A few years ago, when I started dating my US-born girlfriend, I made an interesting observation. She was quite hesitant to show affection to me in public. As a German who thought Americans are probably the most emotional human beings on the planet that came pretty unexpected.
Germans don’t have feelings and if they do, they don’t show them. There is undoubtedly some truth in one of the most common cliches about Germans. We don’t like to display our feelings in public and sometimes we don’t even speak about them in private, maybe because we are scared of someone judging us or we a scared of our feelings themselves.
But there is one exception to this almost general rule and that is publicly displayed affection (PDA). I never would have noticed it by myself, but my girlfriend, who is from the U.S., pointed it out to me one day we were riding the subway. She was really staggered and asked me why Germans are apparently the coldest people in the world, but have no problem making out in public. As someone who was so used to it, I couldn’t even answer that question at first. But I have several theories to why that is.
No holding hands, no laying your arms around each other and of course no kissing in front of other people. That would equal not being in a relationship at all as soon as you leave the house.Guest Author Stefan Ruger writes about differences between Germans and Americans.
Maybe we don’t want our partner to almost ghost us in public. No holding hands, no laying your arms around each other and of course no kissing in front of other people. That would equal not being in a relationship at all as soon as you leave the house.
Maybe love for our partner is more important to us then judging looks from others or the thought of that happening. Maybe it makes us feel more confident in regards to our feelings.
Another possibility could be that our society has a different relationship to physical affection, regarding the concept of it as well as the actual thing. Take movies for example. Every time I watch an American movie that has a more action driven story, I encounter explicit portrayals of violence. On the other hand: Sex-scenes are very skin-free if you compare them to German movies. In German TV or cinema it is exactly the other way around. It doesn’t happen very often that you see a violent or gory scene on TV or in the movies. Not even if you watch the late night program. Showing nudity, nipples or sometimes genitalia is not a big deal on the other hand.
Don’t get me wrong: fucking in public still is! Even in Berlin.
To me that is a very good representation of two different social concepts of physical attraction or even sexuality. Judging from what my girlfriend told me she described the American society as a very sexualised but a very conservative society in regards to admitting that fact. You can see it in the music videos or at frat parties but you can’t show it in public. What is also true for American people is that they are way more explicit in showing emotions.
German society however is kind of the opposite. We don’t like violence in our movies, on TV or our video games because it could affect people in a negative way. Do we have a problem to kiss in public? No, we only have problems with letting our emotions out.
We do not like talking about them.
The moral of the story, there are two lessons you could learn from that.
To my fellow Americans: It’s ok to hold hands with your partner.
And for the Germans: It’s ok to show your feelings. Really!
Fingers crossed: It is nice.