Mean

An uncut scene from Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig and the teenager argue in the jewelry store. This is improv at its best! Who says Americans can get in each other’s face?

YouTube comments:

“This girl was only 14 when she held her own with a professional comedian for 10 minutes.”

“Kristen Wiig is an absolute improv genius and not afraid to set herself up as the punching bag for the little girl.”

“They clearly were having way too much fun with this scene. Mia starts to smile too much because it’s such a joy to go so unhinged on somebody. The director probably said to go in there and completely go off on her but don’t overlap lines so we can edit. The editors probably had too much fun with this scene too. Can you blame any of them?”

“Props to Kristen but that girl annihilated her.”

80% self-censor

7 April 2022. New York Times:

“There is now little doubt that students frequently bite their tongues because they feel unsafe. A 2021 survey of more than 37,000 college students — by far the largest on free expression to date — found that more than 80 percent of students censor their own viewpoints at least some of the time, while roughly one in five students regularly do so. Meanwhile, only 40 percent of students say that they are comfortable openly disagreeing with their professors.”

Yes, hypersensitivity on American university campuses is well-known. What does this have to do with communication and feedback within American companies? Everything. Political correctness, like it or dislike it, has been a growing force in the United States for several decades.

Still too direct

“Germans, in general, can often be more direct and straightforward than Americans, and to be honest even after living here for eight years, that directness is still sometimes a little shocking for me, a little bit too much, or even sometimes has made me cry!”

A comment: “Just your example about some shop assistent telling you that the piece of clothing does not fit you at all: I’m always more suspicious about a shop assistent telling me how good it fits keeping in mind he or she just wants their merchandise sold. So I tend more to appreciate an honest, though maybe direct answer.”

Another comment: “I’m always irritated how well the Americans can hide the truth of what they are thinking behind compliments and smiles. In Germany If you are getting an honest critique, then the person likes you, thinks said critique can improve you and is interested that you do better. So its a good thing 😉 “

Oh, here’s a good one: “As a German, i feel like lying when i am asked about my opinion and i would try to let it sound “nicer”. Everyone is honest and tells what they think about everything. I tried for a while the way that is used in the staates and i gat really that awfull feeling of lying and i konstantly had to think about how i say things and not what i like to say.

In my opinion germans are just used to that honesty and fee unconfortable to alter the opinion just to sound nicer. The other way around, when i meet people from the staates, i have allways that feeling they are sneaky and false, they try to hide their thoughts behind words. I was never sure how they really are and think.”

“Well, that was complete shit.”

Berliners respond to the question “Are we Germans direct?”:

And one of the comments from a German: “When I was in high school, I can remember, another student gave a poorly-prepared presentation. Directly thereafter the teacher simply looked at him and said in English: “Well, that was complete shit.”

Say what you do. Do what you say.

“Say what you do and do what you say”, that’s the motto of German engineer, Norbert Rudat. I think 99.9% of Germans would agree with it.

But wait, wouldn’t everyone, from every culture, agree with it? Perhaps. But are other cultures as literal about it? And I don’t mean literal-minded, but instead meaning something literally as they say it.

For example, do Americans always mean exactly what they say? And do they always say exactly what they mean? What about other cultures: China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico?

Mr. German Man is direct

An American woman. Married to a German man. How her husband is very direct. And about how Americans learn to be indirect, especially when giving negative feedback.

Warning ! This woman is a youtuber. And an American on top. So, she is more than a bit animated. And frankly, she could have made her points in about two minutes instead of seven and a half.

Watch the first three minutes.

German Humor meets American Mentality

This from German Science Comedian Vince Ebert:

A comment: “A German compliment sounds like this (and I quote my brother): “You look fat in that dress, but great dress!”

Another comment: “In the U.S., we have a satirical News outlet called The Onion that writes fake stories to make fun of our culture and government. In Germany, I’ve heard their version of this is a website called Stupidipedia that’s a satirical version of Wikipedia, that’s full of fake, interconnected information. They made a whole encyclopedia as a joke. The Germans do in fact have a sense of humor, its just over-engineered like everything else in Germany.”

“What the hell were you thinking killing all of the Native Americans?”

An interesting comment: “The smoking areas on train station platforms are actually more helping to concentrate the cigarette waste in one place so it’s easier to clean, that’s why I like this system. It’s meant to keep smoke from non-smokers but whatever. It has working benefits.”

One cliché after another. The German people have a wonderful sense of humor.

Conversation as Interview

Germans like to get to the point quickly. They are more interested in the content than the person. They know before the meeting what they want to learn, hear, the information they seek. The conversation is often more of an interview than a discussion, as if they came prepared with a list of questions.

Figures of speech: Es gibt keine blöden Fragen. Es gibt nur blöde Antworten. There are no stupid questions. There are only stupid answers. Gut gefragt, ist halb gewonnen. The right question is half the right answer. Fragen kostet nichts. Asking doesn’t cost anything. Fangfrage. Trick question.

Löcher in den Bauch fragen. Literally translated: to shoot holes (with questions) in the other person‘s stomach. Preisfrage. Price question. Das kommt nicht in Frage. Literally, that does not come into question, or absolutely not.

Thou vs Ye

In Old English, thou/thee were used to address a single person, while ye/you were used to address more than one person. However, as English developed, the terms ye and you were used to politely address a single person – first the king, then other high born nobility and the clergy, and eventually anyone at or above a person’s social status.

By the end of the 16th century, the word ye had virtually disappeared from daily speech, and the term you was quickly replacing the term thou.

As Early Modern English began, the word thou became associated with emotions, rather than number or hierarchy, and most people would only use thou if they were angry or in love. Ironically, these days people very rarely use the informal thou to indicate formality or to sound more archaic: “Thou shallt not lie.”

Harry Truman Plain Speaker

Americans who use direct communication are typically labelled as plain speakers. It is difficult for plain speakers to rise high in American politics, and one of the few to do so was Harry Truman.

Truman’s entrée into politics began in 1922, when he was elected to be a judge in the Jackson County Court. He served as a judge from 1922 to 1924, but despite his reputation for honesty and efficiency, was not reelected in 1924. Undeterred, Harry ran for judge again in 1926, this time winning his election.

In 1934, Truman became a senator, and in 1944 he was nominated to run as vice president with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The two men won their campaign, and Truman then came to office as president following FDR’s death in April 1945.

In 1948, Truman ran for reelection, and to the shock of the public (who considered his defeat inevitable), Truman won reelection. In fact, Truman’s defeat was so widely anticipated that some newspapers went to print with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” before the election results were known. As a result, there is a famous photograph of Truman smiling as he holds up one of these newspapers after winning the presidency.

Harry Truman left the presidency in 1953 and retired from political life. Some examples of Truman’s Plain-speech:

On why he opposed silencing dissenters: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

On why he would not accept the Medal of Honor: “I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”

On politics: “We now see that other past presidents, have found a new level of success in cashing in on the presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Obviously, political offices are now for sale.”

On politics: “My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference. I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.“