Expats in Germany often try hard to fit in with the Germans and especially to get along with their in-laws. However, the social structure in Germany is complex and difficult to grasp. Here's what you can do:
1. What does the word "family" mean to you?
The first people you will probably get to know in Germany will be your spouse's German family. Maybe you will have to leave behind any expectations as to what the word "family" means to you, as German families have their own customs and etiquette. Especially English speaking people often expect their German in-laws to welcome them by not always doing things the "German way", but this is mostly not the case.
2. In a conflict, your place is on your spouse's side
If there is a conflict between your spouse and your in-laws, you should always support your spouse. In addition, you should both present a united front to your families. You should make it clear from the beginning that your spouse comes first. This will also help you to not be caught in the middle.
3. You are doing this because you love your spouse
You came to Germany because you love your partner, and you are dealing with your in-laws for the same reason. Reminding yourself constantly of this will make it easier for you to stay calm and focused on what is important for you. You can learn to love your in-laws because you love your spouse. This is the best way to promote your relationship.
4. The Germans are not rude - they are just German
"If you want to hear the truth, ask a German". Positive or negative, Germans will always share their honest, blunt opinion, and English speakers mistake this frankness for rudeness. If you experience this with your German in-laws, you will need to find the balance between overreacting and letting people walk all over you. Recognising rude behaviour is easy in your own culture, but remember that in a foreign country it may be difficult to determine what constitutes rude behaviour and what doesn't. It may be difficult, but simply try to ignore any "rude" comment. Make a game out of it and reward yourself for every rude comment that you were able to ignore.
Continue reading: Expat relationships: 4 most common problems
I'm Natalie Marby, an English speaking therapist in Hamburg, Germany. I offer psychotherapy and couples therapy in English, especially for expats living in Hamburg. To contact me, you can send me an email or call me: +49 40 40 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!