can I just say: I’m so blown away by the number of people on here who are learning german. my entire life I’ve been told by foreigners that it’s an ugly and angry language which I didn’t understand because to me it’s really beautiful. and seeing so many of you interested in it is really nice. I know many people are studying it for economic opportunity or because it’s got a lot more resources than less known languages but it’s still great to see people express such a wide interest in my native language and I hope you know you can always come to me with questions or to practise because it actually makes me very happy to see people doing their best to speak my language with me.

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.


Max Liebermann - Two Riders on the Beach by Irina

Max Liebermann [German Impressionist Painter, 1847-1935]

when I try a dialect

me: i’m so confident, I’ll be fine in Austria, how different to German can it be?

me: servus! wie geht’s dir?

them: konnsd dialekt? boaa des is echt onaschta, i kenn koane ondare leit, de österreichisch kina! I woas doss des gonz schwa is.. wonn hosd unsa mundort gleant? Leansd des in da schui? Na.. ma lernt normalaweis hochdeitsch, gö?

me: servus 


die Qual der Wahl - when you can’t decide between options (lit: the torment of choice) 
den Löffel abgeben - to die (lit: to pass the spoon)
mit dem ist nicht gut Kirschen essen - he is not easy to deal with, you shouldn’t upset him (lit: it’s not good to eat cherries with him)
Schmetterlinge im Bauch haben - the fluttery feeling in your stomach when you have a crush (lit: to have butterflies in one’s stomach)
blau machen - to skip class/work (lit: to make blue)
sich aus dem Staub machen - to flee, to bolt (lit: to make oneself out of the dust)
sich von jemand eine Scheibe abschneiden - to be more like someone (lit: to cut a slice off of someone)
Geh doch dahin wo der Pfeffer wächst! - Piss off! (lit: Go where the pepper grows!)
hinter schwedische Gardinen - behind bars (lit: behind Swedish curtains)
das Affentheater / der Affenzirkus - a charade (lit: monkey theatre / monkey circus)
jemanden etwas auf die Nase binden - to convince someone of a lie (lit: to bind something on someone’s nose)
kein Schwein - nobody (lit: no pig)
hundemüde sein - to be exhausted (lit: to be dog tired)
jemandem Honig ums Maul schmieren - to butter sb up (lit: to smear honey around sb’s mouth)
das Tohuwabohu - chaos
dasselbe in Grün - the same thing with a different appearance (lit: the same in green)
einen Korb geben / bekommen - to reject someone / to be rejected (lit: to give/receive a basket)
auf den Keks/Zeiger gehen - to annoy (lit: to go on the cookie/clockhand)