Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

The things I really miss about America!


I decided to give yesterday’s post a bit more balance by describing some things that I really do miss about America.

1. Politeness. People are rude around here. Not really rude – just a lot more direct, I’d say. If they don’t like you, or don’t want to talk to you, expect to hear “I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk to you”. In America, people are much more friendly in that aspect. Even if they aren’t too fond of you, they’ll still help you. If you do something wrong in public here, you might get yelled at. In America, people are much more likely to politely ignore it.

2. Smile for once! Kind of in a bundle with politeness. People tend to have friendly looks on their faces in the US. They smile at people for no reason. They’re just … you know, they come across as much more friendly and more hospitable. If you’re an American and you’re thinking “That’s not true!”, please, come to Germany, and be convinced that it’s true.

3. Customer service. Non-existent in Germany. The checkout counter at the grocery store is a nightmare. The woman will be super fast and if you’re not fast enough at packing all your stuff away (because not a single grocery store has helpers!), the lady will just shove your stuff to the side. If you’re not prepared for that move, expect your stuff to drop to the ground. And if that happens – don’t expect a “sorry”. Expect a “why didn’t you get a cart goddamn!” (Uhmm, because I bought FIVE FRIKIN THINGS and you mean ol’ lady are totally overreacting?!).

4. Cash. Credit cards are about as normal as an elephant dancing in the middle of the street. Aside from bigger stores and gas stations, you’ll have a hard time finding places where EC is accepted. Restaurants and cafes? Cash. Smaller stores may even not accept EC (though it’s been getting better through the years I’ve been here). While that certainly helps you save some money, it’s annoying to be out and about, and then not have the cash for a cup of coffee. Where’s the next ATM? oh yeah, right over there – a mile away. Great. No coffee then.

5. Opening hours. There is no 24/7 in this country. Not a single one! Opening hours are something of a wild card. Everybody does what they want anyway. Except after 10 pm and on Sundays. And because all grocery stores are closed on Sundays, people go on saturday. This basically means that saturday at the grocery store is war – serious war. People shop as if all grocery stores were closed for a whole week on Saturdays. I’ve been told it’s a ritual. It’s just what you do. Well. It’s not fun.

6. Another thing about grocery stores: They are tiny. You have a hard time finding everything you want and need in one single store. It’s normal to run to 2 or 3 different ones. On Saturdays, of course. Cause that’s what you do. You’re lucky if the mean ol’ lady doesn’t beat you up with her walking stick on the parking lot (this, obviously, refers to point nr. 1).

7. convenience food. You’re groaning now, aren’t you? Blech, all she misses about America is convenience food? YES. YOU HAVE NO IDEA! convenience here means you still have to cook from scratch, it’s just the spices in the convenience food! There is no mac & cheese here! Actually, there is this weird pack for mac&cheese (with a big American flag on the packaging, teehee). It tastes nothing like mac & cheese, it actually tastes like thrown up mush. It’s terrible. There’s a store with an “American ethnic food” aisle here, but they don’t have much there. It’s very disappointing. I miss good mac & cheese, real BBQs and all that. Everybody who says America doesn’t have a food culture is an idiot. Southern cuisine goodies are unique.

8. Gas prices. Because gas costs an arm and a leg here (or, alternatively, your first-born son).

9. Friendships. Americans are big socializers. Friendships will come at a much faster rate, and your social net will be bigger there. It is hard to find friends here. Seriously hard. People are much more introverted and it takes a lot longer to reach a state where you can call somebody a “friend”. Though when you do find a friend, it will be genuine. It’s just so much harder.

10. National pride and holidays. People, please, on this year’s 4th of July, remember how lucky you are that you can celebrate this day without negative feelings. National pride is a negative word here (for obvious reasons). Nobody cares if you walk around with a flag in the US. The feeling of “one united nation” is much stronger. Enjoy that you live in a place where there is this type of community feeling. You don’t get that over here. Holidays are hardly ever celebrated as big as Americans do (except Christmas, that’s big here too). IDK why, but I feel that Americans simply have a more elaborated holiday and celebration-culture.

11. Politics. This is a very strange thing in both countries. In Germany, people aren’t really passionate about politics. It’s almost like they don’t even care. Yet, the percentage of people who go vote is much higher in Germany as it is in America. But in America, people are so much more passionate about it. Almost everyone has an opinion and discussing politics is a much more interesting topic than it is here. They actually care. I don’t know why so many people don’t vote despite the fact that it is a much more central issue in American social culture.

12. Religion. Yep, I said it. I like that people who are passionate about their religion don’t get funny stares. They do here. I’d go as far as saying that religious people here have to be embarrassed about their beliefs. Americans are a bit more open towards religiousness in general, and it’s also much more important to them. While it can be freeing to be relieved of religion, I also think it is very difficult for religious people here because they are seen as “nutheads” who don’t live in reality. Standing up to your beliefs is much more difficult, socially (mind you, I’m not talking politically, religious freedom is the same here. It’s a social/community issue).

Ok I’m going to stop here because I have to go to school, but it turns out I could easily add many more points to this list. I hope it is clear to everyone that these are not evaluations of better or worse, just like the last post. It’s just cultural differences. If we all were the same, wouldn’t that be really boring?


14 thoughts on “The things I really miss about America!

  1. Lol. Many of those points are the clichés people joke about Germans here in Spain (like being totally rigid in norms, not being very friendly or smiley, …) XDD We have the fame, specially in the south of being very warm friendly people, who are very lazy and love to party (funny that, since we also have more work hours per year than most other countries in Europe XP). Europe is a diverse place, for example in the UK there are also many 24/7 shops (and I miss that from I was there) but they don’t have many ATMs whil here in Spain everything closes on Sundays but you can pay almost everywhere with a debit/credit card or cash, there are ATMs every*fricking*where and we have big supermarkets and reclying bins on every neighbourhood and while in the UK they take pride in their Queen and country, here only rightwingers take pride in the flag (you can recognise them because they wear posh clothes with it on) and even if most don’t hate our King, we are almost all Republicans at heart. I hope you have a chance to travel everywhere you want, I had the opportunity to go to Toronto, New York and Japan with a state student grant and it was awesome (I really really loved Tokyo and Kyoto) and one of my dream trips it’s visiting Las Vegas and San Francisco =)

    • I think many clichees have some truth to them 😉 It doesn’t necessarily mean that Germans are unhappy or anything. I think they are very happy, but they don’t consider it the polite thing to do to smile all day, neither is it impolite. Just doesn’T matter that much I guess. The same goes for politeness: I think they come across as impolite, but they’re just very direct. That’s neither good nor bad, simply different. If you manage to get over the impolite feeling, you realize that they believe it is the polite thing to do to be straightforward and honest about things. Like, I’m not going to waste your and my time if I don’t like you anyway. That kind of thing.
      This also leads to funny situations, like, as an American I’m used to asking “How are you?” as a way to say hello, and I expect people to answer “I’m fine”. But because people are used to being direct, they don’t get that it’s just a line, so they will think you are genuinely asking how they’re feeling, and they will tell you the truth. This can result in very lengthy “hellos” if you’re not prepared for this. I’ve gotten used to it by now, and I only say “How are you” when I really want to know anymore hehe. But at least you instantly know that when somebody is asking you how you’re feeling, they really care to find out!

  2. The shopping part is very funny – and soooo true 😀

  3. I love your blog, and usually lurk. But out of lurkdom I come, to offer another perspective. Let me preface this by saying that I’m German born and raised.

    – Politeness: No such thing, People are either friendly or they aren’t. The plus side is that a) you don’t have to to pretend, and b) if others are friendly to you, it’s genuine. What you hear is honest. It may not be pretty, but at least you always know what you’re going to get.

    – Friendship: Same thing. There’s a difference between “acquaintance” and “friend”. True friendships take years to cultivate, whereas “acquaintances” come and go. Friends are the people that are secondary family, acquaintances are the people you hang around with.

    – Convenience Food: I admit, this one annoys me. On the other hand, I love cooking from scratch.

    – Religion: Why would you even want to talk about that in everyday life? In the part of Germany, where I am from (the deep south, but not Bavaria), religion is more private than your sex-life. In the last 400 years too many people have died in the name of God. Our memories are long, in my part of the world, so can we not do this again? My best friend since childhood is Lutheran. I’m Catholic. We support each other, and the football (soccer) teams we support create greater disagreements than our faiths. It doesn’t matter. Faith is private – why would you ever want more warfare, more dying, more hunger and strife? Why? Why? Why?

    (For further reference, see the Thirty Years War 1618-1648. In my part of the world, memories are long. We don’t want to see that sort of crap again. By the end of it, there were ten people left alive in my once prosperous village. Anyone tries proselyting here – been there, done that, didn’t work out, never going to do that one again. The ancient crosses for the dead from that time outnumber the survivors. Also: You can still see the principalities of 1648 in today’s “faith” maps. We’re not idiots. We damned well know that we’re Catholic, because our local prince was back in the day. By a stroke of luck we might all be Protestant. Nothing to do with actual belief. It’s a complicated issue in Germany, too complicated to say anything definitive about it, other than that people tend to react badly to missionaries.)


  4. P.S.: Sorry, all of that sounded way harsher than it was meant. Please take it for what it’s worth- which isn’t much.

    • Don’t worry, no offence taken 🙂 These very same arguments you mentioned I constantly hear from my friends! Thanks for adding your perspective, I think it’s a good addition to my post!

  5. Hi there fellow expat! I’m in Germany too, the northern part. I have to admit, my city is very cosmopolitan- there are even 24/7 gas stations with a convenience section. They’re open on Sundays, too, which is good when considering the chance of a Sunday night ice cream craving emergency (which happens more often than I like to admit).

    Ditto on the friendliness/politeness, except people in this region here seem to have adopted a way of being almost-but-not-quite polite. I think a lot of it is the language barrier though.
    I’ve been told it’s creepy of me to smile at people all the time and to say sorry repeatedly. People here really never apologize!

    Convenience food, how I miss thee! Except that this major city has started to become more like NYC and people from more rural parts are already amazed you can order in pretty much every single thing, and pay online when ordering, when they visit with me.

    Gas… or driving… well, most people I know just don’t drive. I think it’s a little scary because their license is for life yet they often haven’t driven a car in a decade, but who cares? We have Car2Go now!

    I think it’s interesting how relaxed the view of nudity is around here when compared to the view of violence, especially gun violence. THAT is the thing causing R ratings for movies around these parts.

    I think true friendship takes as long to grow here as it does back in the States, except I’m missing my social network of acquaintances here. People don’t just come visit, you have to invite them and set a date and prepare, and make sure your plans are inoffensive and… well, I’m not too fluent in German social customs still.

    Religion… I’ve had a few LDS missionaries in my apartment building (another difference: Very few people here own property, almost everybody rents), they’re the only ones actively proselytizing. I went to church once, just because I was lonely my first year here, but it wasn’t a social experience at all. There were a few old people in there, and nobody talked to anyone. Rather disconcerting, to be honest, and I say that as an atheist.

    Still, I kind of like it here. All the striking sometimes makes me think I live in a cliche version of France, though. (recommended reading: A Year in the Merde by Stephen Fry(?).)

    • Oh yes I should have mentioned that in my post: I’m describing bavaria where opening hours are a bit more particular than they are in the north. I have heard many times that the north is generally a bit more “cosmopolitan” if you will. Also, I do think large cities like Munich are not as prominent with the severe restrictions. The place I live is a smaller city (but over 100k), and we don’t have 24/7 shops.

      I have seen car2go!! Are people really using that on a regular basis? I think it’s such a great idea and I hope it catches on!

      Social customs really are difficult to acquire. I really had to learn that I can’t just casually say things to people: Like, let’s go for a cup of coffee some time, you should come over for a movie some time and stuff like that. Not only will people realize that you may only say that for politeness, they will also call you within 3-5 days to set a date for whatever you said! And you can’t say no because THAT is really impolite. Like, they will tell others how impolite you are, inviting them and then not going through with it.

      You are totally right about the smiling part. Though I have to admit, I’ve gotten so used to not smiling all the time that I now find it creepy too when people smile at me for no reason. Nobody does that… so why are they doing it?! They must be up to no good!

  6. Bavaria! Now you’ve GOT to tell whether there is a prevalence of Lederhosen or not (there aren’t a lot of transplants from the south up here). 😉

    At least around these parts car2go has taken. Most of the people I know and work with don’t have a car but regularly use c2g, or cabs. Mostly cabs. My city has a very active and very famous night life, and somehow I have a feeling people in Germany are more scared, or more responsible, about drinking and driving.

    I still haven’t gotten used to owning and riding a bike pretty much anywhere either. It’s the whole “Germans use their bike to go places, Americans go places to use their bike” conundrum. I just feel very much exposed and endangered when not enclosed in metal while on the road in this crazy traffic. I’m walking everywhere currently (which is very good for me, I’ve been told).

    Oh, the coffee date! I made so many mistakes with that one my first year! Plus all the rules about what time of the day it’s polite to call whom- makes your head turn, especially when considering people start calling you at work just because it’s past five pm.

    I was raised in the South (with a capital S), so not smiling comes very hard for me. I’m working on my appropriate neutral facial expression though.

    *g* I think someone should write a book to be handed out to all expats about all these rules (don’t get me started on table manners). Wouldn’t that make things so much easier?

    Hope you’re having a good time studying!

    • AAAh, Lederhosen. Well, they are obviously acceptable and you wouldn’t stare or be surprised if you pass someone in traditional clothing, but it’s not like you see it every day. Maybe like… every second day or so. There are some exceptions: Waiters and waitresses wear them in about 50% of the cafes/restaurants, and people typically wear them for events like fairs or other types of festivals. I own two dirndl myself. My friend had gained some weight and gave me the small one. I wouldn’t be able to afford one really, because you really fall out of line if you wear a c&a dirndl. It’s so easy to tell who is wearing a cheap one and who is wearing quality. The cheap ones are considered on the same level as carnival costumes – if you want to be respected, you have to invest 300 and up, but on average you’d spend much more. An entire outfit in acceptable quality (several blouses, fitting underwear that you absolutely need, several aprons in different colors and materials, socks, shoes and of course the dress itself, additionally jewelery like a charivari, a fitting handbag, the list goes on and on and on… ) would cost at least 700-800. So yeah, people don’t really wear it on a daily basis because it’s a very fancy dress.

      Yes, drinking and driving is a terrible offense for most people. All people I know wouldn’t drive after a single glass of wine. One of my friends actually didn’t want to drive anymore after drinking a Radler beer 3 hours before leaving.

      Calling times, yes, so difficult. I find the sunday calling rules difficult. You can’t call before 9 AM, but if you’re calling older people, they will be in church after 9AM. Then you can’t call between 11 AM and 1 PM because that’s lunchtime, but you also can’t call until 4-5PM because it’s time to relax and have coffee. So basically the only acceptable time to call seems to be between 5 and 7. I’m still not sure though… You never quite get used to it.

      I walk everywhere too. I don’t feel comfortable riding a bike in the city, especially because car drivers seem to get real aggressive….

      There really should be a book, kind of like wikipedia, with time tables and all that! I personally find that the internet isn’t even a good source to look up appropriate behaviors, there are so many things you can’t find correct information about. We would probably need a seperate one for bavaria. I’m not sure if it’s true but I keep hearing that bavarians are very different from the rest of germany. They sure are very a very particular bunch!

    • I also think they should put up warning signs on festivals. Festival beer has a lot more alcohol than normal beer. On top of that, it comes in a Mass (1 Liter!). Now imagine you’re at a Bavarian beer festival, and the poor unknowing American tourists order a Mass of beer each, blissfully drinking it as fast as possible – because the giggling Bavarian girls, knowing fully well what will happen, tell those Americans that “one Mass is for whimps! You have to drink at least three to be a REAL Bavarian! And drink it fast!”. It’s an orgy of vomiting. Groups of young Bavarians have made “getting Americans drunk” sort of a sport on beer festivals. And there are always plenty of victims…

    • You can wear Lederhosen at festivals, but you’d definitely be stared at in everyday life. You also have to realize that Bavaria has different parts. Northern Bavaria is different from Southern Bavaria, both in language and somewhat in culture. All the things stereotypically associated with Bavaria are really from Southern Bavaria, are much more readily found there, and even then it’s often something for the tourists. Munich is really a very modern city below the surface.

      As for the whole smiling and politeness thing. I’ll take directness or a middle ground over fake politeness any day. It’s enough if service personnel says “Bitte” when they hand you things and “Auf Wiedersehen” when you leave. I don’t need excessive politeness and catchphrases, which they only say because they’d get fired if they didn’t. People aren’t impolite – they are honest.

      I also don’t need people pretending they are my best friends immediately when meeting them when they really aren’t. America goes directly to the other extreme and it’s not great either.

  7. “10. National pride and holidays. People, please, on this year’s 4th of July, remember how lucky you are that you can celebrate this day without negative feelings.”

    I can’t. I hate almost everything about July 4th–the patriotic t-shirts, the nationalist pride, the way you get side-eyed if you don’t join in the cheerleading. I cannot celebrate that holiday without negative feelings, because my country has done A LOT of absolutely horrific things–and still stands by many of them. (At least the Holocaust isn’t remembered positively, at a national level, in Germany…) I’m not proud of the United States, and I’m not proud I was born here. While I can understand how some might find US patriotism to be a positive thing, those of us who don’t feel the same way are routinely ridiculed, threatened, silenced, or bullied in other ways.

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