German Passive Aggression: A Guide for Expats


Germany is a beautiful country, renowned for its economic prowess and success. Living here as a foreigner has been a true privilege- I have enjoyed many benefits such as sick leave, fantastic vacation plans, clean streets and more. I also realize that such benefits do not come without cost. Indeed, such a wonderful utopia could not exist without strict rules that dictate how society should thrive. And what does any good German* do when they witness an individual violating such a rule? React with passive aggression, of course! But if you’re an immigrant like me and haven’t quite mastered it yet- don’t worry! This handy guide will have you silently seething in no time.


1. You witness someone slowly riding their bicycle THE WRONG WAY on the opposite sidewalk. Do you:

a) Mind your own business, if they get hit by a car that’s their own problem
b) Call the Ordnungsamt and report the incident
c) Cross the street while loudly exclaiming “das ist nicht in Ordnung!” and wagging your finger

Correct Answer: c
Even if the street was packed or it was dangerous for the bicyclist to be anywhere besides the sidewalk, rules are rules. Everyone knows how bicycle friendly Germany is- there are paths specifically for them where it’s ok to run down wandering pedestrians! Who cares if this particular bicyclist was going slow enough to avoid collisions? Or that you crossed against traffic? Thank God you were able to step in when the Ordnungsamt couldn’t!


2. While walking past your building’s trash bins, you notice someone who DOESN’T LIVE IN YOUR BUILDING trying to throw away a small bag of trash. Do you:

a) Keep walking- it’s one bag of trash
b) Inform your Hausmeister that you saw someone misuse the trash bin
c) Shout at the offender, declaring they don’t live here and don’t pay for the trash, until they take their bag back out and throw it in the correct bin

Correct Answer: c
How DARE someone throw a small bag of trash in the wrong bin?! That’s almost as bad as not sorting your glass! And everyone knows how expensive it would be for one wrong bag of trash to be mixed in with your trash. It’s important to discourage this behavior immediately and shame the offender into submission. Stand proud knowing that while you watch them go dumpster diving, you’ve done right by your neighbors and your country.


3. When entering a packed train, you notice someone with their bag on the seat next to them. They are wearing their headphones and cannot hear you. Do you:

a) Try to find another seat; they’re being inconsiderate, but it’s not worth it
b) Stare them down until they notice you are there and move their bag
c) Silently pick up their bag yourself and put it on the ground, then “tsk” loudly

Correct Answer: c
Yes, it is incredibly rude to touch another person’s belongings, and in the long run it may not be worth getting in another individual’s personal space. But an example must be made! What if instead of an able bodied individual it was a pregnant elderly woman in a wheelchair? Clearly this person was in the wrong and your violation was negated by this wrong.


4. In order to relax you take your quarterly trip to a Wellness-Therme. However, you notice someone is already sitting in the sauna wearing a bathing suit. Do you:

a) Sit with them- maybe they just don’t want to be naked with strangers
b) Move to another sauna where everyone else has disrobed
c) Demand that the person remove their bathing suit immediately

Correct Answer: c
As anyone who has ever been in a sauna knows, bathing suits are full of dangerous toxins due to chemicals and contact with an individual’s body. You have no idea if this person has even bothered to wash said item before wearing it! And in the sauna it’s very easy to inhale these toxins and become ill, costing the German economy hundreds of work hours. The only way you can be completely sure is if everyone is 100% naked- natural sweat and bodily fluids actually negate any lingering toxins. But don’t worry, towels are completely ok so long as they’re open.


5. At the supermarket, you are standing in a very long line at check out when another clerk opens a new lane. Do you:

a) Move in an orderly fashion to the other lane- first come first serve
b) Bum rush the other lane- every man for himself!
c) Chastise the individuals who knocked over the elderly lady in order to get in the other lane- we’re a civilized nation and this behavior is unacceptable

Correct Answer: b
Trick question! The only rule within the German supermarket is that there are no rules. While you may be criticized for not waiting your turn to get on a train or to enter a building or even to ride an escalator (und rechts stehen links gehen!!!), it is completely acceptable to shove, stab, and slam other customers as you push your way to the new line. If you ever thought that there was an ordered and intuitive way to allow people that have been waiting longer to get in the new line first, you’re absolutely wrong.

* This is satire. I completely understand that not all Germans behave this way. I love Germany and respect the people within it. Please do not take this seriously.

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22 thoughts on “German Passive Aggression: A Guide for Expats

  1. Expat2Local says:

    very nice article!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. germanginge says:

    That is spot-on. Many a true word said in jest!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. germanginge says:

    Reblogged this on Ginge in Germany and commented:
    This is so, so, so true of Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    Very sad and true for the Germans. Everybody is a policeman. Just the police doesn’t act as one.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Petra says:

    😃😃 this is so true! I live in Germany 5 months and already experienced most of those 😃

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Bernd says:

    Thumbs up, great post

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sexyurr says:

    Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. AP says:

    I wonder why in this ‘beautiful’ and rules abiding country people don’t pick up after their dogs. Seriously i don’t get it! civic duty anyone?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Daniel says:

    Funny bit, but there is a glaring error. None of these examples actually include any form of passive aggression, everything is actually rather active. Even in jest, if you are going to say Germans react with “passive aggression, of course!”, then you should include at least one example of passive aggression.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Luigi says:

    Clearly you don’t understand what passive aggressiveness is. You’re talking about aggression.


  11. Anonymous says:

    None of these are very passive.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] People take things very literally in writing and you can’t explain it to them; like my passive aggressive quiz, that got some interesting feedback and people not really getting it and saying – but […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Magi says:

    i am affraid is so true…and is also interesting that here is better not borrow anything:P . Even from family ..can be awkwardly.

    Liked by 1 person



  15. Anonymous says:

    All very true (and astutely noted) but might I take exception with the term “passive aggressive?” What is described here is outright aggressive aggressive!


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