Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking the Ice With Germans - You're Only 3 Hellos Away

If you aren’t familiar with the research I am doing here at the University of Münster, I am working on my PhD in Behavioral Finance.  I am fortunate enough to conduct a number of experiments here for my dissertation.  

If it would fit my dissertation topic (it doesn’t) I would do an experiment with a large group of people that I have tested myself with success (again, I am only a sample of one).  

I think that it takes 3 friendly hellos before the hello is authentically reciprocated.  Other people, both Germans and foreigners, have told me how unfriendly the store clerks and restaurant staff are here in Germany.  I will agree that it is not the same ‘customer experience’ at these places compared to America, but it may not have to be.  3 Hellos are all you need.  (This is sounding like an infomercial now.)   The three responses to the 3 Hellos are as follows:

Hello 1 = Strange look.  No response. 

Hello 2 = Strange look.  A tentative hello back. 

Hello 3 = Friendly smile.  Reciprocated Hello.  

It takes 3 friendly hellos for the store clerks to go from this ...

to this!
I have tried this at virtually every store we shop at in Hiltrup and the success rate is astounding.    I get friendly hellos at the grocery store from the people stocking the aisles.  That’s normal in America, but I know that’s totally not normal here.  Here is our top list of friendliest store/restaurant owners (in no particular order):

Ti’ Amo Döner/Pizza place.  The nicest people own this shop.  The owner always comes and talks to us to see how we are doing and gives special drinks and candy to Dylan. 

Ice Cream Shop – Again, really nice owner and waitresses.  Dylan has a crush on one of the new waitresses (Dana says that she is indeed really cute, so I definitely need to check it out myself…for Dylan, of course) and said upon seeing her, “I like her.  She’s very cute. Can I go pay for our ice cream now?”

Tapas y Vino – This is the Spanish restaurant right below our house, so this is always a great last stop on our date nights.  The owner is very nice and is Peruvian, so we get to speak Spanish with him while we are dining there.   We are so motivated to get caught up with our Spanish (that we learned in school) that we booked a month long trip to the southern coast of Spain next spring.  We will be able to test/maintain our Spanish afterwards at our downstairs restaurant. 

I issue a question and challenge to the other expats and Germans living here.  Are we weird for having a friendly relationship with restaurant/shop owners, or is this normal here?  If not, the challenge would be to test the 3 Hello system (definitely an infomercial now) to see if you get the same results.  Please let me know about your experiences. 

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