blending in

Old Jan 18th, 2000, 10:46 AM
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blending in

i'll be in germany {munich} for 2 months {july & august}. i'd like tips on blending in while i'm there, my german is so-so {working on it} i'm not so much worried about the tourist stuff as i am living the experience of being german for 2 months, not as an american in germany. any ideas?
Old Jan 21st, 2000, 05:38 PM
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Hi Vincent! What a change to hear someone say they want to discard their American persona and try to adapt to their surroundings, in your case Germany. I went this route forty years ago, landing in West Germany without knowing a soul, and with very poor spoken German, but determined to 'blend in' as you put it. The ONLY way to go, is to resolve NEVER to speak anything but German, no matter what. This can be tough, especially these days when almost everyone under the age of forty speaks some English. But you have to go for it. Acquiring a German girlfriend can smooth the path quite substantially,
and is to be highly recommended if you want to make rapid progress.
Good luck!!
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 05:42 AM
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Buy a few chain store T shirts when you arrive.
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 12:38 PM
Ben Haines
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I like your approach.

Dress. Quiet colours, a tie on cool evenings (unless you're at a teenage rave). Jeans are fine, but pants (in the US sense) are better: no knobbly knees.

Speech. As people have said, please do what you can to use German -- hard though it is to resist everybody's kind wish to use English. In either langugage please keep your voice down in public places such as trams. If the person three seats away can hear what you say you're too loud.

Food and drink. The Germans are rightly proud of their food, wine, and beer. Please try them all, at whatever price level you can afford. If you can afford pub meals then you might follow my habit when I first went. Most pubs have a blackboard with the "Day's Specials", headed "Menu". There are menu 1, menu 2, and menu 3. I chose menu 2, the middle priced one, and then sat where I could see the board to find out what those splendid names meant: a Bauernschmaus was not a peasant mouse. Italian and hamburger restaurants are more common these days than pub meals, and have food you already know about. But it's a better idea to eat German, for good manners and for delightful surprises.

Please write I can help further. Welcome to Europe.

Ben Hanes, London

Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 12:52 PM
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Don't worry: body-language will give you away. I have asked Europeans what it is about Americans that they spot. First, they say, you walk with your hands in your pockets. Then, when you stand still, you often put both of your hands into your back pockets. Or you stand with your arms folded across your chests. Third, you walk with great confidence, you stride while we (Europeans) tend to amble. Fourth, when you eat, you switch your fork from hand to hand when you cut things. We almost always use our knife with our right hand and use our fork with our left (if we are right-handed, of course). You Americans often don't use the handle on your coffee cups. Instead, you curl your entire hand around the cups, balancing the cup's bottom with the fingertips of your other hand. Finally, most Americans tear off the end of a cigarette pack and tap out the cigarettes while we Europeans open the entire end, generally. You smoke with the cigarette held between the forefinger and middle finger, continually flicking off the ash with your thumb. Your shoes will give you away, especially if you wear those enormous white exercise shoes in places where more-formal shoes would be most appropriate. You Americans smile more than do we Europeans. You blow your nose at the table instead of turning to one side and leaning down. Europeans, especially eastern Europeans, tend to stare at strangers. This is very true of Turks. It means nothing. It's just a mannerism. Americans never stare, I was told; instead you act too friendly too quickly.
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 02:27 PM
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Two things we noticed first time in Germany. While passing people on a path in the Black Forest we would make eye contact and say "hello". Europeans seems astonished, and I was told that it was perceived as "brash". Also was told that one must wait for an introduction before having an indepth conversation. Second way i can usually identify Americans from Europeans: Shoes. People from Italy, (women) often wear dressy shoes in places we might wear sneekers, Eastern European often exhibit shoes of very inferior quality and style, Brits wear "sensible" shoes. American generally wear hugh white sneeks, or some kind of orthopedic looking sandels. Anyway, can't blend in, for as soon as they hear you speak, you are done in. One thing Europeans find distasteful about Americans (so I was told by someone from Brussels) is our way of talking loudly, talking to anyone speaking English in a restaurant, or being overly friendly or outgoing. This behavious is perceived as invasive. Any thoughts?
Old Jan 23rd, 2000, 05:58 PM
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On our last trip to Europe (Netherlands and Belgium), people who approached me spoke Dutch or German to me. I am a native English speaker (from the DEEP south U.S., no less) with a small French vocabulary. On prior trips to Europe, people always greeted me in English. My husband decided that it was my scarves which I just started wearing in the last few years. We never travel with athletic shoes. We rarely take blue jeans. I travel with and wear less make-up than I do at home. We are always treated with courtesy and, on more than one occasion, Europeans have gone out of their way to help us out. I do notice that the majority of the people whose conversations are too loud are English speakers.

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