Small Talk: Why Germans Won’t Tell You How They Feel

One of the many clichés about Germany and the Germans says that they act in a not very friendly or even rude manner towards strangers. You might get that impression when you first come to Germany and try to get to know somebody else on a train, a bar or at work.

Especially as an American, you might be used to getting in contact with strangers really quickly. In Germany, you probably won’t. It is a scientifically proven fact that German people simply don’t chat in public places when they don’t know each other. But what is often interpreted as rude manners, is more like a basic inability of Germans to small talk – they simply are not used to it.

Work efficiently

eRetail sector: The EU Department of Statistics states that Germany has the lowest food prices in Western Europe. This can be attributed to the large percentage – 40% – of discounters in the market, whose aggressive pricing force the other supermarket chains to hold the line on price.

Discounters are known for constantly offering sales. They have been able to maintain their margins by constant increases in efficiency and cost reduction. In addition, they stock on those products which move fast, maintain modest store sizes, choose inexpensive locations, and pay only for targeted advertising.

Business consultants: Every segment of the German economy strives to improve on efficiency. Process optimization, cost reductions, the focus on core competencies, improved product portfolios, increased competitiveness. All of these areas enjoy special attention of top management.

This is why business consulting continues to grow at a steady pace in Germany. Although its economy accounts for roughly 20% of Europe‘s output, consultants do more than 25% of their business for German companies.


The term 24/7 refers to something that is available all the time – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was first used in print in the November 1983 edition of Sports Illustrated: “Jerry (Ice) Reynolds, one of the SEC’s two best freshmen by the end of last season, calls his jump shot ’24-7-365′, because ‘It’s good 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year’.”

These days, the term 24/7 is largely used in the business world, especially for customer relations departments. Any business or service that is “24/7” is available for use at any time on any day of the week. In addition, in order to appear more “customer friendly,” to convenience, and sell better, many American businesses, organizations, projects, and books have even started including “24/7” in their name. Some examples include: 24/7 Wall St., America 24/7, and 24/7 Prayer International.

This was not the first time that stores used their opening hours in their names to attract customers. In 1946, the convenience store “Toe’m Store” changed its name to “7-Eleven” in order to reflect its new, unusually long hours – 7am to 11pm. 7-Eleven was also the first convenience store to stay open 24 hours on weekends. It did this in order to accommodate students at a local university.

Additionally, there is a website, 24-7stores(dot)com, which includes a store locator, so that people can find 24/7 stores near them, anywhere in the U.S.

“Don’t sell to me”

In Germany, to inform persuasively means to lead, guide, channel listeners to the desired conclusion and decision. It is done indirectly, subtlely, discreetly, signaling, indicating, not selling.

The slightest form of pushiness, of promoting can lead the German audience to suspect that the presenter is hiding something or trying manipulate them. Reserve and restraint is a virtue in the German context and moves the presenter closer towards the goal.

Sales personnel in German stores often greet the customer with Sie kommen zurecht? meaning “You know what you’re looking for?” or Sie schauen nur? meaning “You‘re just taking a look around?”.

This is their way of communicating that they are ready at any time to assist the customer with any questions they might have, but do not want to disturb them, much less try to sell them something.

German customers do not feel comfortable being sold to, certainly not aggressively sold to. Germans who sell know this of themselves, take therefore a hands-off, discreet approach, to persuasion, reacting only if and when the audience gives the corresponding signals.