Cultural Differences between Germany and the United States


The following list of ethnocentric scientific theories attempting to elevate United States' upper middle class value system to the world standard helped me understand American cultural values and helped me in determining the differences between German and American cultural values:


Misunderstanding of insecure attachment leads to the following pathological categories associated with avoidant/dismissing attachment:




Comparison of Secure and Avoidant/Dismissing Attachment Culture

Securely Attached middle and upper class Americans Avoidant/Dismissing Attached Germans
and lower class people all over the world

Adaptation to favorable environmental conditions:

In almost ideal conditions, for example in the American upper middle class, there is no existential threat, there is no famine, there is not even a need for the mother to go to work.

Consequently, mother is well provided for, well fed and has a balanced mood and is ready to give as much attention to the children as they possibly need.

The children will experience a benevolent environment and will have built up an impressive amount of self-esteem and of curiousness, inquisitiveness. Children will feel that they live in a benevolent world, under good and well-meaning people who are ready to cooperate.

Adaptation to adverse environmental conditions:

In dangerous conditions, in wartime, in lower socieconomic classes, safety, security, health and nourishment may not be guaranteed. Examples are populations of countries with experience of war, like Germany (one war in every generation: 1870, 1914, 1939), and poor, lower class citizens who are unemployed or frequently out of work.

Consequently, since there are more pressing needs (like survival), the mother will not have much time on her hand to take care of the children. She will not attend to every whim and to every cry, and after the children got fed, she will not spend extra time with them, socializing.

The children will experience a harsh and hostile environment and will have built up an amount of hatred, self-centeredness and self-reliance. Children will feel that they live in a hostile world, under brash, harsh, and egocentric people who only think about themselves and are unwilling to cooperate.

Body language is free flowing and expressive:
  • lively appearance
  • affectively expressive
  • easily stimulated and excited by others
  • facial expression is vivid, expressive and constantly changing
  • focus attention on others and on environment per se
  • touching others whenever appropriate
  • tone of voice is expressive, reveals feeling
  • seeking support nonverbally
  • mostly turning towards others
Body language is quite restricted:
  • appear low on life
  • muted affect
  • lacking capacity for excitement
  • facial expression does not reveal much
  • scarcely focusing attention on others
  • scarely touching others
  • tone of voice is neutral, without feeling
  • scarcely seeking support nonverbally
  • mostly turning away from others
Freedom of movement

(The free-flowing and expressive body language of the securely attached person is elevated to the national standard; restricted movement is considered under-developed.)

Physical appearance and control over and restriction of body movement are important and interpreted as signs of maturity.

(The restrictive body language of the dismissing person is elevated to the national standard; unrestricted movement is considered immature.)

"To say that a child is attached to, or has an attachment to, someone, means that he is strongly disposed to seek proximity to and contact with a specific figure and to do so in certain situations, notably when he is frightened, tired, or ill." (Bowlby, 1982) Tendency to avoid contact with others; feeling uncomfortable with physical closeness to others. Tendency to increase physical, emotional, and psychological distance from others.
It follows that the others, and their emotional state, are important to the individual. Caring for others is laudable. It follows that others have a low priority. Avoiding others, dismissing their importance. Caring for others is interpreted a sign of weakness. Failure to accept responsibility for their own actions.
emotionally expressive, unrestrained Reserved, apparent lack of emotion; "the German manner of conversation, which tends to understate the intensity of emotions" (Grossmann, Grossmann, & Kindler, 2005). Expressing distress is discouraged, labeled a sign of weakness.
empathy, sympathy All the values based on empathy are non-existent. There is no consideration for the effect of one's action on others. The concept of "putting oneself in another person's shoes" does not exist. "Empathy and sympathy are for lesser creatures" (Kinnison, 2014)
Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development. "Since interpersonal sensitivity does not guide the exchange of messages, the Germans need to establish rigid rules of conduct that regulate group and interpersonal relationships. Communication in German culture is thus shaped by ideas of rigid order and law. Devotion to duty often takes the place of understanding one another, and German gestures are, therefore, not so much signals for communicating details as they are metacommunicative statements about personal assumptions, roles, and social position."

(Juergen Ruesch + Weldon Kees, "Nonverbal Communication", 1961)

Always aware of the context and the presence of others. Turn to others for help. Self-reliance and independece are valued. Always attempt to cope in a self-reliant manner.
Cooperation, teamwork Relationship to others: "Low level of interdependence, trust, and commitment" (Levy & Davis, 1988). Find it difficult to depend on others.
Americans are respecting and adhering to Grice's Cooperative / Collaborative Maxims:
  1. quality=truthfulness and provide enough evidence
  2. quantity=succinct, yet complete: provide just enough detail to grasp the meaning
  3. relation=remain relevant to the topic at hand: staying on topic
  4. manner=clear and orderly way of communicating: logical, and easy to follow

(The "Adult Attachment Interview" (AAI) determines attachment security by the adherence to Grice's Maxims.)
Germans are ignoring and violating Grice's Maxims:
  1. quality=truthfulness: Germans often leave evidence unsupported or contradictory
  2. quantity=succinct, yet complete: Germans mention either not enough detail or too much detail
  3. relation=remain relevant to the topic at hand: Germans not necessarily stick to the topic
  4. manner=clear and orderly way of communicating: Germans are often vague, confused, or seem illogical; might not finish sentences, leave started thoughts dangling
In contrast to a cooperative stance, the German's speech is self-centered and comes across as less organized, less thorough, less coherent, not easy to follow, inconsistent, often confusing.

Communication is constantly monitored, adapted to the level of knowledge of the listener and possible misunderstandings are corrected or an elaborate mechanism of repair is executed.

The German speaker does not keep track of the level of knowledge of the listener, and does not try to remedy misunderstandings. The concept of communication repair is unknown in Germany.

The responsibility for the success of the communication rests on the speaker: he/she has to make sure that his/her message is received correctly. If necessary message is restated/reworded and additional details added furthering undertstanding.

The responsibility for the success of the communication implicitly lies on the listener: he/she has to try to make sense of the sometimes conflicting signals. A typical narcissistic trait is to blame the listener for the failure of transmission of a message. (Since per definition narcissists are perfect and therefore could not possibly have made any mistake, it must be the listener's fault.)

How Americans see Germans:

German values of self-control, self-sufficiency, psychological distance, individualism, independence from others and restraint in expressing emotions are labeled "insecurely attached" and lacking in the United States. In contrast, Americans are labeled "securely attached" in the United States. The origins of German values are psychologically explained by American scientists as a lack of warmth in upbringing. German mothers are labeled as "uncaring", because they treat children as more mature and as more able of exercising self-control than the United States' scientists esteem appropriate. In the United States Germans are occasionally derogatively labeled as Schizoid, Sociopath, Psychopath, or Narcissists.

How Germans see Americans:

In Germany the American "loose" personal stance and swagger is labeled as immature and lacking in body control. The American reliance on their peers and on teamwork is labeled as immature and lacking self-sufficiency. American values of sympathy, empathy, walking in someone else's shoes, and reciprocation are looked down upon by Germans favoring independence: needing others is a sign of immaturity and weakness in Germany, showing emotions is considered a lack of restraint, and one's own emotional state is one's own problem and considered independent of others in Germany. In Germany Americans are derogatively labeled as immature/childish and are classified as members of the lower socioeconomic classes because of their lack of discipline and a lack of physical control of their body.

Securely Attached middle and upper class Americans Avoidant/Dismissing Attached Germans
and lower class people all over the world



An American View of Germans

From the point of view of an American, a German differs from an American in the following aspects:





A German View of Americans

From the point of view of a German, an American differs from a German in the following aspects: