What do people mean when they say Germans are "blunt?"

I’ve always heard that Germans are blunt? However, do people mean that they are very, very callouss? Or do they mean just straightforward? I know where I live a relative of mine could be considered blunt when he criticizes his wife’s weight in public. He criticizes me for being too skinny. Is this rudeness or just being honest and straightforward? Does blunt and rude mean the same thing? I get mixed reactions, whenever I ask. So I’m asking you all.

Your relative is rude.

Blunt (or straightforward) would be if he replied (in private) “yes” to her question of “do you think I am fat?”.

I am German but don’t think I am constantly blunt!

Edited to add (in private)

1 Like

“I know where I live a relative of mine could be considered blunt when he criticizes his wife’s weight in public. He criticizes me for being too skinny”

I´m German too and I agree with Sanne that he´s rude. In my opinion, criticizing your wife´s (or your husband´s) appearance in public is a no-go. I think the difference between honesty and rudeness is how you say it and why you say it and whatnot…

“Look, you´re really thin and I´m worried that you´ll get sick because of that” is honest and caring. “Gosh, you´re just too skinny. It´s just ugly” is rude as hell.

Maybe Germans have a tendency to be more rude and/or more honest than Americans, but I think that people´s personalities have a much bigger influence on what they say and do than their nationality.

1 Like

Americans are considered horribly blunt by Koreans. The Korean language has all this room for being vague and indirect, a language with diplomacy and political astuteness and politeness weaved into it’s very fabric. I am constantly worried about offending polite Koreans by my American frankness. Even with my very conscious intent to be humble and respectful, I have made mistakes. Luckily, my dear new friends have made allowances for me. When I do ask something or say something that shocks, they let me know, usually without saying it directly. “Oh ho, Julia!!!” is a common retort from one friend. Koreans have “nunchi”. Nunchi refers to a concept in that describes the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others’ moods.

I am clumsy socially with Koreans in part because I have only a child’s grasp of language. However, I am also an American use to being casual and speaking my mind, which is always going to seem too bold to some Koreans.

On the other hand, I worked for a German company for a year. I really liked my German co-workers, but occasionally would be quite shocked by their bluntness. In business situations where I would proceed cautiously, they would steam roll ahead and call a spade a spade, having great confidence in voicing their opinions.

I think it is worth being aware of culture and what is considered appropriate. Generalizations and stereotypes are only partially helpful, but it is true that when people from different backgrounds come together, one or the other side may come across as blunt or rude or insensitive to the situation.

1 Like

That said, there are rude people in every culture. Don’t excuse everything away with cultural differences.

I know one rude Korean. It shocked me at first, because my impression was all Koreans were polite. I made a lot of allowances at first thinking it was cultural. Now I know him better. He’s just rude. Now I call him on it when he is rude to me. He appreciates me telling him.

I am always wary of generalisations, but having lived in Germany for a time, I had the impression that they are actually far less rude than many people in the Anglosphere today. Obviously there will always be idiots and A-holes in every society, but - on the whole - it did seem to me that there is still a widespread culture of respect and politeness in Germany.

I also agree with Sanne and Paule - I think there is a huge difference between being frank with a close friend or relative in private, and, on the other hand, humiliating someone in public.

As Paule says, it also has to do with manner, tone of voice, etc. Encouraging someone to lose (or, indeed, gain) weight because you are worried about their health is one thing. Being nasty or abusive about a person’s appearance is another thing entirely - even in private.

@SanneT Yes. Yes he is. Especially if he says that sort of thing in public.

@Paule89 I’m a southern and I can sign off that we will be absolutely nice to your face. When you’re not around however…
Admittedly, I mostly ask because I was trying to look for ways to not be so wishy-washy. And this sort of came up in conversation and they asked why I would want to become rude. I honestly admire that sort of german straightforwardness. I don’t know why I do, it might have something to do with the language.

"I’m a southern and I can sign off that we will be absolutely nice to your face. When you’re not around however… "

I bet it´s like that pretty much everywhere…

I don’t find Germans blunt. In fact, as a tourist, whether in cities or pulling into gas stations or roadside restaurants, I find them amongst the friendlier Europeans.

I think it depends less on the nationality you have, but primarily on the social environment you were growing in and the kind of fellow men you associate with. You can find rude and polite people in every country. Of course, there might be some slight tendencies to some attributes in a specific country or region (like e.g. the supposed increased affability of the population in Southern Germany and the reservedness of the one in the north of Germany), but - in my opinion - there aren’t sufficient grounds for generalizing.

If anything I have found the people in North to be much more affable than the Bavarians. If I were to generalize.

Thanks, Steve! That’s very kind of you. :-))

It was not intended as a compliment since I don’t know where you live. In any case generalizations are not fair since the next person you meet may totally confound the stereotype.

I would agree that generalisations are (or can be) quite a dangerous thing. In my life I have heard so many people say things like: “the French are…” or “the Chinese are…”, etc.

As Steve says, there will always be plenty of people out there who completely confound the popular stereotype. (I say that, even though I think there is, perhaps, sometimes a grain of truth to national stereotypes - as regards a society as a whole?)