Born between the "I'm OK, you're OK" generation and the "every little thing you do is magic" generation, I was given what I felt was a healthy dose of compliments - enough to encourage my self-esteem without people going unrealistically overboard. Telling my mother "You look pretty today, Mama," earned me a smile and a kiss. Compliments, I learned, served as a sort of currency in the US. Culture shock: Germany honesty Compliments are so frequent and so ingrained in everyday life in the US that I wasn't even aware how large a role they play in the culture until I moved to Germany over a decade ago.
Applying a similar tactic as a schoolgirl, I knew that telling my teacher, "You look great! For most of my first year here, I thought there must be something wrong with me. No one told me they'd appreciated a lecture I'd given at the school where I taught.
Angela, a co-worker, said that perhaps it's a misunderstanding I have, not differentiating between a compliment, which centers on appearance, and praise, which is encouragement for a process.
"Don't get the two mixed up," she warned me as I was writing this article.
But it's hard not to when, in English, the definition for compliment is, literally, a statement of praise.
Though it has taken me more than a decade, I have finally come to terms with the fact that in Germany, I won't be complimented on everything I do and when I garner attention for praise, it will likely be more sincere than anything I'd have heard in the US.
As a young girl growing up in the US, I took compliments for granted.
If I put on a dress, family members were sure to coo over how pretty I looked.
Americans use that phrase all the time: "You look amazing," "This dinner you cooked was amazing," "That article you wrote was amazing." Instead, according to Juul, I should say, "Oh, look, you did a drawing?
" A dog would get more encouragement than that for putting his paw out to shake.