German social behaviour differs extremely from, let's say, English speakers' behaviour. This can lead to expats feeling a lot of frustration, irritation and loneliness. Here's some advice on how to get those Germans to loosen up:
Tip no. 1: Make them laugh
It's actually really easy to make Germans laugh. Don't make the mistake of shying away from your own humour, just because everybody in Germany is so serious. Germans nearly always react positively if confronted with the funny side of something. They will love you for making them laugh and they need it, too. (Note: it takes them a while to crack a smile, but keep on trying!) The difficulty for English speakers in Germany is the fact that you are constantly fighting a lonesome battle. Don't give up!
Tip no. 2: Keep up the flow of positive energy
It can be hard to remain positive when confronted with rude, cold or unfriendly behaviour. If you can, focus on the fact that Germans are task and goal oriented and that this can be a big advantage. Germans value their privacy highly and consider it to be rude to engage total strangers in conversations. So try and see this as an invitation to enjoy your own privacy and not letting others intrude on you without invitation. It can be quite relaxing.
Tip no. 3: Don't let the coldness get to you
Here's an exercise: If someone is behaving unfriendly towards you, just don't enter into his or her frequency of negativity. Stay away from it and protect yourself. You don't have to be unfriendly yourself, just stay away mentally. It's as if someone has a very bad cold and you just make sure you stay away from it. Negativity (and there is a lot of it in Germany!) has the tendency to infect others after a while. The problem is, the more you fight against it and resist accepting it, the more it will be infecting you, because you are reacting negatively towards it. Remain positive, stay away from it, raise your inner flag of wherever you come from and smile.
Tip no. 4: Make friends
If you struggle with making friends in Germany, you probably are confronted with something you just did not notice at home. Making friends with Germans requires a certain amount of emotional depth and engagement. It's so much easier to make friends in the U.S., the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa and so on. So what's happening is, you are facing a challenge: The challenge of truly committing yourself, because that's what Germans want you to do, if you want to be friends with them. Germans play the "friendship game" differently, so try to accept their rules and ask yourself if you have committment issues that you just did not notice before, because at home people did not expect you to commit that quickly. Simply see this as a change of rules in a game. In the end, it will help you to understand more about yourself.
I'm Natalie Marby, an English speaking therapist in Hamburg, Germany. I am half German and half British and I offer psychotherapy in English, especially for expats living in Hamburg. You can book an initial session by sending me an email or calling me: (040) 46090233. (Please don't forget to send me your phone number and the times I can reach you). I look forward to hearing from you!
Read more about my therapy method: Healing the inner child.