Comparison USA-Germany

by Volker Weber

I found this comparison of stereotypes via Wolfgang's blog:

There are many stereotypes in Germany about life in the United States. Here I will try to compare these stereotypes to the reality in the US as I perceive it. In this comparison, I will also portrait the situation in Germany so that Americans might learn something about my country and Germans have something to criticize.

It is an interesting read, and a quite comprehensive one. There is one thing I found particularly interesting, where the author states about Americans:

People generally look down on smokers as losers.

Is this true? Smokers do not need to reply. ;-)

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That was a great read. Thanks for the link.

I am not a smoker, but I think that, yes, smokers are looked down upon. But the funny thing? Most of our sports stadiums are funded with 'Sin Taxes,' that is, taxes on cigarettes, beer, and liquor. So, while people may not like smokers, they don't have a problem with them paying for the stadiums.

I know that you have travelled to the US, Volker, what else strikes you between Germany and the US?

Gregg Eldred, 2006-05-23

Wow. That was a refreshing read. I must admit being surprised by some of the american behaviour (me? prejudiced?), but it was refreshing seeing germans being pretty accurately described. As an Englishman in Germany (but I think that this applies to any foreigner in any country), any attempt to make these kind of "my culture-your culture" comparisons fails with locals who have never lived abroad. A sort of knee-jerk protection mechanism kicks in, and you immediately go into an argument. Any kind of generalisation "All Germans...." immediately gets countered with "That's not true, Mr Schmidt in Beyersdorf is not like that".

An addition to the list of annoyances: the slip roads on german motorways are really small, and worse are those roads where you have cars accelerating to get on the motorway, along with cars slowing down to get out of it. No problem if you are driving a big car, but I got the shivers each time I got near one of these in my small Peugeot. ;-)

Andrew Magerman, 2006-05-24

Smokers -- losers or not, please stay away from me while smoking. I like to breathe.

Comparisons -- I don't know nearly as much about Germany as Wolfgang obviously knows about the US. However:
The trains in Germany are nicer and faster and more on time (but more expensive)
The food in Germany is better (in general, especially the bread, and the beer)
People in Germany tend to pay some attention to history (with some notable exceptions). Americans are idiots about history (again, with some notable exceptions)
More Germans (per capita) vote than Americans. Obviously.

Bob Balaban, 2006-05-24

Its true here. IMO, its a result of smoking being declared unhealthy and addictive and therefore morally bad. Remember how innately puritan the US tends to be. Even its liberals who would try to differentiate from the really religious types are ethically puritan. Once something has been called addictive and bad, it is morally wrong. There's no thought involved.

So, if its Wrong, you quite. Since you can't quit, you must not be "strong" enough, and thus are looked down on.

Think about your classic American movie heros. They're stone cold stoics. If its bad and you can't quit it, you're weak. The End.

We're the most successful theocracy on the planet.

Andrew Pollack, 2006-05-24

Andrew's comment is amazing. He draws a clear picture within only a couple of words. Interesting reflection and interesting man.......

Coen Aukema, 2006-05-24

As a Swiss I have lived for one year in the USA (Midwest) and for me the most confusing part was to answer my question wether similarities or differences overweigh. When you stay in your own country and read the paper on other countries, even well balanced articles tend to confirm your stereotypes, whereas living in the other country consequently blurrs that, although it also confirms many stereotypes.

As a Swiss, the most baffling experiences for me in the US were (a) when I opened up a bank account and the manager told me to write down the pin code of my desire directly onto the application sheet (in Switzerland that's a very diffucult = save procedure) and (b) when a senior citizen asked me in all seriousness if we have gazoline in Switzerland.

Philipp Sury, 2006-05-24

Yes, I'd agree with that assessment -- particularly out west, where I live. In many areas, smoking is not permitted in bars and restaurants, and certainly not in public buildings. Many companies have a no-smoking policy, so smokers have to go outside for a cigarette break. Smokers usually feel (and emotionally I want to add "for good reason") that they suffer from a private obsession which must be hidden from others.

Arguably, this is because smoking is universally accepted as unhealthy, and most nonsmokers (including me) do not wish to be around smoke. Las Vegas is the exception, but then gamblers are always taking risky chances.

However, this has regional variations, as do many of the points in that essay. Smoking is more common in the northeast U.S. (as is, by my own observation, obesity -- I figure it's because people are bundled up in coats to hide their bodies). Food in the midwest is more bland than it is on either coast; on the other hand, people are friendlier and prices are lower.

One perception I'd add to his essay: in the U.S., most people consider that German food must be very bad. They're always amazed that we *like* it. It's because most of the German restaurants here (which are surprisingly few, given that Germany is the most common country of ancestry) serve only gloppy Bavarian food, and not the best of that. My theory is that it's because the U.S. servicemen were stationed largely in Bavaria, so when they brought home a German wife she was usually from that region. As a result, we see a few kinds of wurst on the menu, weinerschnitzel, maybe a saurbraten -- and not much more. You certainly never see the range of wonderful salads served in even the most basic German restaurant, or soup, or a dessert other than apple strudel.

who owns about a dozen German cookbooks by now, some in German... and is always collecting more

esther schindler, 2006-05-24

Andrew M - the German slip roads are small? The one thing I always forget when driving in the UK is how dangerously short the joining lanes on merging motorways, and slip roads (at least around London), are. I much prefer the German ones. Perhaps it depends which part of which country one drives in??

vowe - excellent link with, as several others have said, a lot of interesting observations. And in the comments here.

John Keys, 2006-05-24

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