Comparison of Consumer Behavior Psychology Among German, British and Ethnic Chinese

On the evening of the first day of the Chinese new year, it rained lightly in Taipei. I, Mr. Hahn (my partner, German), my younger sister, my younger brother-in-law, and my parents were preparing hotpot at my younger brother’s. My younger sister marries a British man and they live and work in London for years. They usually only come back to Taipei once a year during festivals. Since we live in Shanghai and come back to Taipei once in a while, it is not easy for the eight of us to unite so it seems as if we are hurry to chat more. This blog’s topic, Comparison of Consumer Behavior Psychology Among German, British and Taiwanese (ethnic Chinese), comes from a chat with my younger sister.

My younger sister said, “You know, when mum came to visit me in Britain last year, she went to a supermarket near where I work to wait for me to get off work one day. When we walked to the bus station after I took off from work, she started to talk about what she JUST read on National Geographic with great interest. I asked if she bought the magazine. She answered that she stood in the shop finishing reading it instead of buying.”

My younger sister laughed and said in a righteous tone, “You cannot read magazines for free in Britain. You must pay before reading.”

Mum laughed and said without embarrassment, “I bought a can of drink in the shop so it would be all right for me to read the magazine.”

Courtesy to National Geographic

Mr. Hahn joined the conversation and said it was also not allowed in Germany. Germans never think magazines are free for reading in shops even they are not sealed by plastic foam or sticker.

Nevertheless, I also fully understand my mum’s psychology. In the viewpoints of ethnic Chinese, as long as we have spent money in the shop (regardless of how much we spent), it is no big deal to take small advantage of the shop owner by reading some magazines while waiting. We make the action of taking a small advantage REASONABLE by buying something else.


Eslite Bookshop in Taiwan.
Customers can read all of them in the service counter after the staff open the plastic foils for you.
Courtesy to Eslite

My younger brother-in-law is a well-mannered British man and always behaves as if he can act in Little Women without wearing ancient costumes. After listening to my explanation, a weird look of “I understand” showed up on his gentle face, but he still politely said that no one in Britain behaved like this.

By then, the hotpot was ready and my younger sister-in-law invited to use to join the dinner.

During the following few days and evenings, as long as we got together, we often compared the differences between British, German and ethnic Chinese in consumption habits and psychology.

In conclusion, there are four obvious and interesting differences for comparing and sharing.

Raohe Night Market in Taipei

Firstly, in Britain and Germany, there are price tags on almost every products, bargaining is not possible. However, in Chinatown (it also depends), the shop owners usually accept bargaining in small shops. In Taiwan night market, the wares tagged as 399NTD  implies that the buyers can bargain to 350 or 300NTD. No one will actually pay 399NTD.

As known to whoever has been to silk markets or large markets in Beijing and Shanghai, it would be better to bargain from 1/3 of the tagged price or lower. The bargaining will stop only after bargaining to the price satisfactory to both parties. As for most Chinese, as far as I myself and the ethnic Chinese people whom I know, it is an ability from childhood. Exaggeratedly speaking, bargaining is an ability that we can get without efforts like walking and eating.

After listening to me, my younger brother-in-law answered simply and gently, “But it wastes much time, doesn’t it?” (British really love to end up with “doesn’t it?” to tone up very simple sentences.)

Flea Market in Germany
Courtesy to Culture Trip

Mr. Hahn responsed that bargaining might be available in the flea market in Germany but he had never bargained in Germany. In common shops in Germany, bargaining is a no-go. 

A few years ago, when I intended to buy a wooden toy in a German Christmas market and bargained in English as I could not speak German at that time, the owner instantly showed an unhappy look and refused to sell. 

Ha-ha! I knew bargaining was not acceptable but I still wanted to have a try.

Wet Market

Secondly, when buying meat and vegetables in England and Germany, not only bargaining is not acceptable, also the shop owners will not offer a handful of complimentary green leeks, ginger and garlic upon payment and packing like what often happens in the Chinese food(wet) market.

When buying hams and meats in German butcher’s shops, the owner will only give you the exact number of meat slices as you demand and no one will present you one more slice or another small portion of something as free gift.

From German’s perspective, the communication with non-direct thoughts or implications is a pure waste of time, which is just different from Chinese customs. Chinese may think it is less friendly.

Carrefour in Taiwan

Thirdly, in large ethnic Chinese supermarkets, there often set small booths to exhibit and offer new product samples for free. Customers can enjoy new food samples for free while wandering, such as a small piece of scallion pancake, egg tarts and a small cup of juice. Definitely, each sample is only for you to try the taste.

I have heard that some friends of my friends even ask for these free foods over and over again to get full. (They are, of course, extreme examples.)

Mr. Hahn laughed and said that German supermarkets do not provide food samples. 

In my experience, I have also never seen any in their supermarkets.

Free tea served in Chinese restaurants

Fourthly, when eating in Chinese restaurants, the waiters immediately bring free hot tea and water with refills when customers sit down without ordering. Hence, customers who do not pay for drinks can also enjoy drinking “something” during the meal.

In British and German restaurants, if we want to have free water, we need to ask the waiters for TAP WATER. If we carelessly ask for water, the waiters will bring us a gas water or famous brand mineral water that needs to be paid.

Water on Western Table

On the whole, there seems no bargaining, complimentary food or small advantages in German and British cultures when it comes to consumptions. Through these trivia matters, I again, find out how different we are. What we all should do, is probably DO IN ROME AS THE ROMANS DO!

If you acknowledge any consumption psychology differences between British, German and ethnic Chinese, welcome to leave me comments. 


大年初一的傍晚,台北飄小雨。我和德國人Mr. Hahn與我妹妹、我妹夫、父母在弟弟家的大餐桌上,準備煮火鍋。我妹妹嫁給英國先生,兩人長年在倫敦生活工作,一年通常只在過節時回來台北一次,而我們從上海回來,一家八人團圓相聚不易,所以總是有一種「要抓緊時間聊天」的氣氛。從妹妹開始的一番對話,得出了今天的題目,「比較德國與台灣(以下泛指華人)消費行為心理 」。





但是,我也完全理解我媽的心態。我們 華人會認為,既然我在店裡(不論店的規模大小)有消費,那佔店家一點小便宜、站著等人翻個報章雜誌,沒什麼大不了的。是的,我們沒有花錢買雜誌,但是我們也不盡然完全沒掏錢買東西,我們通過花錢買其他東西來讓佔了小便宜的舉止交待得過去。


我妹夫是位英國氣質書生,他給人的感覺是可以不用穿古裝就能演《小婦人(Little Women)》。他聽完我這番解釋,本來溫和的臉上浮出詭異的一抹「我懂了的表情」,但是還是很禮貌地說,在英國沒人會這樣做。







Mr. Hahn說,德國的跳蚤市場的攤位「可能」有談價錢的空間,但是他在德國從來沒有討價還價過。德國一般的商店,議價更是天方夜談。








Mr. Hahn果斷地說,德國超市不提供樣品食物 。我自己也沒在德國超市看到過。英國也超市裡也沒有。


在德國或英國餐館,坐下來想喝免費的水,就要自己開口跟店員說我要「水龍頭水(tab water)」,如果(不知道或不小心)說成「水」,店員會端來需要付費的氣泡水或是名牌礦泉水。

總而言之,德國和英國文化裡似乎沒有殺價的情趣、沒有免費的食物,更沒有消費附 帶的甜頭。通過這些芝麻綠豆的生活瑣事,我又再次發現,我們和德國人、英國人有多不一樣。我們所有人該作的,可能是盡量入境隨俗。



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