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I teach German here and often talk to my students about this.I have been here since 1970 and though I know many, many people, most of whom would say, we are friends, I would only consider a handful of them friends. And even after all these years, I feel the same way.People never knew, if they told someone their true thoughts and feelings, whether the information could be passed on to be used against them.Trusting someone as a friend could mean putting your life in their hands--a much greater commitment than friendship here.I have heard this criticism before, with variations--"no deep friendships," "people form and dissolve relationships too easily," "you don't know if you can really trust people," and so forth. We go out for coffee together and chat about things. "You're not my friend," is tantamount to saying "You're my enemy." It took quite a while for her to overcome this misstep. To begin with, in a conversation Germans tend to be quite direct.She also described a misunderstanding with a co-worker, who referred to her as a friend. That's not friendship." The woman was offended--not surprisingly. (An American might joke that their words are so long that there is no time left to beat around the bush.) Where an American might say "From my point of view, I see it this way," a German might simply say "I think X." Direct speech can seem inconsiderate to Americans.For generations, America has been the world center of capitalism; and capitalism prizes a mobile labor force.Thus, it is not surprising that many Americans have developed the ability to form and dissolve relationships, as they are periodically uprooted to earn a living or advance a career in another city, state, or region.
Friendship in the United States and Germany is similar but not the same. Maxwell Friendship_is_bobi bobi illustration from France, Friendship,_Friend/Freund Venn Diagram by D. Fish Check out my most recent book, The Myth of Race, which debunks common misconceptions, as well as my other books at The Myth of Race is available on Amazon RU and Barnes & Noble B6E Friend/Like me on Facebook: Fish Author Follow me on Twitter: Visit my website: very interesting question indeed.I should also mention that, during her childhood, the place where the woman grew up was in East Germany.Before reunification, the Stasi (secret police) were an omnipresent danger.Our history of wagon trains and the conquest of the West involved a similar internal migration experience--breaking the ties of family and friendship, and then forming new ones.American individualism means that we give more emphasis to our own needs in forming and dissolving relationships than do cultures organized around traditional forms and relationships.