Hey expat living in Germany! Has THIS ever happened to YOU?
You walk into a store, expecting to be greeted and directed to the item you wish to purchase. However, no one approaches you- no one even deigns to acknowledge your existence. “Is anyone here?!” you demand, “I want to buy something! I want to give you money!” But no one comes. What did you do wrong? Where’s the customer service? WHY ARE THINGS DIFFERENT HERE?!
WELL! Here’s a handy guide to help assist you in getting assistance at a German shop.
- Line Up
I don’t care if the store looks completely empty. Somewhere there is a queue, and the employees will refuse to speak to you unless you find it. This could be as simple as literally lining up somewhere or even just walking to a desk, waiting for someone to come.
Pro-Tip: Clearing your throat to attract attention does not help. Cracking a beer open on the side of the counter apparently does.
- Directly Approach a Clerk (and Ignore the Stink Eye)
Although seemingly repugnant, the average German clerk is actually rather skittish and will run at the first sign of confrontation. Instead, carefully approach the employee with open palms, showing the coins in your hand which you desire to give them in exchange for a good and/or service. Begin speaking in calm, soothing tones, and ignore the eventual stink eye that is actually masking their fear.
Pro-Tip: Try not to wear strong cologne or perfume and remain upwind to avoid detection.
- Intend to Buy Something
Elsewhere you might be able to get away with “window shopping” or “just looking”- but NOT IN GERMANY. This is a waste of both your time and the clerk’s patience. If you are going to come in, it is with the intent to give them money. Do your research at home and only ask questions which will lead to the inevitable sale.
Pro-Tip: If you really can’t find something to buy, just buy a pack of gum at the register and pretend that was the whole reason you were there.
- Realize Threats are Useless
“HEY!” you say to the clerk, “I’ve been waiting 3 months for my internet router to be ‘installed’, and the window for installation is 11:00 to 17:00! I have a life which needs living! If you don’t have it installed by TOMORROW, I’m going to your competition!”
Then the clerk has a hearty, yet restrained, chuckle with his nearby coworker, as they both shake their heads and think YOU FOOLISH FOOL! This is GERMANY! All installation techs will take 3 months to do something as simple as flipping a switch! You are NOTHING to them! BWA HAHAHAHAHA!
Pro-Tip: Tell them that the router has already been installed. Insist on it. They will personally come to your house to confirm it isn’t and then hey! They can install it now.
- Have a Supernatural Sense for Finding Products Within the Store
This one might seem a little hard to achieve, but it’s really not. Basically when you walk in and the clerk insists that they don’t have what you are looking for, assure them that they do. Confused, the clerk will begin searching everywhere. If necessary, tell them you were at another store and they confirmed the product’s existence on the premises. One time a clerk found an orange in an electronics store- it was impressive!
Pro-Tip: Tell them you saw it there just the other day, but be sure to stay vague on exactly where. By defining the area, the employee is more likely to give up on the search.
So there you have it, my expat friends! A few tips to handle this “weird” German customer service. Never mind the fact that millions of Germans manage just fine on their own- if it’s different from how they do things back home, well then, it must be wrong!
 In English, naturally- why would you bother learning GERMAN?
 Hefeweizen in Bavaria
 Otherwise known as “Köln”
 Hefeweizen in Bavaria
 It was next to the Apples
Like the post? Think I’m wrong? Please like/comment/share!
Be sure to follow me and the blog for more!
Check out if I’m coming to your city for LIVE English comedy.
Don’t see your city? Then sign up for the mailing list!