In May 2015, I wrote a piece on this blog called “The high price of giving someone the finger in Germany”. That particular post has proven to be somewhat “evergreen”. I still get a lot of hits on it, even though it’s over two years old. I suspect people find it when they hear about Germany’s rules about not insulting people when driving and not cussing out the cops.
Lately, the weather over here has been pretty depressing. I think it’s starting to get to people. Over the weekend, there was a very long thread in one of our local Facebook groups about how “rude” Germans are, especially in the Stuttgart area. A lot of Americans chimed in, agreeing with the original poster that people here can be cold, insulting, and unpleasant. Quite a few Germans from other parts of the country have also written that this part of the country isn’t like the rest of Germany. Some have even said that people here… well… they can be assholes.
While I have been yelled at more than a couple of times by locals, I personally don’t agree that people here are any more unpleasant than in other parts of the world. What I have found is that Germans, as a whole, can seem uncommonly blunt and/or assertive about some things. The Stuttgart area is part of Swabia, which is apparently considered “different” somehow than other parts of Germany. Indeed, there is a dialect here that even native German speakers say can be hard to understand. Swabians, as a whole, have a reputation for being very tight with their money and uptight in general. However, reputations are really just stereotypes and not everyone lives up to stereotypes.
Trixi demonstrates how different German dialects can sound, even to native speakers.
When Bill and I moved back here in August 2014, I befriended a local on Facebook. I still haven’t met her in person, but she follows my blog and often gives me useful tips. One very helpful piece of advice she gave me was to read Your Swabian Neighbors. Written by American Bob Larson, who once served as a military liaison between German government officials and American military officials, this handy book is all about the idiosyncrasies of life in Baden-Württemberg for those who aren’t actually from this area. Larson, who married a Swabian woman and lived in Germany for many years, published his book in the early 80s. Though some parts of the book are dated, a lot of the information still holds true today. I’m thinking it may even be time to re-read that book as, after three years, I am starting to miss my homeland a little. At this point, there’s no telling how much longer we’ll be here.
Sometimes Americans in Germany advise others to “flip the bird” to people who piss them off in some way. I know this is not a good idea when driving or dealing with police officers. Nowadays, most everyone has a camera on their phones and if it can be proven that you used an obscene gesture, you can be fined up to 4000 euros (although my local friend says this isn’t the usual fine). It’s probably not a good idea to flip people off even if you’re not driving, though. Germans like their fines.
I see the original list of insults I included in my first post about this has been updated. Here’s the translated list for your amusement. Some of the insults are pretty funny.
I know it’s tempting to fire back at people who yell at you, but you might want to hold back from using obscene gestures or engaging in namecalling…
It’s not always easy living in another country, even when it’s Germany, which has some things in common with the United States. I know people get frustrated. I get frustrated, too. And I will even agree that sometimes dealing with locals can be infuriating.
On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the kindness of locals. In fact, on Saturday, Bill and I went to a grocery store and picked up just one item. The lady ahead of us saw that we had a small order and enthusiastically invited us to go ahead of her. In my neighborhood, my neighbors threw a block party and invited Bill and me to attend. Every morning when I walk my dogs, I am sure to hear at least one “Guten Morgen” from other dog walkers or my neighbors. They usually sound like they mean it, too. Sometimes they even smile!
Even the vet where we take our dogs has taken a shine to us. I’ve been having some problems wearing my contact lenses lately. I’ll wear them for a few days with no problem, then one or both of my eyes will suddenly get really irritated. Last week, I took Zane in to his vet for an allergy shot and she asked me if I was okay. It was probably because I was wearing my glasses and hating it. But she noticed I wasn’t myself and genuinely wanted to know if I was alright. That’s a far cry from the usual “How you doin'” you get in the States where the person doesn’t actually care how you are and doesn’t expect a truthful response.
So… the moral of this post is, assholes are everywhere. I don’t think there are any more assholes in Swabia than there are in other parts of the world. It may just seem that way, especially to Americans, due to cultural differences, the occasionally harsh sounds of the German language, and, maybe, even the gloomy weather we’ve had lately.
If you ever feel tempted to flip someone off or call them names, take a minute to consider all of the awesome vacation destinations in and around Germany. Wouldn’t you rather spend 4000 euros on a cruise somewhere or a first class flight? I know I would.