Just How Polite are Germans Anyway?
Germans have a reputation for being very direct. They're formal, which can be really hard to figure out. And they like their relationships eingestuft (graded); a neighbor is a neighbor, not a friend and a colleague is a colleague until you become friends. Not knowing these cultural elements and having to learn them can be like playing bumper cars--sometimes you hit a big bump with the Germans, and it can feel awfully uncomfortable.
But there's one area where Germans absolutely rule with politeness, where my interest in German culture turned into reverence, and I hope it gives you a big insight into German culture, too.
It was the early-mid 2000s and I was attending a soccer game at the AufSchalke stadium (now the VELTINS-Arena), which holds approximately 62,000 people. Es ist eine gigantische Erfahrung! I have no idea whom Schalke04 was playing, but that obviously wasn't as impressive as what happened first.
The arena has a huge screen in the middle and the individual players' pictures were shown one-by-one.
With each picture the announcer would call out the first name: GERALD
And the audience (60,000 people!!!) would call out the last name: ASAMOAH
Then the next first name, from the announcer: TOMASZ
And the next last name, from the audience: WALDOCH
Then the next first name: KEVIN
Then the next last name: KURANYI
And on and on it went, through the 11 members starting the game, the coach and the assistant coach.
The announcer reached the last name and finished with: DANKE!
And 60,000 people called out, in one voice: BITTE!
Now THAT is polite.