I generally trust Germans, but German shoppers…

Generally speaking, German culture is very respectful to one another. Even the language is very formal and polite. Just sitting down to eat warrants a “guten Appetit.” Even the kids in Germany tend to be respectful. One time a group of teenagers offered me candy on the tram.¬†Americans are notorious for saying they will call you later with no intention of actually doing it, for example. In Germany, if a friend tells you he will call you on Saturday, you can expect it to happen. This is one thing I really like about Germany. This is also why I find the unreliability of German buyers, sellers, and apartment seekers to be surprising.

When it comes to buying and selling things on the internet, people often get very shady. If an item is sold, instead of taking it down, they just ignore emails. If buying an item, German shoppers will reschedule repeatedly and make the whole process as inconvenient as you’ll let them, often for a purchase worth only a few Euro. A couple months ago in Bremen, a girl did exactly this to me for a couple pots. I ended up donating them, because they weren’t worth the trouble. When buying second-hand stuff on the internet, all of their courtesy is forgotten and the world revolves around them. The same thing goes for when they sell things on the internet. I one time had a girl go off on me in an email after a very brief exchange in which I misspoke about when I’d like to meet and it conflicted with her schedule (I assume she was headed to finishing school that day). Now obviously I’ve bought and sold things successfully but self-centered is the best way to describe many of the people I’ve interacted with.

The worst time to deal with this attitude is when seeking an apartment or attempting to get rid of yours. It is very common for Germans to apply for multiple apartments. They also often tell you that they are very interested and going to apply right away. You only get an application from a small percentage of these people. It seems that this is a vicious cycle, where prospective renters have to oversell their interest and hedge their bets by making promises they don’t expect to keep. I was even been advised in my own apartment search that I should apply to an apartment even if I wasn’t sure that I wanted it. The problem is this jams up the whole system for everybody because once a landlord approves somebody, they stop taking applications. I’ve heard some people take months to find a decent place in Bremen. This also hurts the person trying to get out of an apartment. It’s impossible for them to make plans when people tell them they are definitely going to apply and then just decide not to.

In the US, I wouldn’t say we are overly courteous to one another. But, in my experience, we do tend to keep our word when it comes to things like this. If somebody emails me about my place and it’s already taken, I’ll politely reply. If somebody promises me that they will go down and sign the lease in the morning, I have a reasonable expectation that they will do it. It’s weird because this phenomenon is really a polar opposite of how these cultures behave on a daily basis.

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