diversity abroad

Insider Tips for Overcoming Culture Shock in Berlin, Germany

Discover effective ways to cope with culture shock while teaching English in Germany as an American with insights from International TEFL Academy (ITA) alumna Tina Angok.

Get Germany TEFL Guide

Germany’s culture has small yet drastic differences from American culture. (Especially if you’re accustomed to a Midwestern way of life.) Say, for example, you bump into someone in the Midwest, you can expect them to apologize profusely for being in your way. Germans would never do this, and even though I studied abroad in Berlin, I still didn’t get a full grasp of such nuances of German culture until I moved here to teach English.

Here's another example of feeling a touch of culture shock: I remember walking down Prinzenallee Strasse in Wedding (northern district of Berlin), and smiling at strangers as I passed them. It seemed like a totally normal thing to do. I used to do that everyday when I lived in Minnesota, but German people thought I was crazy. This was definitely the an example of the culture shock I faced. Germans can be quite standoffish and take a while to open up to someone new. So to them, it’s very odd to just randomly smile at someone unless you know them.

Read more: How to Deal with Culture Shock When Teaching English Abroad

Adjusting to life as an American in Germany

So, here are some tips for how I overcame this type of culture shock as Midwestern American settling in the heart of Germany:

1. Immersing myself in German culture

Just spending time with my German friends really helped give me a better understanding of the culture. Yes, I could’ve spent my time with other American expats, but that would’ve been taking the easy way out. Plus, I moved to teach English and live in Germany to learn about German culture and not to only spend time with other Americans.

2. Stay open-minded

Being open to everyone and having different, unique ways of life has helped a lot with the cultural immersion process. It was definitely hard at first but it ultimately paid off in the end.

3. Keep at it and live the culture

Practice makes perfect, right? After living in Germany for nine months, I find it somewhat strange to smile at strangers, as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll go right back to my Minnesota way of life if I ever go visit! But adapting to German culture has taught me another way of thinking about my interactions with strangers and friendliness altogether.

4. Staying positive

This was incredibly difficult for me. I remember regretting my decision to move here because I couldn’t understand why Germans were so cold and unfriendly. What I came to realize is that it’s not unfriendliness toward everyone, it’s just distance towards strangers. 

5. Discussing cultural differences with Germans

I found that talking about how I felt with my fellow German friends was the key to understanding cultural differences. Once I heard their point of view and they heard mine, it was a lot easier to have effective communication.

Go further:


Bonus: ITA's Introduction to New Cultures

If you're feeling apprehensive about your move to a new country as a TEFL teacher, fret not! ITA has got you covered with a wide range of online and in-person culture courses tailored to your destination. Whether you're headed to Spain, Japan, Korea, Italy, or Thailand, these courses provide an invaluable opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and connect with fellow ESL teachers, ensuring a seamless transition into your exciting new role and home.

Enroll in ITA's cultural courses now and gain the necessary knowledge and expertise for a seamless transition into your TEFL journey. Equip yourself with skills and understanding required to thrive in a new culture and make the most of your teaching experience.

Go Further: Culture Course Free Ebook


Posted In: , , ,

Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad & Online?

Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad or online, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more.