American history either.

    Comparing the US and Germany is like comparing apples and oranges: Germany is about the size of Montana, and much smaller than Texas for example. It also has over 80 million people in that small space, whereas the US has its population (over 300 mill.) spread out over a huge area. Also Germany is still dealing with consequences from a war whereas the US hasn’t seen a war in about a hundred and fifty years on its soil.

    I also agree that integration is a problem – but again, you have so many people living so closely together, you need people working together. Whereas in the US no one cares if a person 3000 miles doesn’t integrate. It doesn’t matter nearly as much.

    Germany has to deal with it: according to a new law, immigrants have to speak German now – who would come to the US not speaking English and expecting to get a good job?? It’s not like that in Germany; many immigrants live in their own little worlds within Germany without ever learning the language, or integrating in other ways.

    About the privacy issues, it’s no wonder the Germans are super sensitive to them. The older generation remembers too vividly living under Nazi rule where everyone was under surveillance day and night. It brings back a lot of bad memories.

  10. Sandra 6 November 2010 at 3:11 am #

    LOL! No never upset! I want your thoughts, we all share this planet, where everyone has a different standpoint and this is a good thing!
    Thank you Mary:-) and everyone! I also enjoy reading your comments!

  11. Krystale 6 November 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    Languages: In America we are a mixing pot with sub groups. For example: in the Northern part of the US there are a lot of Russians, Ukrainian,who don’t speak English. In fact essentially what they do is bring their culture here, stay in a sub group or community and carry on. They work under the table, so there is no need to learn the English language. Another example: in the Southern part of the US there is an overwhelming population of Mexicans who don’t speak English. w/o repeating myself, they do what the Russians and Ukrainians do. The immigrants that learn(even try) the English language tend to be the Koreans, Chinese, Arabs, Germans…but I will say education plays a big part and also the generation you are from.

    Violence: Someone mentioned it. Most of it is gang related within communities. Hispanic gangs(within Hispanic culture) tend to bend in the larger cities, as well as black gangs(within black culture). The 2 gangs aren’t so much after each other, but all about power and dominating other gangs within their culture. The only time things get bad is when someone (not gang-related) interferes with their ideal view of control and power. RUN!

    In the rural areas KKK, skin heads, WS tend to be more prominent often calling themselves red necks or patriotic. The confederate flags are everywhere- has one of two implications 1: proud to be Southern American(not so much racist), wanting back their homeland or racist, wanting back their homeland….and wanting the America it use to be 1930′s+…basically when immigration was marked with laws, and civil rights did not exist. (*where was I?)

    Will Germany become like the US? I tend to think about one word: “EXPRESSION” As for now in the US, there is the American public and the American government with the idea of being “for the people”. In Germany there is the same, but there is more control still within the German government to the country in whole. The people are less expressive. Not enough to be comparable to America. Now can America be like a Germany today…? I wouldn’t put it past me, IT COULD HAPPEN. The American government is leaving the American people in the dust these days.

    Now I’m going to Germany for 2 weeks to make a decision. I decided back in the June there’s nothing here in the US I want, so I wanted to move to Germany. Interesting huh? Ask me to learn the language, OF COURSE! I expect that from people coming to the US. :)

    Of course I know the history of Germany, but my question is, when will we stop oppressing the German people? They need a 2nd chance to breath. They shouldn’t have to explain every time the Holocaust and be the victim of terror from ages ago. I mean if someone came to me and said, “do you feel privileged as a black in America”? you have to ask yourself “What’s the motive in the question”? to put me down, make me remember, to feel inferior…? I think globally we have a responsibility to help heal the wounds of Germany for the sake of the people in this generation and for the sake of the future of Germany. The End :)

  12. Fernando Salazar 6 November 2010 at 5:09 pm #


    So you are going to move to Germany, could please let us know what made you take that decision? What smmilarities or diferences you took into account, etc. In general of course. Thank you!

  13. Krystale 6 November 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    @Fernando and others interested.

    Honestly, wanting to leave the States and never come back has been been a ongoing thing since I was 12. I never saw myself here in the states. As I got older my closest friends were Russian,Polish and Ukrainian…I was nearly consumed by their cultural habits…and to this day being 25. I was military kid until 20.My family is very patriotic, though split down the middle with political differences in the house. For some reason I stopped caring. America sadden me at such a young age. The core value and morals of America is nearly gone and paralyzed by the government. And maybe I sensed that at an early age. I stopped voting after Bush.
    Germany may be more controlled by govt, but what I appreciate about Germany or have noticed is how they decide as a nation how to be globally influential by their own laws. There is no pressure to overcome or be the best nation in the world, to be a powerhouse, they are a nation with ambition and drive to be known, thrive, and just be themselves. They are a nation driven by skill and industry, looking for a real motive and purpose, which means they are cautious and strict with everything understanding there are consequences and the focus needs to be the bigger picture. Germany isn’t perfect I know, but maybe they understand value within humility that makes them different from America.Given their history, maybe that’s why Germany approaches the future of their nation in a more settle way. Driven to be influential, but not at the cost losing itself as a nation. Gain the whole world, but lose itself, that is America. America wouldn’t understand humility. Maybe I’m wrong…lol. But thats why I chose Germany.

  14. Fernando Salazar 7 November 2010 at 12:06 am #


    Wow, that was really helpful, specially because I am almost in reverse direction, I have just being approved to immigrate to the US by means of family, waiting my priority date maybe due next year.

    Also I’m going to Germany, city of Essen, on a full scholarship from 02/2011-02/2012. I’m currently in intensive German language classes to complete the A2 level next January! I can’t tell you how confused I am right now.

    Anyway, you have described why you want to immigrate to Germany but highlighting the “positive” things and details you think you will find in there, have you lived there before? I mean, and this is my opinion, stereotypes more do harm than good. Germany has a strong high efficiency reputation here, I think for the whole is true, but will it be that way for the regular citizen? and if they really are efficient how does that affect their personal relationships?

    I have more questions than answers, and i really would like to know better so that I could get a better picture for what awaits me there.

    Best regards and buena suerte in tus emprendimientos!

  15. Krystale 7 November 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Well congratulations to you and your family. I know it wasn’t an easy process, but I’m super happy for you! :)

    You are right, stereotypes do more harm than good. I know, I’ve been in the mix. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure as American I will go there with a lot of disappointments. Then again, it is the reason why I am taking a 2 week trip specifically for this, to know what it would be like to live there. But its also about being adaptable to cultural and not everyone is able to. If there are more stereotypes or racism there, hey maybe I’m ready for it. Being in an interracial family has its advantages at large. You get the best of both worlds culturally speaking :) You ask some very good questions regarding efficiency and relationships but I’ve heard it said from friends who have been there to teach or lived there for military reasons that there is still a difference emotionally from West and East Germany, even more hostile in East Germany due to the economic stability and pressure it has on the communities. However, we are both I’m sure in for a great experience, and nothing worth regretting or backing out on.

    Take care and may your plans you endeavor to do, be successful!

  16. Fernando Salazar 7 November 2010 at 3:33 pm #


    Thank you so much for your words, and please let me tell you about a similar experience I had before when I moved to México, while culture compared to Germany and US can be far different, being latinamericans it’s surprising how different I found it as well. Although it was hard the first 3 months, but after 8 months I was loving the culture and places, highlighting the delicious food and above all the welcoming people warmth.

    Since then I’m a Mexican supporter by heart and I hope to repeat that experience in Germany.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

  17. Krystale 7 November 2010 at 6:23 pm #

    @ Fernando

    You’re welcome.
    You’re experience to Mexico sounds very exciting. I do hope to have a similar experience as well in Germany. Just so you know, you won’t be alone in the learning experience of the culture and language of Germany. :)


  18. Chris Wolford 7 November 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    America, in all it’s greatness and arrogance would greatly benifit if it
    would just humble it’s self enough to learn from long established countries
    such as Germany. Personally, I enjoy greatly looking and being around
    the long standing structures that adorn Germany. There are many fountains, and public areas that have been standing many years and are still be
    ing used to this date.Here in America, if a building is abandoned due to
    disrepair, it could possibly demolished, unless someone or some 
    organization purchases the structure. Here in Tulsa, Oklahoma we have a hotel
    called the Mayo Hotel. The Mayo family acquired most of their money through
    the search and processing of oil. Mr. Mayo errected a large hotel
    to show his wealth and position in society. Some time later, the Hotel
    fell to disrepair and was abandoned. This structure set empty for quite
    a long time. Several years back and a substancial amount of money, the
    hotel was purchased by a family that promptly set about renovating it
    back to it’s former glory. In 1972, I went my senior prom in the ma
    main ballroom there. This is just one of the many structures that have been
    saved. But, not all have been saved here. It is written, A society that
    does not learn from their mistakes is doomed to repeat them. Will we
    learn from our mistakes, would I be studying German if I thought we would.
    Time will tell. Haben Sie Guten tage. Danke fir lesen disese. Chris,;

  19. Steve K 8 November 2010 at 3:56 am #

    I’m from Canada, and I am amazed by both USA and Germany civics. In essence, their philosophies seem to be “Do it right the first time”. I don’t know if the extreme weather and low population density per square km in Canada are such huge factors, but, for instance, highway/autobahn structures in both USA/Germany are far superior. That’s actually some of the most enjoyable differences, along with the histories of both countries. I think Germany and most of Europe is to be honored for their respect of historical buildings and places, but also they seem to have just built their cities without prioritizing cars, which is not the case in USA/Canada. This ‘human factor’ adds a lot to the charm of Europe, (in my opinion).

    Anyway, I can’t tell if there was a mistake in your last paragraph. Most of the article seemed to be pro-USA (or at least sympathetic, except for the lax Privacy laws). But then you said: “Honestly I do find it a bit funny on how Germans whom [sic, should be: who have] never been to America tend to have a wonderful opinion of the US, that often speaks no truth”. Weren’t you just saying that Germans are more ant-foreigner? Weren’t you saying that there are many great things about America? Did you mean “speaks small truth” instead of “no truth”? Kleine vs keine? :P

    Anyway, I’m trying to learn German, (very slowly) and I’m a little depressed by this article and some of the comments/links. I want to learn German for the amazing cultural artifacts: the stupendous musicians, poets, scientists and theologians. I want to learn to become more ingrained with the food and beer and automobiles and people. But I’m getting the vibe that Germans would look down on me for trying to learn their language. I hope German survives. I don’t want all cultures to melt into one language. I hope the current trend in Germany to integrate people to learn German thrives. Is it so difficult because people don’t want to learn German or Germans don’t want to accept these people?

    Not that any of this is really more than academic to me at the moment. I’m learning for the pleasure of learning and will likely never “need German”, but I’m saddened that my efforts would be scorned.

    Do you have thoughts on this? Thanks.

  20. Steve K 8 November 2010 at 3:58 am #

    ant-foreigner = anti-foreigner (in my previous post)

  21. Chris Wolford 8 November 2010 at 10:35 am #

    Steve K: I have been looking for a good German beer here in the states. I receintly foud one, but as soon as the available product was consumed, there was no more available. Closest thing I can find is a dark beer brewed in Mexico. I just don’t like the bitter taste of the others.

  22. Sandra 8 November 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    Dear readers,
    Thank you for each of your input, its given an interesting take from all sides. We must remember no one is right or wrong, nor any state. We can move and try finding what fits best to our own wishes, yet always remember you will find something of dislike..
    As a German having lived in both countries and hearing many sides, yes there is a certain judgement on america that speaks no real truth, this however comes from a certain amount of people, either never having traveled to the states and only see things in their perspective, like we do here:-) , it would be unfair to state every German or every American is so and so..
    This blog is partially combined from interviews as well as opinions from both sides and what personal encounters are there.
    Roads/Autobahn- Highways: Everywhere you can encounter bad roads, even in germany or the US. the best highways are in fact the netherlands…They tend to built them in such a fashion that if it rains, the water never stays on..
    When it comes to such things, I suggest going to shiphol Airport, runways crossing rivers etc. The dutch are the best when it comes to this technology.
    German Autobahn is only famous because one can drive as fast as you wish on certain routes, but that is also it! Yes only certain highways, not all of them :-)

    Thank you again everyone!

  23. Steve K 8 November 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks Chris. To paraphrase “The Princess Bride”: “there are a shortage of perfect beers in this world…” :P

    Anyone recommend some good German beers available in US/Canada?

    Thanks Sandra for your response. I didn’t know the Dutch had such great highways. I now hope to check it out some day. Sorry once again, but can you clarify: “yes there is a certain judgement on america that speaks no real truth”. Are you saying the judgement is in general negative or positive, or just not informed and could be either? Thanks.

  24. sandra 8 November 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Hi Steve,
    Judgement in: not well informed and simply could be better from all sides..:-)
    I think overall people should and could have a better open mind about all. It would be wrong to say all Germans think negative of americans, and the same way around- Hope this helps?

    Good beer- Personally I think this one is great;

    But its not German! :-) Cheers!

  25. Krystale 8 November 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    @ Steve

    Hey the best dark German beer is Köstritzer Schwartzbie, but I’m pretty sure you will need to order it. Or if you have a Bier Garden in the city…they may have it in the bar. Good luck!

  26. mary 9 November 2010 at 12:45 am #

    Just wanted to say to Fernando that there is discrimination and stereotyping in every country and to not live your life based on that. When I came to the US and people found out I’m German many turned the other way or called me a f* N***.
    It was shocking because no one had ever called me that before!

    On the other hand more people were very interested in Germany and asked questions about it and were telling me how much they loved going on vacation there.

    In other words: there are jerks everywhere, haha! Seek out the people who are fun instead!

    I think it’s wonderful and so exciting that you’re going there! What a great adventure! Be sure to hop on a train while you’re there and visit some other great cities like Berlin and Munich.

  27. Fernando Salazar 9 November 2010 at 3:46 am #


    I really appreciate your time and words, thank you! I’m very optimistic about this endeavor that I’m advocated to learn more of the German language than the expected requirement. So far two weeks only though.

    Certainly, I’ll take your advice and I’ll try to take advantage of every opportunity. Being there learning not only the language but a diploma in my field of study and finally the residency in a german company is a dream come true for me. I will have the chance to learn the work culture in one of the most prestigious countries in the world.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

  28. Dave Cassel 10 November 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    @Steve K: I’m an American who’s been lucky enough to travel to Germany a few times. On my last trip, about a week long, I flew into Frankfurt, then spent a little time in Oberwesel, Koblenz, Köln, and Erfurt (the last in eastern Germany). Only in the Frankfurt airport did I sense impatience with my poor German. Didn’t surprise me there, but everywhere else people where friendly, even when I stopped a guy in the street to help me find directions.

    Perhaps it’s a different experience if you’re there to stay versus just visiting, but my experiences have been wonderful.

  29. Steve K 10 November 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Thanks Dave!

  30. Fernando Salazar 10 November 2010 at 4:17 pm #


    Could you please define “… with my poor German…”? What is your German language level?

    There is a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which divides in some categories our communication levels from A1,A2, B1…C2, and I’m required to get to the A2 level but will it be enough for not getting Germans impatience on me?

    Thank you in advance!

  31. Dave Cassel 10 November 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    @Fernando, By “my poor German”, I mean that I took two years of high school German 20 years ago and have worked with Rosetta Stone a bit more recently. (I really like Rosetta Stone, btw.) I was able to have simple conversations, as long as the German native spoke reasonably slowly and kept the vocabulary simple, but I would not be able to keep up a full speed, normal conversation. I can order food, ask directions, and generally get around, but I’m nowhere near having the language skills to work there. It was not uncommon to meet Germans whose English was better than my German.

  32. Dave Cassel 10 November 2010 at 4:31 pm #

    Another thought on differences between the US and Germany (or Europe, more broadly). Europeans tend to be better at foreign languages than Americans, in my experience. I’ve heard some chalk that up to American arrogance, thinking that everybody should speak English, and I know there are some small-minded folk who actually feel that way. But I think there is another factor. Living in the US, you can travel thousands of miles, seeing diverse landscapes and diverse people, yet never need a language besides English. In Europe, places where another language will be useful are much closer by.

    For those who do learn some language (which is very common in school), it’s hard to maintain because there is little reason to speak it. I studied French in elementary school, German in high school, and Russian in college. My German is passable, my French is extremely weak, and I might as well never have studied Russian, for all I remember now. Why? Like any skill, use it or lose it.

    Sandra, your experiences are broader than mine; do you think the opportunity to use a second language is a big factor, or do you see some other reason?

  33. Fernando Salazar 10 November 2010 at 4:32 pm #


    Thank you for sharing that, two years of high school seems a lot but long ago as well, I have only two to three weeks of “intensive” study at the local Göethe Institut.

    I must admit so far very discouraging because of so many exceptions, which seem the rule. I have just read that essay from Mark Twain “The Awful German Language” just to get more nervous about getting the A2 level by Janauary…

    While I understand you having no problem communicating in English in Gremany, surely Spanish should be far more scarce!

    Best regards and thank you again!

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