Cultural Differences

While we settle into our new apartment with our new furniture and our new lifestyle, we are learning things about each other and our friends. I love learning things about my G-Man; most things I learn make me cherish him even more. You get to see another side of your significant other when he is with his best friends. The same goes for him when I am with my friends; I get to be as crazy as I like and everyone expects that. With me, he speaks English and we watch movies, make/go out to dinner, normal relationship fun…. but with them, he can drink, eat terribly greasy food and speak his native language.

I get nervous hanging out with him and his friends because I don’t speak the language so well and it’s not fair for them to speak my language to make me feel comfortable. In the end it’s what neither of us wants. So I do a lot of staring off and smiling. I’m not entirely sure that this comes off as friendly… Either way, we’ve had two weekends so far that his friends have come and stayed.

The first weekend was amazing; his friends were so friendly and forgiving of my terrible German-speaking (something I am improving, slowly but surely) and they spent time listening, caring, teaching me their language. They took us out, and all my fears of not fitting in were unfounded…this time.

My new home

However, this past weekend was everything I feared and more. I’ve never been so uncomfortable in my whole life, and I’m not sure if it was the situation presented or our cultural differences.I felt incapable of speaking either German or English, and if/when they would ask me a question, I would answer in German if I knew how to, or English, but simple English. (English speakers know how to make their English more understandable, and lest anyone forgets, I’m from Boston, home of the wicked accent. Also, I have an affinity for vocabulary, something all of my friends back home know.) However, when I would talk to them, their eyes glazed over in complete disinterest or not understanding. If it was not understanding, I could try to work that out, but if it’s disinterest, well there is nothing I can do.

I found myself self-conscious of everything, thinking it was my fault our guest(s) would prefer looking at a door while ignoring my small talk, thinking how different I stick out in a room of pale German folk, wishing for the first time that I could go home where I could talk to people, and they would listen and understand me. And not being considered different. But this weekend made me feel as if I didn’t belong here. I felt hopeless and useless.I was a wreck. And when our guest(s) finally left, it left me with confusion. I love it here, I love my G-Man, and I just got a job as a teacher. This is my home now. But when it comes to other people, I can only hope my feelings of inadequacy subside. And I also hope that my next house guests try as much as I do.

My favorite place in Boston

There are a lot of goods and bads associated with being an American, but I’m proud to be from America, especially Boston, and that is something that has never changed in my life. I don’t consider America to be any better or worse than Germany, yet I do appreciate the differences and the way of life here. Home is where your heart is, and that is in Germany now. I’m blessed to never lose the manners I was raised to have, and the intellect I worked hard to obtain. This is universal; manners and the intelligence to use them are necessities in communication and interpersonal relations. I’m a firm believer that I should not have to endure the lack of manners, and I will hold firm to that belief no matter where I go despite cultural differences, as long as I consider those cultural differences.

Strange post, and yet true.



5 thoughts on “Cultural Differences

  1. Oh, sounds like a rough weekend.I think what you’re going through is meeting the friends on steroids (because of the language) paired with culture shock (because they are from a different culture). I’ve been there – and still am sometimes. I think unfortunately that can be part of being in an international relationship. I am German and my boyfriend is Italian (and my Italian is somewhere between nonexistent and rocky at best). I’ve had amazing times with his friends in Italy and I’ve had the most terrible times where not one person would even notice that I didn’t say a word for two hours. This type of stuff can mess with you. Just know, it’s normal, and it’s not you!! Meeting your significant other’s friends can be difficult since they’re (not yet?) your friends, but with added language difficulties it’s a mess. I wonder often how language can change your personality – for example, I bet his Italian friends either think that I am a snooty or boring person (because I don’t talk that much) or borderline stupid because I do the nod-and-smile thing excessively.

  2. I’ve had so many of those awkward social occasions, too, but it gets better over time. Trust me. 🙂 Also, I know it’s hard, but try not to take it personally. It just takes longer for Germans to warm up to people they don’t know. They just have different social cues. Just because they’re not smiling or they seem disinterested doesn’t mean they are disrespecting you or being impolite. Give it some time with them. 🙂

  3. Yes, we don’t mean it! 🙂 Be patient with us, we’re a little bit slow with the socializing! Don’t worry, you’ll fit in just fine. Just give it some time.

  4. Hi Ellie,
    I came across your blog a few days ago, and I’ve been reading some of your posts. My story with Germany, the German, and my life as an expat is a little too complicated to share over a post.
    I just wanted to let you know that I like your blog, and I can identify with a lot of your experiences. This one about the language barrier with your German boyfriend’s friends in particular.

    1. Well you can always shoot me an email and start a correspondence thing if you are interested. I love having people to talk to here, and I could use people who have a similar point of view. Best wishes to you and thanks!

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