Germans don’t care for sandwiches

A while ago, my friend Susanne emailed me a link to this article as we talk about different feedback cultures quite a lot. “Ah, my old friend, the sandwich approach!” I emailed back. If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you might remember two previous articles (Without Compliments and “But I told you!”) which mentioned the approach and some German reactions to it. The article Susanne now sent to me was an interesting read from an intercultural perspective as it gave a very German (and very exclusively German) viewpoint on why the sandwich approach is a “communication madness”. This German viewpoint might enlighten some expatriates working with or for Germans as to why Germans don’t care for the sandwich approach. Continue reading “Germans don’t care for sandwiches”

“But I told you!” – “No, you didn’t. Or did you?”

Whenever I tell the ladies in the British Club: “I would write it like this…” or “I would just say…”, they give me the look. The look is both wary and resigned, the unspoken message being: “Your way of communicating is too direct, we don’t do things that way.” (Of course they wouldn’t actually say it to me, but I’ve learned to read the look 😉 ). The direct way is considered rude in Britain, even though some British people told me that sometimes the situation created by not talking openly can be rather burdensome. (Of course I then ask: “Why don’t you just talk about it then?” and get the look again.) Continue reading ““But I told you!” – “No, you didn’t. Or did you?””

I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine

This morning I sat in a doctor’s waiting room, happily engrossed in ‘Cosmopolitan’ (I’m always delighted when doctors have good magazines in their waiting rooms, though as a good uncertainty avoider I always take a book along, just in case). There was just one other person in the waiting room, so fourteen of the sixteen chairs were free. An elderly man entered the room and of the fourteen free chairs, he chose the one next to mine. Now, that annoyed me to no end and nearly took the fun out of ‘Cosmo’. In Germany, there is an unwritten rule for waiting rooms: you don’t sit on the chair next to someone if there are enough other free chairs. You at least leave one free chair between yourself and the other person. (Same with benches in the town or a park, by the way: you don’t sit next to someone you don’t know on a bench when there is a free bench nearby). Of course it’s not the law and nobody will say anything if you don’t stick to the rule, but it’s basically how it’s done and the majority of people stick to it. Why is that so? Because of personal space. People have their personal space and one doesn’t get too close because it’s rude. I’m old enough to have seen “Dirty Dancing” in the cinema and when thinking about personal space, I always have this vision of Patrick Swayze telling his Baby: “This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.”

Continue reading “I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine”

With(out) Compliments

Last week it happened again. I was talking to someone from Britain. I made a compliment and her reply was “Oh, you’re just being nice.” As always when this happens, I was a bit… irritated is too strong, rather: taken aback. Of course as a good interculturalist I know why this happens, but still…

Now, what am I talking about? I’m talking about the British and to some extent American way of replying to compliments with comments like “Oh, you’re just saying that / you don’t mean that / you’re just being nice.” For the British, this is part of not showing off. Even if they consider your compliment completely warranted, they would never say so. Visit your chum, the Earl of Soandso, in his beautifully kept Elizabethan stately home and say “What a lovely house!” and the answer is likely to be “This old hut? Well, at least it keeps the rain off.”

Continue reading “With(out) Compliments”