Today I’m talking about the differences of building friendships in the US and in Germany by focusing on formalities and informalities. Americans almost always address people they have just met or people they work with with their wirst name. They may not even know that person’s last name. That is completely different to Germany, because the Germans usually address people they have just met or people they work with with their last name. An American may be offended or at least surprised if addressed as “Mr. Smith” rather than “Jack”. In contrast the Germans may be offended if addressed as “Karl” rather than “Herr Schmidt”.
Moreover the English “you” is used for everyone, making no distinctions for social standing or levels of formality and informality. But the German language makes a distinction between the formal you (“Sie”) and the familiar you (“du”), which is very important to know for foreigners especially when doing business in Germany.
Also the English word “friend” covers a much wider range of acquaintance levels than German word “Freund”, that implies a long, deep friendship, not a casual acquaintance. In German the words “friend” and “acquaintance” are never used interchangeably.
If someone asks an American what her/his name is, the reply will usually be the first name, Germans would reply with the last name. Concerning this case Americans are quick to use first names and develop friendships. They may feel uncomfortable if familiarity is slow in coming, but Germans want to take their time before using first names and developing a close friendship.