I was shocked when I first moved to Germany and people would tell me they couldn’t meet up because they wanted to relax and just be at home. Like really, I was shocked. Why so honest? Could they not have at least made up a real excuse? It’s not like they’re actually busy.
However, after spending a lot of time on my own during my first months in Germany, I came to appreciate how nice it is to spend your time as you wish. (In hindsight, it sounds ridiculous haha!) Socialising is great but time to relax and re-energize is just as important. I soon realised the real questions I should have been asking are:
- Why do I feel socially bound to other people’s plans when I would actually rather be doing something else?
- Why is wanting a chill day or being tired not a good enough reason to say ‘no’?
I’ll tell you why, it’s because I am from the UK, and we love to people please!
People pleasing cultures don’t allow for your own thoughts and preferences, only those of others. They leave you with a lingering feeling of guilt, and fear that people think you just can’t be bothered. So you do your best to shine brightly for others, and are then left feeling deflated and not so sparkly at all. We bend over backwards for people (as described by my expat friend who grew up in Latin America and the US – also people pleasing cultures), and by time we’ve saturated ourselves in other people’s social demands, we’re left feeling exhausted.
So how do we solve this?
I’d say we take a a few tips from the Germans:
- Saying ‘no’ isn’t rude
- A commitment to yourself is still a commitment
- You can always make plans for another day
- If you don’t respect your own time, why would anyone else?
It’s easier said than done. But I don’t know one person who genuinely loves people pleasing and feels great for doing it! So why do we bother!? Cultural norms that don’t make us feel good, don’t have to be the norm.
Prior to moving to Germany, I wouldn’t have said that I’m a people pleaser. But it took living in Germany to realise that people pleasing is such a significant part of the British culture that I didn’t even realise when I was doing it.
Moving to a new country and adapting to a new way of life isn’t always simple, but hey, if there’s one aspect of German culture that is worth adopting, I’d say it’s this one.
Interesting point! But I also think a part of why we often hesitate to turn down invitations is that we worry people won’t ask us again. When you are new somewhere and have few friends it feels risky to decline an invitation even if the timing is not so convenient. Maybe for Germans who’ve lived here their whole lives and have plenty of friends this isn’t really a problem. But it’s a bit different when you’re just settling in… so maybe it’s not so much cultural (although that definitely is part of it) as where you are in your life and how many invitations you are getting!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for reading, Alex! Yes, that’s a fair point about living abroad. When you move and are trying to make friends, it’s not the same as when you are already settled.