What a great anecdote! So common in German-American interactions. Let’s have some fun with it. Point by point. And a bit tongue-in-cheek on my part: a figure of speech implying that a statement is meant as humor; it should not be taken at face value.
The Disney Store. Stores are businesses. Their goal is to sell their wares, to make a profit. They do so when many customers come in and purchase those wares.
Saleswomen. Yes, those were salespeople in the Mickey Mouse costumes. They are paid to welcome customers to the store, with the hope that they will purchase items. The saleswomen come to work each day dressed in normal clothes, then change into costumes, at the end of the day they switch back into their clothes and go back home.
“… as if they wanted to take us in their arms and cuddle.“ Children﹣your children!﹣are the target group. Disney is primarily about children. Cuddling is what children want to do with their favorite Disney characters. The children then go from the cuddling to seeing something in the store which they want. Seeing the glow in their childrens’ eyes, parents have a difficult time saying no. What a great business model!
“… it was all show.“ Well, yes, you were at Disney. What were you expecting, a collaborative, rational cost-benefit analysis right then and there between you, your wife and children on the one side and the salesperson in the costumes on the other? (tongue-in-cheek)
„That sudden realization (Ernüchterung)….“ What a perfect word﹣Ernüchterung﹣for this anecdote! It can be translated into „disillusion“ (removing the illusion) or „sobering“ (making you feel serious and thoughtful).
But an even better translation is „disenchantment.“ To enchant means to attract and hold the attention of someone by being interesting, pretty, etc.; to put a magic spell on someone or something. Magic spell. That’s it! That’s what Disney is all about, enchanting children (and adults, too).
„sudden realization.“ Clearly you and your wife know that a certain degree of „show“, of selling, is normal. And your children, regardless of how young they might be, are also aware that they are in a store, and that stores are about business. Children see their parents pull out their wallets to pay for items. Children often hear from their parents that they cannot have certain things because they are too expensive. The realization could not have been all that sudden.
„That sudden realization could under certain circumstances lead to Kauf-Unlust (purchase-aversion, -reluctance, -disinclination).“ This is the key point of your question. It is the key intercultural point. You are aware of it and have imbedded it into your question. And rightfully so!
Let’s spell it out, but only briefly. For we have done so under Persuasion_Learn.
Buyers and Sellers
We know that in all cultures products and services have to be sold. And that means at some point an interaction between the two parties: buyer and seller. What does that interaction look like, however?
Our topic is Persuasion, which is a sophisticated word for selling. There are all kinds of selling. In different business sectors. At different levels. Between different disciplines. But the core activity is persuading. Selling. So how do Germans and Americans respectively sell, how do they persuade? Stated more precisely, how personal should it be?
For your (German) family visiting Disney in Orlando, Florida, the selling in the Disney Store was a bit overdone, overly sweet, „as if we were the greatest customers in the store“, as if they wanted to „cuddle with us.“
Warning to Americans
Therein lies the difference, the message, the warning to Americans. Put simply: yes, you want to establish some kind of connection to the person to whom you want to sell something. And maybe that connection could and should be personal. But how personal from the German perspective?
And to what degree is it truly personal vs. business-personal, in the sense of a means to an end? The Germans are much more likely to believe that you mean it truly, really, authentically, when you work to establish a personal connection, a personal relationship. Remember, Germans separate between personal and professional far more strongly and clearly than Americans do.
If Germans sense that a person, an American, is not truly interested in a personal connection, that they are faking it﹣a means to an end﹣they might experience Ernüchterung, disenchantment.
And we all know the what feels like to be disenchanted. The magic is gone. One has been tricked, deflated, disappointed, and becomes angry and hurt. „You didn’t really mean it!“
Enchantment may help you close one sale. There may never be a second sale, however.