Sunday, May 5, 2013

Differences Between Germany and the USA

Over the course of my time abroad, I have noticed many similarities and differences between Germany and the USA. Most of the similarities arise from the fact that both are developed and westernized countries—both have cars and roads, supermarkets and fashion trends. But there are also many differences between these two world powers. Some differences are major, like beliefs about political systems and the environment, and some are minor, such as food preferences and cell phone plans. In this blog I am going to list a few of the more minor differences, purely for the sake of entertainment—I’m not an anthropologist making sophisticated hypotheses. These differences have been observed during my time traveling, speaking to German people, and listening to American people who have been living in Germany. Enjoy!

  • Free public toilets are virtually unheard of in Germany. You can find them in train stations and at rest stops, but you must pay to use them. Public restrooms are easy to find in the US, and are almost always free.
  • In Germany jelly donuts have far less jelly, and pastries usually aren’t as sweet.
  • In Germany the sales tax is included in the price of an item, while in the US tax is added at checkout.
  • Everything is smaller in Germany: houses, cars, people, animals, televisions, beds, refrigerators, and food portions.
  • Graffiti in Germany is more like art—it is high quality and tastefully placed. In the US, tagging and raunchy scrawl are much more common.
  • In Germany, women will often skip wearing a bra in the summertime, and if they wear a bra they are careful to hide it with loose clothing. American women wear bras on principle and don’t care if the bra shows through their tight shirts.
  • While US restaurants often stop serving food around 9 or 10 pm, in Germany food is usually served until midnight. People come to restaurants late and stay for a long time.
  • When you reserve a table in Germany, it’s yours for the night, and after the waiter or waitress brings your food they will leave you alone until you flag them down for the bill. In the US, waiters will continually check in on their tables, and it is expected that diners will leave soon after they have eaten.
  • It is frowned upon to ask to take meal leftovers home with you in Germany—they are typically thrown away. In the US, asking for a box is the norm. 
  • In Germany, it is considered to be very rude to ask for free water with your meal—you are expected to buy chilled bottles of water, either still or sparkling. Also, public water fountains are extremely uncommon, while in the US free water is easy to obtain nearly anywhere.
  • Germans think that cheerleaders are fictitious. They believe cheerleaders only exist on television as tacky add-ons to a show, but have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that cheerleading is a common part of US culture. Germans tend to view the concept of cheerleaders as preposterous, sexist, and degrading.
  • The drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and 18 for hard alcohol, though the laws are not enforced and drinking is not an area of public concern. In the US the drinking age is 21 and the laws are strictly enforced.
  • In Germany, jaywalking is taboo and can get you into big trouble. In the US it is commonly accepted.
  • There are no closets in Germany; families buy heavy wardrobes instead.
  • In Germany houses do not come with their kitchens; stoves, counters, refrigerators, etc., are bought once and move with the family. In the US kitchens are part of the house.
  • Germans usually buy homes with the intention of living there for the rest of their lives, while Americans will switch houses much more often.
  • In the US, coffee shops are places for people to hang out, read, study, and use the free wifi. US coffee shops have a wider beverage selection, and each coffee shop has a unique atmosphere and culture. In Germany, coffee shops are places to drink coffee and leave.
  •  In the US, book stores are equipped with arm chairs and coffee shops, they are open late (often till 11pm) and on weekends, and people are welcome to browse and read as they please. In Germany, book stores discourage browsing, do not have coffee shops or a welcoming atmosphere, and they close early and on weekends.
  • In the US, highways and driving instructions usually use compass points to guide you. Highways have names such as I40 West and I40 East. In Germany, they drop the compass direction and add a city name, so that you have to know the location of the city and where it is in reference to your destination. Highways have names such as B1 Nürnberg and B1 München, and drivers are supposed to know that München is south of Nürnberg. This gets harder when signs use obscure villages as directional points.

For a more intelligent and in-depth comparison of Germany and the US, you can visit the following website:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sunshine! I just read your letter which was sent out with your graduation announcements. It is beautiful and I am going to have all my kids read it. You have an excellent way of communicating in a descriptive and exciting way. Looking forward to hearing more. Congratulations on all of your experiences and accomplishments!