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Psychology, Behavior & Neuroscience Forum dedicated to the mental processes and behavior, the emotional and behavioral characteristics or attitude of an individual or group and all phenomena of the mind, the conscious self and beyond.

Do Germans Stare at Strangers?

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Old Friday, April 14th, 2017   #1
Juthunge
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Do Germans Stare at Strangers?

I’ve often read about foreigners, especially from the Anglosphere, complaining, that random Germans “stare” at them on the street, any sort of transport etc.
  • So my question is, do you think something like a “German stare” really exists?
  • And what are your personal experiences with it?
As a German I can naturally not answer that question myself because for me it’s probably entirely normal behaviour (and actually find the reactions of foreigners to it, that I’ve read on the web, quite amusing).

Some examples(for more, just google “German stare”):
Quote:
Why do Germans stare so much?
How come Germans don't consider this as being rude? I'm stading there waiting for my bus, minding my own business, and suddenly notice a fixed pair of eyes on me. I stare back quickly, but they don't care, they just keep staring. What's up with that? Sometimes they actually twist their neck to keep staring. I've gone through this hundreds of times. I try to ignore most of the time, sometimes I smile, or stare back, and I even reacted badly a couple of times when I was in a foul mood. I just can't get used to this and I can't wrap my mind around it, even after two years in this country.
Quote:
Germany - A Nation of Starers
Well, now I have to tell you about "1 Thing" I absolutely loathe about Germany. No, it's not the "ruthless efficiency", not the towels, and not even the ubiquitous beer which, granted, I'm not that keen on.

It's the staring. Germany is a nation of starers. Germans stare at you... well, all the time. On the streets, in the underground, in restaurants, in shops - everywhere. There isn't a single refuge from being stared at (maybe the cinema, but just because it's dark). And I really really don't like it!
Quote:
What are you staring at?
Even though politeness is generally the same throughout Europe, I have come to discover while living in Germany that the last point on the list is positively encouraged. Staring at everyone and everything is a part of life in Germany.
People will stare at the weird and the wonderful, as you would expect, but sometimes you will look up to find people studying you as if they were about to sit an exam based on your actions during an average Thursday commute.

Again, this is not necessarily the most abnormal thing, I am sure we have all been caught absently staring at someone. The difference in Germany is that, unlike in the UK, Germans won’t quickly look away, they will instead continue look at you intensely.

What I have a problem with is what I can only term the German “intensive laser stare”.
As I already mentioned, what marks this social peccadillo out as odd is that you don't have to be doing anything peculiar for the lasers to be activated. The effect this has on non-Germans is an intense paranoia.

When I first arrived, my own fears manifested themselves in a particular way; I developed “zipper” or “fly down” paranoia, that is to say I encountered so many stares that I instantly thought I must have forgotten to do up the buttons or zip on the front of my trousers and was forced to check. This only served to exacerbate the issue. As they kept staring, I kept checking as covertly as possible, which isn’t so covert if everyone you walk past appears to have noticed.

This must have presented a rather bizarre and stare worthy situation too as to the innocent German bystander, there was some lunatic wandering around checking his testicles every two metres. Instead of solving the problem, I had basically created a zipper checking feedback loop.
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Old Saturday, April 15th, 2017   #2
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Interesting. This is the first time I've heard of the "German stare," but looking back at my experiences in Germany I think that I've experienced it. I didn't take it in a negative way, however. On the contrary, it made me feel like a "rock star" or something. I guess that's one of the reasons why I've always had a good time in Germany.

Germans are certainly much more intellectually curious and analytical than Americans, and I'm sure this has something to do with the differences in staring habits. I've noticed that Germans tend to ask more questions than Americans do, and they seem to have a keener eye for nuances in facial expressions. I recall numerous instances in which Germans I have known have commented on my different facial expressions and asked me what I was thinking about. Americans are much less inquisitive in this regard.

I actually just experienced the German stare a few weeks ago from a very attractive Austrian girl at a work conference in California. It felt pretty good!
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Old Saturday, April 15th, 2017   #3
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The explanation is really quite simple. Germans, like all successful predators, will intensely study their prey to ascertain exploitable weaknesses before suddenly going in for the kill...

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Old Saturday, April 15th, 2017   #4
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I have never experienced any staring when visiting Germany. Germans are very quiet and mind their own business, I love that. It's only when you actually have to communicate with them (when you don't know German) that you start having issues. If you don't have to communicate with them they're very great. We were walking through several "altstadt" and the views are so amazing, and like I said - the Germans are so quiet. You only hear them talk to each other in very low voices which makes the experience even more relaxed and enjoyable.

Maybe that's why "anglos" are being stared at - they're usually quite loud and take a lot of space.
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Old Saturday, April 15th, 2017   #5
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Absolutely I noticed this every time I went to Germany and Austria. I was hoping there was some positive reason, like to believe Germans naturally assess foreigners, but based on current political situations I think this is wishful thinking.
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Old Sunday, April 16th, 2017   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs vonTrep View Post
Maybe that's why "anglos" are being stared at - they're usually quite loud and take a lot of space.
Well, I'm neither loud nor fat—I'm a fairly fit introvert. And the staring I was referring to took place in Germany with friends and friends-of-friends in social settings where I was the only non-German. My presence drew stares of curiosity, which was understandable. In a reverse situation where a German was at an American party, he probably wouldn't draw as much attention because Americans tend to be more intellectually dull and therefore less curious about things.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LordLoki View Post
Absolutely I noticed this every time I went to Germany and Austria. I was hoping there was some positive reason, like to believe Germans naturally assess foreigners, but based on current political situations I think this is wishful thinking.
As crazy as modern Germany is politically, I think Germans are still more likely take note of racial qualities than other Western nationalities. My hunch is that Germans who oppose racism do so more on moral grounds than on the actual idiotic belief that "race is just a social construct." They might not admit to it, but they're too smart and analytical to not understand that racial differences among humans are just as real as they are among dogs (and they do in fact use the term Rasse for both humans and dogs).
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Old Sunday, April 16th, 2017   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs vonTrep View Post
I have never experienced any staring when visiting Germany. Germans are very quiet and mind their own business, I love that.
This was my experience as well.

Little anecdote from when I was there: my colleague and I were walking through town and noticed a passerby talking atypically loud for a German. Probably made us stare a little. When he was close enough we realised he was speaking English, with a clearly South African Anglo accent.
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Old Sunday, April 16th, 2017   #8
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Interesting experience so far, I’m actually already surprised that so many people have even been to Germany.

To clarify something though, as I’m under the impression that some people might have misunderstood my initial question:

I’m not necessarily asking about the way Germans look specifically at foreigners, most of them probably couldn’t tell a Northwestern European (descendant) from a German anyway unless he speaks in a foreign language.
I meant rather the way we apparently look at strangers in general, Germans and foreigners alike.

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Originally Posted by Ward View Post
As crazy as modern Germany is politically, I think Germans are still more likely take note of racial qualities than other Western nationalities. My hunch is that Germans who oppose racism do so more on moral grounds than on the actual idiotic belief that "race is just a social construct." They might not admit to it, but they're too smart and analytical to not understand that racial differences among humans are just as real as they are among dogs (and they do in fact use the term Rasse for both humans and dogs).
I’m afraid that’s not correct. “Rasse” as a term for humans is entirely out of place here nowadays and some people even feel uneasy to use it for animals because it’s a term that was used by “the evil Nazis”.
Thinking about it, I don't even hear Volk or even Ethnie commonly used, the talk is always about Bevölkerung/Population, which is a term disconnected from shared ancestry and relies merely on geographical concepts.

They notice the phenotypical differences, no doubt, but, unlogically, they don’t allow themselves to put it down to underlying genetic differences or to draw other conclusions, for example, differing behaviour or intelligence, from it.
(Because natural selection absolutely would happen on “mere” appearance alone without good reasons or more important connected, if only indirectly, traits, right...)

So, due to the usual German naivity/guilelessness towards others and, no doubt, decades of indoctrination, most see racial others as looking “slightly” different but otherwise “they’re just like us”.
That feeling is apparently hard to shake even if they have proof of it all around them.
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Old Sunday, April 16th, 2017   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ward View Post
Well, I'm neither loud nor fat—I'm a fairly fit introvert. And the staring I was referring to took place in Germany with friends and friends-of-friends in social settings where I was the only non-German. My presence drew stares of curiosity, which was understandable. In a reverse situation where a German was at an American party, he probably wouldn't draw as much attention because Americans tend to be more intellectually dull and therefore less curious about things.
Just a correction, I wasn't very clear what I meant by "anglos taking a lot of space". I didn't mean physically (as in fat). I meant that anglos often love to be heard and seen always, everywhere - especially as tourists. Being the center of attention and so on. Germans aren't like that at all.
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Old Monday, April 17th, 2017   #10
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I only once seen anybody staring at me and that was on a train. They were actually talking about me very softly. I sometimes wear a certain types of pants made out of very heavy canvas, they are very heavy duty with double knees, rivets and double cuffs at the bottom and lots of cargo pockets. They were trying to figure out what brand the pants were. If they would have asked I would have told them, though I don't think they are available in Europe.

Other than that I never felt like I was being stared at, mostly people just seemed to mind their business and often it seemed like they were in a hurry. It is one of my things to people watch and I would rate Germany as one of the best places to watch people and observe them as they always seem to be doing something or another. I talked with a lot of people there, but that was my point and except a bus driver most were very nice. Very helpful with directions if I needed them.
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