Cultural Differences: German Diplomat Edition

When you grow up in the United States, it can be difficult to imagine that our culture would be hard to adjust to for a German. We don’t seem so different! Part of this is absolutely true. The divide between German and American culture is relatively narrow and we meet eye-to-eye most of the time.

It is exactly that narrow divide that makes cultural differences stand out–as most of the time Germans feel quite at home here. That is of course also the case for our embassy’s diplomats, who have been posted all over the world and have experienced a wide range of cultural differences.

So what made their experience in the U.S. unique? After all of their other posts around the world, what still stood out to them as a cultural difference during their time in the states?

No recycling

Ok, so it isn’t like there is NO recycling, but compared to the intricate and multicolored German waste management system, it is pretty close. Our diplomats are used to sorting out glass–sometimes even by color, plastics from paper, and returning used bottles to the grocery store to be reused. In the U.S., it can sometimes be difficult to just find a recycling bin in a public area.

Eating at your desk

Working through lunch is pretty frowned upon in Germany. Germans would prefer take a half hour off and enjoy some fresh air and company.

Greeting strangers

The U.S. is considered to be very friendly and open. We smile at strangers when we pass them on the street, and maybe even throw in a “How are you?” or coo at their dog or baby. In Germany, this happens a lot less frequently with people you don’t know. On the other side of the coin, it may explain why your “Hallo, wie geht’s?” in Germany was met with some hesitation.

So many options

Long gone are the days of grabbing some Muesli and milk at the Lidl down the road. Entering an American grocery store can be an overwhelming experience for a German. There are walls of products just for peanut butter and jams or types of cereal. How to choose, our diplomats ask?

Drinking Laws

Each state is a new adventure in America when it comes to drinking laws. Though open container laws are pretty standard nationwide, our diplomats have been caught off guard by laws on opaque bags to disguise purchases when leaving the store or beer not being allowed to be sold in the same place liquor is.