Are Germans ruder than the British? Are Britons more dishonest than Germans? Fortunately, we don't have to rely on blind prejudice for answers. Serious academic research has been done on both sides of the North Sea.
“'Hallo Mrs Bird,' said Judy. 'How's the rheumatism?'”
This doesn't appear in German editions of "A Bear called Paddington".
[This is "small talk", empty phrases not used by Germans and, therefore, the translation into German omits it]
There are Britons in Berlin who get taken aback by the directness of Germans. And there are Germans who get really annoyed when Britons (and Americans), in an effort to appear friendly, say things they don't really mean. Some Germans call this "lying".
(...) So this exchange of small talk occurs in the English original: "'Hallo Mrs Bird,' said Judy. 'It's nice to see you again. How's the rheumatism?' 'Worse than it's ever been' began Mrs. Bird."
In the German edition, this passage is simply cut.
(...) For their part, the British have what House calls the "etiquette of simulation". The British feign an interest in someone. They pretend to want to meet again when they don't really. They simulate concern.
Saying things like "It's nice to meet you" are rarely meant the way they are said, she says. "It's just words. It's simulating interest in the other person."
From a German perspective, this is uncomfortably close to deceit.
(...) There are many documented cases where the British understate a very serious problem with phrases like "there seem to be one or two problems here" or "there seems to be a little bit of an issue with this", he says.
(...) Sometimes it's endearing, or at least the British think it is, as when this announcement was made by British Airways pilot Eric Moody in 1982, after flying through a cloud of volcanic ash over Indonesia:
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress."
But it can also be confusing if you're not used to it.
When BMW bought the British car manufacturer, Rover, it took a while for the seriousness of some of the problems at Rover to sink in. All too often, British managers spoke in euphemisms that their German counterparts took at face value.
(...) "When I worked for a Dutch bank in London ten years ago, Dutch employees working in London were given a (humourous) memo with three columns listing phrases the British used, how the Dutch interpreted those phrases, and what the British really meant. E.g. "that's not bad" was interepreted by the Dutch as being negative, when it was actually meant to be encouraging."
Read the full article and comments at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13545386