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Raising one’s cultural awareness: What’s considered ‘normal’ in one place may not be ‘normal’ elsewhere

Often small things lead to intercultural misunderstandings. Becoming aware of them is a major step towards resolving them.

  • What do people associate with the possibility of shopping on Sundays?

    First of all, that they can freely decide at any time to buy food, clothing and other goods without planning it in advance. People in many other countries are simply used to this flexibility in everyday life. Since Sundays are usually work-free, they are an excellent time to go shopping in peace and quiet together with the family. People often associate shopping with socializing: they meet up with friends or family and dine and drink together. Shopping itself is merely the occasion to set off.

    What is ‘normal’ for you?

    Of course, new arrivals in Germany quickly adjust to the fact that shops are closed on Sundays.  However, this is only one of many cultural differences that foreigners encounter in everyday life and at work in Germany. Things that are ‘normal’ and that for Germans go without saying, are not universally ‘normal’.

    Do you have any international neighbours or colleagues? Have you ever asked them what has particularly surprised them in Germany and what may still seem strange to them? It is a simple way of raising one’s own cultural awareness as one may be surprised by their answers: Often it’s the little things that lead to misunderstandings or frustration. At the same time, they can often be easily explained or fixed. We just need to become aware of them.