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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Frankfurt, Germany

Dec 22, 2017

Old Town Frankfurt

An expat in Germany talks about the living in Germany. Although he's from France, he had trouble adjusting to the German culture - the lack of politeness, thriftiness and difficulty making friendships.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?


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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Yes I studied German from grammar school to College and attended a summer course organized by the university before i moved and studied for an Erasmus year and internship. Now coming back in Germany from time to time during one week for my work.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Not really. I was not aware of its impact - all the more I was in an international quite Europeanized students' background.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

During the student's life, it was not so significant. But, when I was a trainee, I really experienced how different the German daily's life was.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Actually, I experienced this honeymoon phase, and so on. To me, it perfectly features the foreign country's experiences you go through.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I withdrew into myself: as I did not have a rich social life it caused isolation. I had at the same time to work and to write a master thesis. I only had to work: I would have had more taken time to expand my social life, going out I suppose.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Finishing workday at 5pm: whereas in Latin cultures you begin and finish working later. More time and energy saved to do something else. The cheap cost of living and the good connected train system. Quality of life, room to live and nature in the cities. The vocational training system, learning all life long. Book shops and supermarkets, museums which are pleasant to visit.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

People's manners in Germany, which sometimes lack of politeness are challenging. Spoiled children: thank you low birth rate. The Arbeitszeugnis: an arbitrary and understated work assessment. The cash culture when you are used to credit cards. Thriftiness aka Lidl Kultur, the backlash of a cheap cost of living certainly and Calvinist rests. Culture of suing instead of negotiating and being flexible. This I-work-therefore-I-neglect-my-child as a mother aka Rabenmutter attitude. The way German press see foreign countries. It is mostly hard to deepen any friendships, keep any contacts at long term. You have the impression people do not like answering e-mails.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

Oh, yes, so far I can remember. I was most of time more dressed smarter than they were according the German outfits' standards:) and the firm's habits. I thought in a marketing background being dressing smart embodied seriousness, but it was seen as arrogant in this firm. My oh my:) But that mainly lies in the differences to dress and the clothes' choices in both countries:)

I used Miss instead Mrs:) Fräulein instead of Frau.

Did not use a beer glass to drink beer.

Did not use my hands to eat chicken wing and salad during Oktoberfest. I use a fork for that :)

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

I think Germany is a good experience to learn to take initiatives, read between the lines. I, personally, prefer visiting this country more to living here - suffering from strong Latinity revival.

Do not hesitate to have any housing contracts, documents checked it out or expertized before you them sign for everything. Have a local with you when looking a flats - even if you are fluent in German.

Say you do not speak English to practice your German:)

Always build up an international network to hang around with. Have a go to meet up Turkish and East European people.

Do not limit yourself to a city or German state. Use car sharing, weekend train tickets to visit many places: experiencing countries' differences. Have fun and good luck!

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