One of the very first things that we noticed upon moving to Germany was a surprising one; Germans (in general) are not loud people. At least not as loud as Americans. They don’t burst into fits of laughter or yell at their dogs or children to stay close by or not chase the ball down the street. They don’t greet each other with noise and loud hellos. And generally you don’t hear children throwing tantrums with screams and shouts (which I am not complaining about!). On Sundays you would think that there was a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion the night before where they kidnapped the whole country because it is so incredibly quiet.
As an American this is all very strange for me. If you ever visit Germany, the first place you’ll notice this is when you go to dinner with friends. Upon walking into the restaurant you might be confused by the lack of music playing in the background. Everything will seem quiet, too quiet to the point where you’re a little uncomfortable. Once you sit down and get settled you’ll start to wonder how anyone can understand what the other is saying. It all sounds like a bunch of hushed, muffled talking going on around you. Even the table next to you is barely audible. I think it's safe to say that Americans (again in general) don’t like silence or anything resembling awkward silence. We tend to fill the gaps with music or some sort of noise in the background. The whole experience is quite different from the normal American restaurant where music is played loudly (sometimes too much) and people are forced to speak louder so their friends can hear them.
I think as Americans we operate on an entirely different decibel range compared to our German friends. This is especially surprising for Americans that think they know German culture based on movies and TV shows they’ve seen where they seem to be shouting all the time. The only case where this isn’t true is if you do something wrong (or something wrong at least deemed by a German). Then you will get yelled at, and you won’t like it.
So it comes as no surprise that Germans would think Americans are loud. Do you know how hard it is to keep a low voice when you’re trying to tell an exciting story? The story is nowhere near as much fun to tell! I have a German friend working in the U.S. right now and her co-workers all complain how loud Americans are (which I think is hilarious because I have the opposite complaint over here!).
Luckily for us expats in Germany there is a wonderful country south of us that loves to talk as loud as we do (or possibly more!). This is probably why I feel more at home whenever I visit Italy, and who doesn’t love hanging out with Italians?
There’s my thought for the day. Do you notice this as an expat in Germany?