I thought I would talk a bit today about small talk in Germany. In my experience, Germans are not big on small talk. Thanks, God! I hate small talk. I’m very bad at it. This doesn’t mean they are unfriendly. On the contrary, all my neighbours and acquittances are welcoming but they just go to the point. Again, that’s a plus for me. However, I understand that for some foreigners this can feel rude. My English and American colleagues are very into small talk. For some, the lack of it, can be considered rude.
If you like small talk, you need to understand that most Germans don’t like it. Don’t take it personal if your neighbour doesn’t like to be chitchatting with you in the front door. Also, the cashier at the supermarket won’t usually ask you how you are doing or talk about the weather.
Small talk is also a big No-No in some work environments. Don’t expect small talk before a meeting. Work meetings have a purpose and it’s not social.
So, how to practice some German? How to get to know the locals?
In my opinion, the best way to make acquittances is to join a club. There are lot of clubs in Germany, from sport to gastronomic clubs. You can easily find one that fits your interests.
You can also make acquittances by walking the dog or going with your children to the park. Just remember that Germans take privacy very seriously, they don’t want to disturb anyone. My advice is start by saying “Hallo”. Be patience. Every time you cross paths with a neighbour, say hello and say a sentence about the weather and see how they reply. I found that with time they initiate the conversation and you talk a bit longer.
I live in a little village and walking with my dog and my toddler, we have met a few people. The relationship always starts with a shy Guten Tag and, with time, evolves in 10 or 15 minutes of talk. I have also been approached by Germans asking me where I come from, how old is my son, where I live, etc. If this happens to you don’t feel attacked. Their questions can feel very direct but there is usually a true interest in getting to know you. One of the lovely ladies who stopped me on the street once is always checking up on me, asking if we are doing well, if it’s hard to live abroad…
So far, I’ve mentioned that, in my experience, there is little to none small talk, questions are very direct, and the interest is real. But, what are the topics you can talk about?
For what I know, Germans love talking about the weather (like any other country). This is always a safe bet. Even if you are just learning German you can easily memorize the terms. Other topics of interests is how you find living in Germany. Germans like to know what foreigners think about them.
Lastly, they love talking about insurances: Life Assurance (Lebensversicherung), Accident Insurance (Unfallversicherung), Occupational Disability Insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung), Travel Cancellation Insurance (Reiserücktrittskostenversicherung), Legal Protection Insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) and many, many more.
Would you like to know more about the different insurances in Germany? Or about how to make friends?