And well, there have been plenty of things I have learned from Germans and Germany. I love Germans and the Deutschland so I am forever thankful for the lessons that entered my life. But – we can all learn from each other. With further ado here are the many lessons Germans and Americans can learn from each other.
Take LONG Vacations – This is a big problem in the US. Germans gladly take their vacation – and long ones too. Most Germans I know fly to exotic places every corridor. I admire their sense of adventure and global views to want to see the world. Most Americans start with 10 days of vacation per year or have to work one year with NO time off in order to earn 10 days of vacation. When you live in a different state than your parents, you’re basically screwed in having to choose a trip home for Christmas or that vacation abroad. Most Americans are stuck either financially or trying to rise up the chain in their job and taking a vacation looks “bad.” Germans believe that when you travel you not only see the world, but you are more productive at work.
Take Off Sundays and Holidays – In America, everything is open all day, everyday and even on some holidays. Germany may have the one Lidl in town that is open 364 days per year, but most every business shuts down. When I first moved to Germany I was bored out of my mind on Sunday. But now I love sleepy Sundays as it allows you to relax, detox from consumerism and spend time outside or doing things the old-fashioned way. In America, Black Friday is now trickling into opening on Thanksgiving night. When do people rest? I read an article in 2014 where a manager of Pizza Hut was fired because he argued with the owner about closing on Thanksgiving. He eventually got his job back from corporate, but said, “If we can't rest on a holiday, when can we rest?”
Work Efficiency – Both Americans and Germans work hard. We share that same drive to succeed and find some of our identity through work. But, Germans are more efficient and work their 37-40 hours per week and go home. Some businesses work longer, but on the whole Germans are more efficient. I love the story of a couple German people I know who work in the states who do not understand people who work 10-12 hours per day but for three hours are spending time shopping online, texting and chatting on Facebook.
Celebration Christmas Longer – If there’s one thing that Germans love its Christmas. As an American, I love Christmas and find German Christmas markets the most magical thing ever. Christmas cookies and home items are out in the stores in mid-October and you see Germans filling up their baskets with the yummiest cinnamon and ginger cookies. I think Christmas should be a three-month celebration, but you know what the hell do I know?
Better Public Transportation – Poor planning of the fifties has screwed urban planning of the states. Suburban sprawl makes America car dependent and with a lack of public transit (or negative perception) a car is a necessity unless you live in a dense city such as NYC or SFO. Life is so much more enjoyable when you can hop on a bus or a train. The German methods of transit are efficient and dependable (except for the occasional late DB train).
Use Zoning Laws – Germans were so smart when they created their cities. Their zoning laws have created dense urban cities, towns and villages. Even small towns such as Magdeburg or dying Eastern German cities are vibrant in city center. Zoning laws have prohibited major retailors from doing their business outside of city center. Thus, all major shopping is downtown, and when there’s more people there are more cafes and restaurants too.
Healthy Eating – Many people believe German food is heavy. And yes, wurst and potatoes are dense, but Germans eat and embrace healthy eating. It’s funny traveling with Germans around the EU they find the “English breakfast” offered at some hotels to be “gross” as there is no variety and it’s too heavy. Fruits and vegetables are a part of the German diet and most who’ve visited America found it difficult to eat healthy. Many Germans do not understand why fruit and vegetables are so much more expensive in the states or why sugary drinks are a part of the American diet. I feel like our diet is half plastic and half pesticides. It’s exhausting the amount of energy we have to spend to figure out what the hell is in our food. Doner kebabs are Germany's number one preferred fast food, but half the meal consists of lettuce, tomato, onions, purple and green cabbage and cucumber.
Affordability - In most German cities, life is affordable from apartment rents, services to grocery prices. Germans earn average wages. An engineer in Germany will make less even in Euros compared to an American engineer. Part of this is due to cost of living, but another is from a sense of reasonable wages. I looked at several marketing consultants in the states to help me with my book, Finding Om. Some charged up to $600 per hour. How can a middle class author who spent 2.5 years writing a book for free afford that? In the energy healing world, I know many talented healers who charge $300-400 per session. This blisters my mind for two reasons. One - When comparing life to other cultures, American wages are relatively good, but most struggle because of high cost of living (and consumerism). Second, is that my heart and soul is pretty much a non-profit-mentality existing in a human body. People who charge those ungodly wages just contribute to the problematic cycle in America. The "regular" people who truly need an energy healer or consultant's help cannot afford those prices. I can't say for sure, but if a German charged this to average people, I am not sure if their business would survive in Germany? Germans are practical and could only see B2B charging these rates.
Quality of Life – As an American, I know that a person can become homeless or get into medical debt overnight. That is very unnerving and there is no sense of security especially if a person is lower middle class. After the crash, America has become very unpredictable and I believe part of this contributes to American mental health. In Germany, it is near impossible to be homeless unless you choose to be destructive and/or become a drug addict. Germany is gun free and Germans are diplomatic. Yes, there is still crime in Germany, but there is a sense of safety especially as a woman who sometimes travels alone. All, but especially the young, Germans love to enjoy the pleasures of life. Whether it’s at a techno, work or art party, Germans of all ages flock the dance floor and dance the night away. They don’t need to be wasted to dance and enjoy life.
I watch children play outside and sometimes cried watching them because American children do not have the same life I had when I grew up in the eighties and early nineties. Here, kids and teenagers take public transit because it is okay and safe. These are the same feelings I felt when I lived in Australia. At times I’ve gotten so mad because it is now unnerving to go to a movie in America, which is probably one of the safest places for our teenagers to visit.
Smile More – Northern Germany has a colder personality than the smiling Bavarian culture. I have many “non traditional” German friends who are the happiest creatures but sometimes the older crowd can add a bit more friendliness to their culture. And just to mention, even if an American says to you, we are not superficial – we are friendly. I believe there is a distinct difference between being honest, superficial and rude.
Better Customer Service – Americans work – a lot. The one thing that no one can beat Americans at is customer service. Sometimes I think the CS in the states is a bit overboard to where a person can bitch and complain until they get what they want, but German businesses can improve upon their customer service. When a waiter arrives at the table with no smile and says, “Was fur trinken?” (What do you want to drink?) it comes across as rude. Or when a business takes 4-8 weeks to reply to your email (or never replies) it’s mind-blowing as promptness is a part of customer service. I do not understand that logic of someone wanting to give you money but taking a month to respond.
Following Rules is Not a Law but Merely a Suggestion – For every article about Germany that expresses the whole standing-at-a-red-light-thing is true. It blisters my American rebel mind that following the rules while standing at a red light at 3:00 am while no traffic is around is still followed. It makes you feel so uncomfortable if you cross that light while others stare at you with Darth Vadar eyes. It’s okay to live outside of the box. I had a person once say that America is a country filled with rule-breakers. And well, I agree to that.
Breaking the Rules Can Lead to Innovation – To go with the above, breaking the rules can lead to world-changing ideas and innovation. When constantly in the box, its difficult to grow, expand and be creative.
Stop Assuming - To further go along with the above, many non-traveled Germans have a stereotype that Americans are fat, stupid and lazy. And in Germany’s defense, many European believe this. It’s not just Germany. People tend to assume these things, but yet consume our products and love our ideas. Yes, obesity is a problem, but Americans are hardworking, innovative and creative. Yes, we have our arrogant jet setters, but other cultures have them too. I remember being a kid and being so proud to be American as our athletes whooped the shit out of other countries in the Olympics.
Relax and Laugh - It's no secret that American humor pushes the buttons. In fact, I am ashamed that American humor has transformed into vulgar expressions that no longer shares good and clean jokes. I do think Germany is expanding their humor department, but some can let go and not take things so seriously. Uptight Germans can learn how to loosen their top button, smile and laugh a little bit more.
Being Too Private - I love how German's are private people. In fact, Americans can learn to be more private especially on social media. I can't blame Germans because of their history, but many locals find it "weird and creepy" about the US government spying on people's account. I agree, but I am also a realist that understands we live in a different world. And yes, what Obama did to Merkel is just down-right wrong. Many years ago when there was actually something worthwhile to watch on television, I saw a National Geographic show on terrorism. The program showed how the US government caught terrorists who communicated through world-wide online video games. So people from around the world plugged into this one game and communicated to each other through moves and weapons. So, for example if someone pointed their gun upwards twice it communicated a "yes" answer. Interesting, huh?
Most everything is rooted back to numbers, data and statistics. I really don't believe the US government gives two-shits about people posting about their vacation in Zanzibar or what they ate for dinner last night. They are searching for meta-data, keywords and continuous hits on a certain subject. It's a sensitive topic, but understanding the positive side to this is ideal. Because if the US wasn't doing it, the next money-making country, Germany would have to step in. And we all know Germany does not want to get involved with another war.
In the end, cultures are cultures and we all learn from each other. There are plenty of qualities that the two countries share, but those that are different, we can learn from one another and create a better world to live in.