My name is Richard and I am an American from New York City. I met a lovely German woman in New York and in 2006 we moved to Cologne.
What did you do to integrate when you moved here?
I made a choice to do so. If you move to a new place, I think it’s important to integrate yourself into the local culture and it helps to learn the language. I’m still working on that part.
Do you think Germany is a multicultural society?
Can I restrict my comments to Cologne? It is the only German city I know well. I think expats feel comfortable here. I’ve met people from all over the world in Cologne. It is a very tolerant city. There might be, however, some intolerance towards people who do not make an effort to integrate.
What surprises you still in Germany?
They are not as tidy as I expected. They do not always treat public spaces very well.
What do you think Americans think of Germans?
Americans probably think of Germans as being a little cold, maybe it is true, but what I’ve found is that when Germans say something – they actually mean it. They have a strong sense of community and personal integrity.
Could you tell me about a cross-cultural blunder you have committed?
All right. Let me think. I have one. It was a very American moment. You know, we, Americans, are very touchy-feely; we like to touch people when we talk with them. You’ve heard about “glad-handing”, right?! Once during a conversation with a German woman I touched her arm to emphasize a point and I thought she would have a heart attack! Seriously!
What is a typical German trait for you?
Germans I know seem to understand the importance of work-life balance, this ability to prioritize. I don’t know whether this is a peculiarly German trait or a European trait.