Cultural Communication Styles


Americans and Germans Speak

Compared to other cultures, the American communication style is designed to make people feel that they are liked and socially accepted. This is so much a part of American culture that most Americans aren’t even aware of it.

Americans instinctively treat each other in a way that makes the other person feel liked and socially accepted: smiling, open posture, use of humor, informality, first name basis, being friendly to the other person from the first moment you meet them.

Treating others in this way, and expecting to be treated in this way, is completely unconscious. Americans take it for granted and assume that this is just the “normal” way to talk to people.

Even in the Army, orders are sometimes given in the form of a request, “Colonel, do you think you can take the enemy position?”

The beggar in Bing Crosby’s Depression era song tries to make the rich stranger feel liked and socially accepted: “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?” If Americans are not treated in a friendly way, they find it annoying and insulting.

Other cultures can be very friendly with people, but only after they become close to them. For example, Germans want to feel credible and objective. They accomplish this by communicating in an orderly and serious way. The German finds it annoying and insulting if the other person is not also being orderly and serious.

All cultures are friendly with people, but people in some cultures, will only interact after they’ve been introduced to them by someone they know and trust. They too want to be liked and accepted, but they will require more encounters before becoming close and especially before conducting business together.

To learn more about German/American interactions see our case study:The Role of Freedom vs. Certainty behind Different Styles of CriticismAn American/German Comparison.