By Carola Schlagheck

Once you've lived in Germany for a while, you may get the feeling that some of your colleagues and new German friends actually show more symptoms of culture shock when visiting other parts of their own country than you yourself do as a foreigner in Germany. Though they love to travel to exotic countries, deep-set regional differences make some Germans feel out of sorts when they're visiting their fellow countrymen.

And don't believe for a minute that you're more on the outer because of your limited language skills. Though they all claim to speak German, northern and southern Germans actually do not share the same language. Southerners become acutely aware of being “different“ when they enter a shop somewhere up North - for Bavarians, this is anywhere beyond the Danube River - and try to grapple with “Guten Tag,“ a standard greeting despised in the South, where “Grüß Gott“ is much more common.

Northerners, who are known for their ability to speak “high German“ find themselves in dire linguistic straits as they pass through Baden-Württemberg on their holidays to France or Switzerland. Given the choice between two foreign languages - French or the incomprehensible sing-song Swabish - some find it easier to stumble through with their high-school French.

It's not just linguistic diversity that creates regional difference - mentalities also vary greatly between different regions of Germany. Naturally, after several decades of separation, the divide between western and eastern Germans has not yet closed. But even within the western part of Germany, local characteristics can differ widely.

Northerners, especially those from Hamburg, are considered to be slightly reserved. Southerners are seen as more open-hearted and down-to-earth. People from the western Rhine region, in turn, are famous for their cheerfulness and easy-going nature. Stereotypes for sure, but it's worth exploring Germany to experience the diversity firsthand. And guess what: Frankfurters will know what to give you if you're asking for a Frankfurter. They might not if you ask for a Berliner (a doughnut), which is called Kreppel here.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 1, 2003