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Dating Etiquette in Germany


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Dating in itself is a very personal and sophisticated matter. Any advice can hardly be appropriate here. According to Lynne, an American living in Germany, " ... if there's any genuine connection between two people, it'll survive whatever differences may arise in the early stages of dating, and if those differences seem too overwhelming and/or the relationship doesn't survive for other reasons, trying to make too many adaptations in the early stages is NOT going to help! The most that any such "advice" can normally do is perhaps to spare an occasional bruised feeling that might result from a minor misunderstanding. And where German and American cultures are concerned, the potential for culturally-based misunderstandings is relatively negligible, so if two people aren't open-minded enough to try to work through such insignificant differences, the relationship doesn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell of surviving anyway."

However for most people whose sweetheart is German, a foreigner, there are plenty of cultural nuances and minor difficulties resulting sometimes in an alienation. Why not try to avoid it? Let's listen again to Lynne, the expert in human relations in general and in relations with a German man in particular. Being an American, she has unique experience of successful dating and communicating with a German. Here are her practical recommendations and advice for American women dating German men (can be vice-versa: for American men dating German women):

: wub : For the most part, you don't need to worry particularly about any major differences, mostly because gender roles here aren't significantly different from what they are in the States. For the most part, you can treat him pretty much like you would almost any American man. For example, if you're the old-fashioned type, he's quite unlikely to complain if you expect him to pay for most of the dates; he'll probably half-expect it. But if you happen to be a supporter of women's rights (and the responsibilities that go along with that), feel free to pay for the dates sometimes or half the time. It might surprise him a bit, but he will most likely appreciate it, especially if he's on the pitifully low budget that most students are on. He'll probably try to pay the bill anyway, as Germans often fight each other for the "privilege" of paying the bills, but you can then secretly pay the next bill when HE's not looking. Or, if he's the real old-fashioned type, like some American men are, he might have the perverse response of thinking that his manhood's been insulted. But if he's as young as in his 20s, that's highly unlikely. So feel free to follow your normal instincts in this regard. If you feel unsure what his attitude might be about such things, feel free to ask him! Direct questions rarely offend Germans (assuming the question isn't too personal), and they're typically more than willing to give straight-forward answers.

: wub : Germans and Americans have a few different standards regarding what constitutes "politeness". Americans tend to define politeness in terms of "friendliness": smiling, telling "white lies" to avoid hurting people's feelings, pretending to like people even if we don't, saying "Hi, how are you?" whether we really care how they are or not, etc. Germans, however, tend to consider "respect" to be the proper way to show "politeness", and "respect" assumes that the other person wants an honest answer, not some pretty little "white lie". So, if you're really wanting your ego stroked, DON'T ask him, "So, how d'you like my new dress?" You might not like the answer that he gives. Likewise, DON'T EVER say anything to him "just to be nice" if you don't really mean it; he is too likely to take you quite literally at your word and then be terribly hurt later when he finds out that you didn't really mean it.

: wub : Don't try to make too much "chit chat" or "small talk" with him. Most Germans know little or nothing of the art of talking about banal, superficial topics as a way of "breaking the ice" with new acquaintances; that custom belongs to American-style "friendliness" and is not part of German "respect". Germans also often react negatively to the shallow, superficial quality of casual friendships/acquaintanceships in the U.S., and so he might react negatively towards you if you engage in much "light" conversation. If you're looking for good topics for conversation, try: politics, current events, philosophy, or any subject he's studying in school.

: wub : Don't be afraid to voice opinions that might be different from his; if your opinion is at least logical, well-reasoned, and well-informed, he will more likely respect you for having your own mind, rather than be offended by you for having a different opinion.

: wub : And if you DON'T know much about international politics, news, current events, foreign cultures, etc., then LEARN! FAST! Americans have an international reputation for being extremely ignorant about the rest of the world -- because most Americans ARE ignorant! Germans, however, usually are NOT!!!


Exercising Your Sense of Humor

Laughter is known to be one of the best ways of making friends. No good dating is possible without it either. Joking, horsing around, laughing make people more open, break any cultural barriers, and - yes! - help them fall in love.

There are some peculiarities of exercising your sense of humor with a German. Help yourself to some more advice from Lynne:

: wub : When it comes to humor, use some common sense. When you first meet most Germans, they might seem rather humorless, but after you get to know them, most of them can relax and enjoy a good belly-laugh as well as any American. And they tend to laugh at pretty much the same things -- except, of course, for anything specifically culturally or linguistically based. Your German date might not understand an English pun any better than you would understand a German pun, and he certainly WON'T know anything about "Leave It to Beaver" or anything about American culture in the '50s and '60s, though he MIGHT know more about American politics in the '50s than YOU know! He might also know Star Trek, the Simpsons, Home Improvement (called "Hoer mal wer da haemmert!" here), and quite a bit about modern Americana.

: wub : DON'T make any stupid, tasteless jokes about Nazis or saluting him and saying, "Heil Hitler!", etc. He's no more likely to be Nazi or neo-Nazi than your next-door neighbor is, and he's more likely to be a little on the sensitive side on the issue than your neighbor might be. You can ASK him anything you want to know about Germany during WWII (though perhaps preferably after you get to know him a little better), but don't make any jokes at his or any other German's expense. Most Germans have a bit of a guilt complex on the issue, even the very young ones, partly because so many nations throughout the world continue to seek to punish Germany for what happened 55+ years ago.

: wub : And another thing: while dating a foreigner, remember that love is all that matters, and everything else - inevitable reaction of the relatives, foreign language, new food, different climate - are mere trifles and you can overcome them TOGETHER.


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