Differences between Germans and Americans: Smiling

I work in a very international environment. Germans come to America and Americans travel for a business trip to Germany. It’s fascinating to hear the experiences of my American and German colleagues. I started not only to recognize differences but also think about the “why”. There are reasons why certain behaviors develop. Certainly, I am not a social scientist, I just observe and research. With this series, I would like to share with you my thoughts and findings. I hope you have fun reading about it 🙂Smile

Showing Emotions/Smiling.

One of the first comments I received when Josh and I started dating: “Christin, I would not trust him. He is smiling on every single picture! Something must be wrong with him”.  I explained that nothing is wrong with him and that Americans seem to smile bigger and more often than Germans. In general, Americans express their emotions more than Germans. Germans are not known to be a crowd of funny and smiling people.. And that does not mean that there is something wrong with them either. Americans smile in casual situations. It is not only a sign of being happy. I researched “the American smile” and found out that countries with a big history of immigration relied more on nonverbal communication. Which makes total sense to me. Have you been to a foreign country where you did not speak the language? When I was 16 I traveled to Spain. I don’t speak Spanish and my English was not the best. But I thought it would be good enough to get around. It did not take long to figure out that no one spoke English… In Germany, we have an expression “to use hand and feet”.  And this is exactly what I did, I smiled and when I was shopping I used my hand to point on what I want.

So now you know that just because a culture smiles a lot, does not mean they are less intelligent or strange. Very funny of miss interpreting an American smile is the following case: Walmart had to learn about this difference the hard way: German male customers interpreted the smiling of the sales clerks as flirting. After attempts to make this American business model work in Germany Walmart failed (not only because of the smiling) and disappeared from the German market.

Hope you smiled while reading this article today. 🙂

I am looking forward to hearing about your experiences. Tell me if you like the idea of shorter posts about one topic.


2 thoughts on “Differences between Germans and Americans: Smiling

  1. Hi Christin,
    Great and very accurate blog on the cultural nuances of smiling…I am American living in Germany, and think now I have more of the German philosophy of smiling…
    Anyway, I do something similar on my blog…comparing German and American cultures. I mostly–but not always–focus on business. I would love to hear feedback from a German every now and then to keep me honest on my observations / interpretations!
    Have a great day and look forward to reading more!


    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you very much for your nice comment. I checked your website and found out that we have a lot in common! I studied at the University of Ludwigshafen. Let’s stay in touch. 🙂 greetings from Charleston


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