Customer Service: Germany vs. USA

A few weeks ago I was in a drugstore and the lady clerk promptly barked at me when I asked for soap. Customer service in Europe is not exactly winning gold, especially in Germany, where people’s skills and willingness to help – let alone enthusiasm – are pretty much foreign concepts. Whether you are on the phone with your internet provider or addressing an employee in the supermarket, you may be treated like an inconvenient nuisance, rather than the reason why they have a job. On the other hand, the startling over-friendliness found in customer service in the United States can be a bit daunting to outsiders. What if we met somewhere in the middle?

German BureaucraZy

I’m starting to believe that German bureaucrats belong to some sort of cult – the paperwork cult. Its members hide in plain sight, spend hours in their filing fortresses, feed on officially approved certificates and have mental Bescheinigasms1 every time they use their seal to stamp a document. 

Truth be told, dealing with paperwork in Germany seems pretty straight-forward, at least compared to other countries. However, the system has a catch: the daunting amount of documents, forms and certificates necessary to accomplish any task, which makes any bureaucratic procedure a highly intimidating and time-consuming experience. At times I even think that the system is so convoluted so that you give up halfway through the process. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Amtsprache2.

I wonder if Germans have ever thought about simplifying their system. If they were to, it would go like this:

1 Compound word coined by yours truly, made of Bescheinigung (certificate) + orgasm.
2 It’s the language that bureaucrats use, full of legalese and highly unintelligible for the majority of (even native) speakers.