With themselves – In themselves

Why do Germans have such difficulty with dienen, serving? 

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Germans in many ways live mit sich – with themselves, and in sich – in themselves, in the sense of how they live, where they live. Their surroundings are very much a part of their personality, their self-understanding. 

Unexpected visitors, regulations or limitations on their private lives are quickly interpreted as almost personal attacks. A boss calling unexpectedly, friends dropping by for a visit, colleagues giving unsolicited advice concerning their private lives make Germans feel uncomfortable.

To serve well, though, means to push to the side one’s own values, beliefs, ways of living. The better one can do that, the better one can serve. And that is the difficult part for Germans. 

Germans prefer far more beraten, to advise, or to complete a task. Beraten involves addressing a topic, subject, or problem. It is impersonal, independent of one‘s values, lifestyle, or belief system.