Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cultural Differences

I spent a most enjoyable afternoon with a German friend of mine who was visiting Berlin. The afternoon can only be described as one of cultural differences.

Cultural difference number 1: What began as lunch turned into an entire afternoon. This was later described to me as “a real German lunch break.” Though a strange concept to this American, I thoroughly enjoyed the extended lunch with a fun friend☺

A fascinating conversation then arose about German men and German-American relationships. (Note: please refrain from writing inappropriate comments about this posting, this was not a lunch date, my friend is a friend and has an American girlfriend, hence the conversation!) Anyway, there is apparently a book on cultural differences that explains American dating habits to Germans. It explains first date etiquette, second date etiquette, having “the talk” to “define the relationship” and the importance of when and how to say “I love you.” All of these things are un-German, as was explained to me today. Hmmm.

Other topics of conversation included what American women think about men with lots of female friends, how German men can have more “flare” than American men and still be straight and why it is that a German man would feel completely comfortable liking a woman and yet not making a move for an extended period of time. Hmmm.

Like I said, I found all of this extremely interesting. This was education of equal importance to learning about public diplomacy to be sure.

Another interesting comment was made that still has me somewhat baffled. A discussion about how funny it is to take Americans to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg (red light district) led to a conversation about Americans being ridiculous about nudity (a conversation I have had with other Germans.) This then led my friend to make the comment I am still thinking about. He said, “I bet you haven’t seen your friends naked.” Ah no! With the exception of the two who were hanging naked in a tree over a lake in Berlin during high school, this is very true. Do Germans really see their friends naked or was this just one person's experience? Hmmm. What’s wrong with being naked? Nothing I suppose, though the thought does make me giggle a bit (I think I have the maturity level of a 13-year old.) There is even a German word to describe the appropriateness of nakedness, “Freie Koerper Kultur.” (the culture of being naked as a jay bird.) Hmmm.

Maybe some things are better explained simply as a cultural difference.

With that “liberating” thought I sign off for today!


At 6:18 AM, Anonymous archicat said...

FKK imho is not really a typical german thing. It even seperates (former) eastern from western germans. When you grow up with it, it feels very normal to be naked on the beach (it's convenient too :-)) even with your friends, but 16 years after reunification, and having many friends from other parts of germany (& the world), who could be embarrassed, I don't insist on being naked.... ;-)

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it then that you have not yet been to a saunalandschaft in Berlin. You should go. They are great fun, and you will very quickly have to get over that American sense of modesty. I went once on "womens day" only to be flabbergasted when I, stark naked, ran into a male employee! Apparently "womens day" applied only to guests, not workers.
-- anonymous DC friend

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am naked right now. Here at work. God bless having a real office and not a cubicle.


At 5:16 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Hi Archicat, thanks for providing the German perspective! I do understand your "convenient" comment. My one nude beach encounter occurred in high school when a German teacher told my American German teacher that we should go to the beach and that it didn't matter if everyone didn't have a suit. My teacher interpreted that to mean wear shorts and a t'shirt. We realized otherwise as we walked over a hill and one of my classmates (in a very loud American way) yelled, "oh my gosh that guy is naked!" I guess it is just what you grow up with. And I can say that 10 American 15-17 year-olds had never had such an experience.

At 5:19 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Miss DC, I would have died too! The other fellows have been trying to psych themselves up to go to a Sauna here in Berlin (to get warmed up.) Maybe once one person goes it will start a movement. I won't be starting the movement, but you never know. I should be open to trying everything, right!?

At 5:20 AM, Blogger Erin said...

CJS, I am sure your colleagues say "God bless the office with a door" too;-)

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this talk with M many times. He thinks American dating habits are ridiculous. As he puts it, if you like someone, you like them. Period. No rules, no dancing around, no time frame.

Also, nudity has come up many times and he has yet to convince me to go to Sauna with him. I doubt it'll ever happen. -Mango

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But I thought Germans loved rules and order!

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erin, I found your site searching for German/American cultural differences in attitudes towards romance/dating. I am an American who is completely in love with a German man who obviously likes me but has not made a move over an extended period of time and seems to feel comfortable with that. Could you elaborate on what your German friend said about this phenomenon? Thanks!!!- Katherine

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Hi Katherine,
What I was told is that the concepts of dating and having the first "I love you" be a big thing are American ideas, not German ones. Germans (apparently) wouldn't "date" multiple people at once and wouldn't necessarily call a girl and ask her on a date. It seems to be a strange and quick transition from friend/acquaintance to serious relationship.
To be honest, I liked a German guy while I was living in Germany and was never really able to determine the line between flirting, being nice and being led on.
If I had it to do over again, I would be direct with the guy. Germans expect Americans to be direct and at least you would then have an answer.
Best of luck!!

At 10:56 AM, Blogger Natalie said...

Hi! Might anyone know of a movie or TV series dealing with this topic?? (in english) thanks!!

At 2:43 PM, Blogger CCKaye said...

this post is really great. i just read it, and funnily enough only a couple days ago i started my own blog to talk about my experiences as an american living in berlin. the very first story i posted is called "getting naked with the doctor", because i was shocked that over and over i have had to strip down without the courtesy of a paper robe...and i have planned my experience of going to a thermal spa (but more like a huge public swimming park) and only after paying to get in found out it was textile frei day, and actually going through with it....looking forward to reading more.
if you want to check out mine:



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