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Cultural Differences Between the USA and Germany

Published on Jul 19, 2021 by Kfir Cohen

The USA and Germany are two of the most powerful countries in the world. Still, they have very different cultures and political systems. We dare say that the apparent similarities between these two countries are their prosperous economies and the high standard of living of the average citizen.  


What’s on this page?

01 | Germany’s sense of order
02 | Credit card and cash payments
03 | Efficiency and Punctuality
04 | Public transportation
05 | Working hours 
06 | Public Nudity
07 | Customer Service
08 | Moving to Germany


Germany’s sense of order

Germany is famous for its orderliness, which is evident in its citizens’ lives regarding their daily activities. They believe in an unscripted or unwritten path in a society that everyone must follow judiciously; this is termed ”Ordnung”. The phrase ”Ordnung muss sein” literally means there must be order. It has been incorporated into every activity they participate in, especially when it comes to business.

One famous saying when it comes to ”order” in the German culture is ”Ordnung hat Gott lieb” (Orderliness is next to Godliness). The Germans believe that life becomes more straightforward and less complicated; therefore, they see anyone living a complex life as not orderly.

This sense of orderliness is very different when it comes to American culture. Americans are famous for their carefree lifestyles and general laissez-faire attitude to things. Americans love to question the status quo and will fight to the death for anything they believe.


Credit card and cash payments

For a very long time, the Germans have loved using cash to make most of their payments. In their culture, they believe that cash is king over every other mode of payments and so have stood by it for years. Compared to other countries in the European Union, Germany is known to be a lover of the cash form of payments. The Germans would prefer to even pay vast amounts of money in cash.

However, this trend is somewhat changing due to the global pandemic that broke out last year. It has resulted in many people starting to resort to using a cashless system for their transactions. According to research, unlike the Germans, the USA performs more transactions using a credit card or cashless system than when using cash.

America is almost close to being a cashless country, so for any American in Germany, you might want to ditch your cards for some cash.


Efficiency and Punctuality

When it comes to the working culture in Germany, they are known to be hardworking and like to make most of the opportunities they get. Punctuality has been one of the notable marks in German culture. You would be surprised how they take punctuality very seriously. There is a saying in Germany that,” it is better to be five minutes early than one minute late”.

So when you give a German time for an appointment, let’s say at 2:00 pm, expect them to be there before that time or even exactly on time. They try their very possible best to be punctual and so hope that same from others. In the German culture, being late to a meeting or an appointment can be seen as rude; this might come as a cultural shock to foreigners living in the country.

In the United States of America, punctuality and efficiency are seen as very important when dealing with other people and working. There’s a high price on being efficient and punctual in the USA, but as compared to Germany, it’s not as strictly followed as you will have it.

Read more: 12 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Germany


Public transportation

When it comes to transportation, Germany has one of the best transportation systems in Europe. In Germany, public transportation is key and greatly depended on by its citizens. With the vast array of modes of transportation, it is said to be easy to live in any of the big cities and not one a vehicle.

When it comes to public transport in Germany, the culture of being early or on time can be seen. They greet almost everyone, including children they come into contact with on the same public transportation. Germans like to also pay in cash when using public transport and only on few occasions pay with credit cards.


Working hours 

The working hours in both cultures depend on whether the job is full-time or part-time. In Germany, a full-time position averages 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week. In 2011 according to research, Germany had one of the lowest working hours among 26 countries. Working hours in Germany are becoming more flexible in recent years.

The number of people working part-time has increased in the past years, and this gives the people the chance to earn a living and do other kinds of stuff which are important to them. Businesses in Germany allow more flexible hours for new employees who are starting their work anew.

The working hours in the USA are also dependent on whether full-time or part-time. In the USA, it is more common to see people working extra hours, and an average of 20% of American adults work more hours than German adults. The law gives several working hours and makes space for people who want to work more to earn more.


Public Nudity

The idea of public nudity is part of the German culture with little regard for nudity except in extreme cases with people complaining, and then it becomes illegal. This culture is even severe in certain areas, such as the beach, where people can be walking about completely naked with no clothes with no one caring.

It has been around for decades, and though it has reduced in certain parts of Germany, it can still be seen. In the USA, exposing certain parts of your body can warrant your arrest, especially when it offends the general public.


Customer Service

Customer service in Germany is basically non-existent, unlike in America, where your business can be ”canceled” if you have poor customer service. So do not be surprised or take offense if you search for a waiter in a restaurant in Germany to be acknowledged. In Germany, be prepared to ask for everything you need assertively.

We will admit that Americans have one of the best customer service records and probably go overboard with it. 


Moving to Germany

If you’re moving from the US to Germany, there are a few things you should know about the main cultural differences between the two. Being unaware of these differences can cause you a great deal of embarrassment and can even damage the first impression people get of you.

Want to start with the right foot? The first thing you should know is that you NEVER call soccer “soccer”. It’s football. It has been for ages. Now, after we’ve covered the most important lesson it is time to move on to more cultural differences between Germany and the US.

By Kfir Cohen

Kfir Cohen is handling global operations, cargo shipping, negotiation, and management of different suppliers around the world. He has more than 15 years of experience in the avant-garde of relocation and the sea/air freight business.
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