How to be German? Top 5 steps!

Step 2 Say what you mean

English is not about what you say, but how you say it. German is both, but more the former. So what Germans say tends to be direct and prepared with minimal ambiguity. Ruthlessly efficient, if you will. In English, for example, if you want someone to do something for you, you do not merely go up to that person and ask them to do something for you. Oh no. That would be a large faux pas of the social variety. Instead you must first enquire about their health, their family’s health, their children’s health, the weather, the activities of the previous weekend, the plans of the upcoming weekend, the joy or sorrow related to the outcome of the most recent televised football match, and only then, finally, can you say “by the way”, after which you can begin the actual point of the conversation, before reinforcing that you feel guilty for having to ask, and only it it’s no trouble, but would they be so kind as to possibly do this little thing for you. You will be eternally grateful.

Germans do not dance around the point in such elaborate, transparent displays of faux friendship. They just say “I need this, do it, by this date”. Alles klar? then walk off. Once you’ve practiced regularly getting to the point, you may find the way to be short but very enjoyable.

As for saying what you mean, Germans have rightly realised that sugar coating is best reserved for cakes. If I’m having one of the my momentary delusions of grandeur, I know I can always rely on my German girlfriend to bring me swiftly back down to reality by saying something like “Get over yourself, we’re all born naked and shit in the toilet”.


The text is an excerpt of the Adam Feltscher’s “How to be German book“. Published in VOX blog by a kind permission of the author and the publisher.

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