This is one of the most frequently circulated clichés in Germany. It is something I’ve been discussing with my wife over and over again, especially after we started living here part-time. It was relatively easy to make new acquaintances – with other parents of our son’s school, with neighbors, with friends of my business partner. That was a time when we were grateful for the friendly, open and outgoing American way of meeting new people. We were invited to parties and learned to enjoy their odd (for us Germans!) pattern – see the post about parties in this blog. Every now and then, people we met at these parties would emphatically say to us something like, we would love to have you come to our house, or, we must have dinner together, or something like that. And then, we waited, and waited, and nothing ever happened, no follow-up on what was said at the party, or wherever else. Even if something like that happens today, I still can’t say if it’s just a hollow phrase or if people simply forget about what they said. So, yes, in our German-influenced value system, this would qualify as “shallow”. But is this, by extension, also true for friendships?
I say no – and my wife says yes; maybe she will write a post about her point of view. But either way, it’s a very subjective matter, shaped by someone’s individual experience. Also, what means “shallow”, and what does the antonym “deep” encompass? My very personal experience is that it was only easy to create long-lasting, “deep” friendships before entering the job life, especially during college/university. How easy would it have been to create a “good” friendship after moving to a culturally different place inside of Germany, say from Hamburg to Munich or Stuttgart? It’s speculative, I know, but I am having a hard time to believe it would have been any easier than creating a good friendship after moving to the US. I dont know how many of the Germans who say that friendships in America are shallower than in Germany can base that on personal experience, but I somehow doubt that those who can would have had a much different experience if they had moved to a culturally different place inside Germany. But maybe some of these people simply experienced something like I described above – the friendly, but non-committal way in which many well-educated Americans treat new acquaintances.