German expectations of respectfulness and order can make dining out a strangely quiet affair.
I’m back in cold, cold Berlin after being away in Latin America for the winter and, funnily enough, it isn’t the weather that has required the biggest adjustment. It’s the volume.
Last night I was out to dinner with a friend in Prinzlauerberg, and despite being in a fairly crowded restaurant, it was almost silent. Everyone was whispering. I had to lean in to hear what my German friend was saying.
After spending the past weeks in Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil and Argentina, I’ve found the low volume in Germany to produce a ringing in my ears.
But what I’ve learned since I moved to Berlin a year ago is that Germans treasure their quiet time.
I’ve written before about ‘getting deutsched’, the term I’ve coined for when a random German stranger scolds you for doing something wrong. I’d say about 80% of the time, the transgression involved is being too loud. It isn’t just at restaurants. I’ve seen it happen to an American friend of mine on the sidewalk on a noisy street!
Granted, Americans have a reputation for speaking too loudly in public spaces (and not just in Germany). But I know my Southern European and Latin American friends here also find the quiet a bit hard to adjust to.
Yes, excessive noise is rude to those around you, but why do we have to whisper at a restaurant? I understand it’s all about German expectations of respectfulness and order, but there’s also something to be said for ‘live and let live’.