Serious Question not meant to be insulting....But.....

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  1. Stimp profile image60
    Stimpposted 13 years ago

    I have a German Exchange Student living with me.  I have encouraged open communication and honesty.  She is very sweet and very very honest.

    One thing I'm having a hard time with is she never seems to say "Thank You"....either in German or English.  Is this a cultural thing or is it just the way she was raised.  I feel like I need to correct her since she will be here for a year and it's just police to say Thanks (even if you don't mean it).

    I really noticed it yesterday when we were at a restaurant, the server came and asked if she wanted more lemonade and her response was just "no".  While I was asked I smiled and said "no, thank you."  Should I talk to her about this?

    1. profile image0
      EmpressFelicityposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      The latter, I'd think.  German people are usually brought up to say thank you, unless things have radically changed over the last 15 years...

    2. richtwf profile image59
      richtwfposted 13 years agoin reply to this


      I think if she is very sweet and very honest as you say she is, then I don't think she'd mind if you sat her down and had a little chat with her about manners and politeness in general.

      It's remotely possible that she isn't even aware of her lack of manners, so she might be very grateful for you showing concern over her social etiquette and pointing out the importance of P's and Q's to her.

      If I were you, I'd probably speak to her sooner rather than later to avoid any further social faux pas or embarrassment to yourself or your family.

      Hope this helps you!

  2. Cagsil profile image70
    Cagsilposted 13 years ago

    I would ask her if she knows what manners are? lol

    If she says "No", then teach her about them and "why" manners are important, just like teaching a child about them.

    The impact you could have, could be both, negative or positive, depending on the approach. That's why I said ask if she knows what they are?

    I would not use the approach as an authority- it might not come across positively.

    Just a thought.

  3. rebekahELLE profile image84
    rebekahELLEposted 13 years ago

    perhaps manners weren't required in her home. it's like that also in American homes.. since she is staying with you, part of your responsibility is helping her acclimate to the culture. I would simply go over a few things about American culture, and include that as one of them. 
    when I traveled to France, my seat mate on the way over gave me some tips of what is expected in their culture, it helped so much. she will probably be grateful for your advice.

  4. Mighty Mom profile image78
    Mighty Momposted 13 years ago

    I agree. Couch the conversation in terms of what is acceptabe/expected in America. You are only telling her this to avoid her being embarrassed or getting into misunderstandings!
    This includes tipping in restaurants and other service facilities here vs. in Europe where the tip's included.

    BTW, while you are at it, would you do us older generation folk a favor? Would you please tell her that when someone says, "Thank you" the correct response is NOT "No problem" --
    it is "You're welcome!"

    One of MM's pet peeves, can you tell?

    1. profile image0
      DoorMattnomoreposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I hate it when you get no response at all!!!! My ex boyfriend's  mother never says your welcome. I will say thank you and she just looks at me. I've alwasy wondered it it's just me, or is that realy rude? It makes me feel like whatever I said thank you for, she didn't really feel like doing in the first place.

      Stimp, I say go with talking to her as this is whats expected in our culture. Good Luck.

    2. Dorothee-Gy profile image64
      Dorothee-Gyposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Hi, MM, funny that you mention this! Even though I speak and read more in English than in my mother's tongue, I still, up to this day, have a problem with exactly this sentence! It just will not come to me at the right moment! I have not the slightest clue why, but the "you're welcome" seems so awkward to me, and it took me years to learn that at all!

      Not because I didn't learn how to be polite or how to behave, but just as a concept. The German equivalent to "you're welcome" is "please" or "Not a problem" or "not worth mentioning". So, if you hear that from Germans, please just keep in mind that they do their best and that they give you exactly what you'd expect, even though they might translate it wrong.

      They have been trained from childhood on to say "please" as the appropritate response and they learned that this is the correct translation for the word they learned. They just do a literal translation instead of a "phrase" translation.

      I really hope that you can understand that often it might not be a rudeness on their part, but just a "oh my, what was it that I should say now??? Please is wrong, so what was it again???".

      I suffer from that up to this day, and I guess that many Germans might feel the same.

      1. Dorothee-Gy profile image64
        Dorothee-Gyposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        Since this seems to be a topic that was quite bothersome to many as the thread was opened, I just thought I'd give it a bump,  with the intention to get the thing about "please" and "you're welcome" straightened out.

        So many cultural differences just are based on  misunderstandings, and I'd say this is a great example of this fact.

    3. Karanda profile image77
      Karandaposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Does this mean you wouldn't like the Australian response Mighty Mom, no worries. It's actually quite a common phrase here and the standard response when someone says thank you.

  5. Stimp profile image60
    Stimpposted 13 years ago

    Thanks, everyone.  I will speak with her.  She's just been here two weeks so we need to re-visit other expectations I have in my home.  One MY biggest pet peeves.....people just putting their dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is only a foot away.  WT&*???  Do those dishes just suddenly hop into the dishwasher when the door magically opens at night.  God, I hate that.  Anyway....LOL.  Thanks all.

    1. Cagsil profile image70
      Cagsilposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      You're welcome Stimp. Good luck with the situation. smile big_smile

    2. Stacie L profile image87
      Stacie Lposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      I think a written and verbal discussion at the beginning of a visit outlining the expectations of the home is valuable. it sets the ground rules and everyone is on the same page..
      chores on the refrigerator and curfews are a few
      good luck

    3. Devanni profile image61
      Devanniposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      The same thing happens at my house - with the dishes.  I don't get it at all.

      On the topic of your exchange student, I agree with those who say you should speak to her about it in the context of the new culture.  German culture is quite different - very straight-forward.  Depending on how she was raised and so on, I could see that coming through as a lack of manners.

      1. Lisa HW profile image62
        Lisa HWposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        I wonder if sometimes, on the dishes thing, people aren't really sure if any dishes in the dishwasher are clean or not? 

        The thank you thing, I don't think it's a matter of where you're from.  These days a lot of young people (even the ones who grew up hearing thank you all the time) don't say thank you.  I don't happen to like it when someone doesn't bother, but I wonder if that really falls under the "what I expect in this house" category, or instead under "individual differences (right or wrong) in degree of conventional manners."?  I, personally, wouldn't presume to try to impose my idea about "thank you" on someone who wasn't my own son or daughter.  For that  matter, if a son or daughter of mine were grown to a certain age, I wouldn't presume to try to impose my idea about "thank you" on them either.  Maybe I don't like not saying thank you, but there's a point where it's up to each person to choose to say thank you or not.  (If other people think he's rude it's his problem too.)

        I'd take the kid as she is, as long as she isn't doing some "house-related" thing (like smoking in the bedroom, not recycling, or not putting dirty laundry where it's expected to go).

    4. Dorothee-Gy profile image64
      Dorothee-Gyposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Hi, Stimp, as a German, I might be able to bring a bit of light into the dark. In Germany we say thanks when we mean it, when somebody does something for us or when we receive a favor. We would not necessarily answer the question of a waiter with "thanks", even though we might.

      Saying "no, thanks" or simply "no" if a waiter asks you if you want something doesn't make a huge difference to us, even though I would do it most of the time. More important is that you smile at the person who asks you, give the appropriate nod or head shake or somehow engage her / him into a kind of conversation.

      Germans tend to be a bit more direct as Amercians, which often boils down to a "What-you-see-is-what-you-get" approach, we're not very likely to gloss things over with nice manners. I personally love to know where I am with a person and would always regard a honest and open approach as more valuable than a "sugary" well-mannered one, where I find out days later how something was meant.

      We have manners, too, absolutely, we are no savages, they might just be different ones.

      Most Germans are proud on the fact that you can take them by their word, when they say something, they mean it and you can rely on it. In my eyes, that's something I really valuable.

      If a German invites you to his house, he means it, and that might be the reason why it can take ages until he/she says it. But when you then stand in front of the door with your suitcases, he/she will not be surprised, because the invitation meant something to them and came from their heart.

      When he/she says that he/she will be at a certain place at a certain time, he/she will normally be there at this time sharp or at least give you a call.

      When we agree to do something within a given time-frame, we normally do it within that time-frame, its not something we aim for and know that it is hardly achievable, it is the time-frame we regard as realistic, even though it might not be the one the other would like to see.

      There are many slight cultural differences between Germans and Americans, and I think exchanges of all kinds are a very good thing to learn about the other culture. I think that can only be beneficial (for both sides...).

      1. Shadesbreath profile image77
        Shadesbreathposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        That's not German.  That's honorable.  We do that in America too.  Some of us anyway.

  6. camlo profile image85
    camloposted 13 years ago

    It is usual to say please and thank you in Germany, and considered very bad manners not to.
    Having lived in Germany for 23 years now, I'm afraid to say that the only kind of people who don't use such politenesses are from the very bottom of the social scale.

    1. rebekahELLE profile image84
      rebekahELLEposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      my mother came from a German background and I remember my Grandmother being quite strict and manners were very important. Please and thank you's were a part of growing up. mom called it respect.

      1. camlo profile image85
        camloposted 13 years agoin reply to this

        As far as I can tell, that's pretty much the same with most people here.

        Having made my previous comment, I just spoke to a German friend about it, who absolutely agrees with me.

        The only thing that comes to mind is the phrasing of the 'pleases' and 'thank yous'. If I ask somebody if they want a lemonade, and they don't, the correct response would be 'Danke' - thank you. In English, it would mean you do want it. Maybe the girl is just unsure. I'd talk to her about it, and explain that the same level of politeness is required in the US as in normal, polite society in Germany.

  7. tobey100 profile image59
    tobey100posted 13 years ago

    Having grown up in a foreighn country (Thailand) learning a second language many times leads to a certain loss in the politeness department.  This is easily overcome with little effort.  Not to be cruel but usually it's laziness on the part of the speaker.  I'd definitely discuss the subject with your exchange student.  I learned to speak Thai, Chinese, Laotian, Dutch, German and Portugese and all emphasized politeness in speech.  She should do the same.

  8. prettydarkhorse profile image62
    prettydarkhorseposted 13 years ago

    Nice responses and of course politeness is nice, although every culture has its own ways of expressing it. You can talk to her and tell her about it, in a light way like conversational telling her what's on your mind.

    BTW, I would like to share this one from Ms Rebekahelle as it is also related -- … oung-Child

    1. profile image0
      Home Girlposted 13 years agoin reply to this

      Exactly. I sometimes find "sweetness" and overpoliteness in Canada simply unbearable, though I am not a rude person, it's just a different culture, we consider showing your teeth all the time stupid and "jerkish" so to say. I hope you undertand to some extent what I mean.

  9. lyjo profile image60
    lyjoposted 13 years ago

    I would continue with you saying thank you, and hope she catches on, if she is unaware, she just might. If this doesn't work, I would try to encourage conversations within the family (that she could join)about what is acceptable and what is not, make sure you correct your kids, and do not single her out. (I would agree with LisaHW here). Repetitiveness is key here,(I think)

  10. profile image0
    china manposted 13 years ago

    Just because she is from a cultural group we label 'German' does not mean that her background includes thank you for everything.

    In China it is normal to NOT say thank you - but Chinese are generally far more fomally polite than western.  I guess it is about the fact that I pay you to bring me the food - so bring it.  In China if I thank a waiter they respond with 'no thanks (necessary) or 'it is nothing' - but generally - beneath their always polite behaviour - I think they wonder why I am wasting their time.

    This overly polite please-ing and thank you-ing is not as simple as it looks - in some ways it covers the idea we have that we - as customer - are in some way superior to the server. In China of course we are all varying degrees of equal big_smile

    The same with table manners - we are all following the published 'manners' as dictated by European Roayalty with our dozen different implements placed just so, and used just so.  I only ralised late in life why my father insisted on eating only with a fork and using the knife only to cut up things that would not respond to the edge of the fork, despite my mother's background of working in the big house and the manners she brought with her to ours.

    I would say that to criticise her in any way is far more rude than what she is doing.

  11. Karanda profile image77
    Karandaposted 13 years ago

    My father is German and the one who taught me to be most polite and use good manners at every turn. I don't think this has anything to do with culture though there may be some misunderstanding with the interpretation between languages. Talk to your guest and explain the way it is in America and what is expected.


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