One of the biggest stereotypes that Americans have about Germans is that they’re very direct. And I’ve gotta say, since I moved to Germany, it’s become one of my favorite things about Germans.
I think that many Americans are so used to beating around the bush and hiding behind politeness, that true directness can be seen as rude. But there is definitely a case for being direct and saying what you think.
Here’s why I love German directness, and why Americans should start taking on this trait:
You Know Where You Stand
My German friends have very quickly become some of the people I go to advice for the most. Why? Because I know exactly where I stand with them.
If I’m doing something stupid, they’ll tell me. If I could be doing something better (German efficiency!), they’ll tell me. If they’re proud of me, they’ll tell me. I love this because I always know exactly where I stand with Germans. I don’t need to play guessing games of thinking, “well what if they were just being polite?”
There’s definitely something to be said for this. And it’s something I think we could all bring into our lives a little more.
No Beating Around the Bush
If I ask a German friend a question, there won’t be any hemming and hawing. They won’t make things sound better than they are. They’ll give their opinions, straight and to the point, and that’s that.
From there, what I decide to do is up to me. I have their opinions, but it’s up to me to make the real decisions. This brings a real sense of respect and responsibility to the relationship, as each person is seen as completely their own, capable of making their own decisions and taking responsibility for their actions.
Being Direct Doesn’t Mean Germans Don’t Have Fun
Just because Germans have a more direct and sometimes serious way of communicating, doesn’t mean they don’t have fun! Germans are some of the most fun, caring, and enjoyable people I’ve met.
I heard a phrase once that Germans are like coconuts. You need to get through their hard exterior, but once you get inside, they’re sweet and wonderful. And then you have a friend for life. Directness in communication is all part of this.
Germans, in my opinion, are direct because they care. They care very deeply about those they love and that they do well for themselves. From what I’ve experienced, they feel that beating around the bush and hemming and hawing doesn’t do anyone any good, and that it’s better in the long run to be “blunt.” When someone’s blunt and tells you exactly what they think, it’s easier for you to make a well-informed decision further on down the road.
Directness is all in the name of efficiency, and it comes from a very caring place.
Now, all this isn’t to say that Americans are meek or aren’t willing to share their true opinion. It’s just that I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told “Stop being so American and tell me what it is you want!”
Let’s make a pact to take a page out of the German book and be more direct with each other. Not to the point of rudeness, but in the spirit of caring. Let’s get out there and simply say what we mean.
What do you think? I’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher, yoga instructor, and is still getting used to being more direct!