I’m not sensitive. I’m just not German.


Okay, most of you know that I am a sensitive person. In fact there is a category of people that psychologists call highly sensitive and I am one of the 20 percent of the population that is more sensitive to the world around us – emotionally as well as to physical surroundings. And despite what the post clearly states, I am not implying that all Germans are insensitive. That is just silly. Bear with me and you’ll know what I want to get at.

One of my probably erroneous favourite pastimes is to bitch about how rude people in Germany can be. They are in general very direct and it does can come across as being rude. It’s wrong and what you focus on expands and all that. Really, I believe in the power of language and emotion and how it can guide our tomorrows. But sometimes you just gotta have a good moan. I’ll stop for a while after this post. Promise.

I’ve lived here for just over a year now and have become immune to what people from Oz, the UK or America might consider as rude. Us Aussies like to take detours when it comes to saying anything negative. Being an Aussie with a Korean heritage makes this even more complicated when voicing desires. If I am hungry, for instance, and someone older than me who I am with asks me if I would like to eat, I wouldn’t necessarily say , “Thank god you asked because I am starving. Let’s get a pizza!”. No, that would be a bit forthright and unbecoming. So I would say something like, “Oh, you know… It’s not that I’m not hungry…Are you hungry?” All the while, hoping that the older person will suggest going out for a meal. Clear as mud.

I was saying to my mother in law the other day that the hardest part of living in Germany was not the language (no really) but actually adjusting to the cultural differences when it comes to communication. In general.

So when I was discussing a certain unpleasant exchange of words this morning involving some yelling and finger pointing (I was first the receiver of this lovely exchange of words until I had enough and became guilty of giving back as good as I got) to my father in law, he asked if I knew what the word ’empfindlich’ was. Like hell I do. I’ve got my B2 certificate <proudfaceemoticon>.

And then I proceeded to tell him about the cultural differences yadayadayada which had nothing to do with being sensitive and all about decent human interaction. And that shouting at a shocked mother (that would be me) on the street and finger pointing was not acceptable. That DM doesn’t take that type of garbage from anyone. When he asked why I responded to the lady in the way I did, the exact words were “Ich lasse mich nicht verarschen.” I don’t know if that is entirely applicable in my situation but it sounded good at the time.

So I before I close this unpleasant chapter of the day for a good while, I’d like to let you newbie German expats know that being shocked at the ‘rude’ German communication style will unfortunately be experienced at some point. If not to you (lucky! Where do you live? Or: Lucky! You must be soo evolved!), then to your friends and family. So you have a few options when someone just decides it’s in their right to have a go at what you’re obviously doing wrong:

1) Don’t participate. Ignore, move on and let the “Besserwissers” have the last say. This works for me most of the time. Feign ignorance, say in a very foreign-y accent that you don’t speak German or if you’re in a very international city, just say “I no English”. I ain’t got time for this kinda shizzle on a normally fab day. Life is sweet.

2) Apologise, agree with them and move on. I did that one time even though I knew that the person was out of order. “If only I was back in Sydney, I would never let them get away with this. Better still, this would have never happened in the first place!”, I angrily thought to myself. It made me feel like shit the whole day so I vowed never to do that again. Which brings me to the third option.

3) Participate. Engage in the ‘conversation’ in the style of the initiator. If they start yelling at you, yell back. If you can’t understand exactly what they’re saying, yell back slowly to s p e a k  s l o w l y (Koennten Sie bitte langsamer sprechen?). If your German is not at debating levels, then just give back in whatever language you fancy. Just. Do. Not. Cower. Your lack of language skills should not make you feel like you have nothing worthy to say or that you cannot stick up for yourself. You matter, your feelings matter and common courtesy matter. Just make sure that you are not in the wrong before you embark on a verbal world war. You cannot be wrong.

If it wasn’t clear, this morning I chose option three. I don’t feel good about it, but I would have felt shittier if I had taken option one or two. Sometimes it’s better out than in!

And that my dear friends is all that I’d like to say on this matter.


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