Integrating with the Germans

When you first move to Germany, learning the language will not be the only difficulty you will face. Integrating with the Germans can be demanding and time consuming, it requires a lot of effort and patience from you, that of course it’s if you are planning to make good friends – not only colleagues – and be fully integrated in the society.

The Germans are very nice and friendly people, but if you are willing to have them as true friends, and not only as co-workers or colleagues, there are a few things you might want to know and others that you should consider doing.

When I first moved to Germany I never imagined how long it would take me to find a real friend; that one you can tell everything about your life and have her/him doing the same. It took a while, effort, patience and I had to try hard. It was worth it, and here is my secret to making true German friends:

Know to respect the cultural differences

This rule does not only apply to the Germans. In any country you are going to live, you need to accept and understand that their culture is different from yours. It is not wrong, right, better or worse than yours, but different. Keep in mind that you are not going to change them, you will need to change yourself to adapt, and complaining will definitely not help you.

Speak the language

I am not saying that you need to speak perfect German to interact with them. It took me over 1 year to start having a normal conversation with the Germans without switching to English by the end of the talk.

What I am saying is, show that you are interested in learning their language. They know that German is very hard, but leaning how to say the basics such as Hi, How are you, cheers and bye is already a big step, and they appreciate that. If you are in the learning process, try speaking to them, they don’t bite, so no need to be afraid of making mistakes.

Respect their privacy

The Germans are very private people; they just don’t talk about their entire lives with you on the first time you meet. It takes time, a lot of time, until they feel comfortable doing this. So, avoid making private questions at first, let him/her take the first step towards sharing intimate information with you.

Here are some examples of questions you should normally avoid:

  • How much do you make at work?
  • How much do you pay for rent?
  • What is your religion?
  • Which political party do you prefer?

And of course… avoid the topic war, unless brought up.

 Accept an invitation and invite

Did you get invited for a party, for a coffee, for a beer by a German? Say yes, even though you don’t feel like going, or you don’t like any of them. Getting an invitation means you have reached a very important step on your way to making a German friend, so do your best to accept.

Of course that inviting them is also a very important step, it means to them that you are interested in their company and to get to know them better. The chances of getting no for an answer will be very rare, they like to be invited, so take your chance and do it. You have nothing to lose, because you can’t lose what you don’t have.

Keep your word

That is a very important point. Do keep your word, in every circumstance, that being a meeting set up or something that you promised doing for the person. Germans take your word very serious, and they don’t like when you don’t keep it or change your mind in the last minute.

That being said, avoid at all costs cancelling that invitation you just accepted, especially in the beginning, when you are still trying to get to know them better. Unless something very bad happened to you – and I am not talking about a headache or a cold – don’t cancel it last minute.

Know and Respect their rules

As you might know by now – if not, now you know – the Germans love rules, and they have them for everything. It is important to know and respect that: first, they have certain rules; and second, to respect them. By doing this, you will get their respect in return, and this is VERY important.

Avoid hanging out with people who only speak your language

Imagine that you are at university and see a group of foreigners (who happen to attend the same class as you) talking, laughing and hugging each other. Would you stop by to say hi? This situation would make most people feel intimidated to approach this group. Wouldn’t it?

So now put yourself in the German’s shoes, and do not expect them to try to be your friend if you already have your group and hang out with them all the time. You need to give them the opportunity to talk to you. Remember… it takes a while, and the beginning is crucial

Be proactive and helpful

Really! The Germans a very proactive and helpful people, and they do expect this from their friends. So don’t be lazy to offer help if they are moving and need an extra pair of hands, or to offer cleaning up after the party. The same goes to your co-workers in case they need help with solving a problem, or something similar. This is when you get them to trust and respect you.

Be patient and try harder

Not everyone was born with the virtue of being patient – God knows I wasn’t – but I had to find the little patience in me to give time to the Germans until I conquered their friendship. So be patient, give them time, and bare in mind the previous points.

Not working? No patience to wait? Sorry, you will have to try harder. It took me over 1 year to get some German friends to share very private things with me. With some it might take less time, with others will take years! Remember: they are private people.

Worth the while

Going through all the process above really does require effort of you, but let me tell you the best part of going through all this trouble: it is worth it! Once you have a German friend, you have a friend for life. He/she will do anything for you, they will support you, help you, listen to you and stand up for you… for the rest of your life.

If you managed to go through all the process above without giving up, congratulations, you made it and you deserve their friendship! The Germans tend to think that what matters is not the quantity of friends that you have, but how many of them are true friends!