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April 04, 2007

10 common German prejudices about the USA

Posted in: U.S.A. Germany

Whenever people talk about the USA, it doesn’t take long until you hear sentences that start with “That’s typical. Americans are all…”. Well, what are you? I’ve asked around, talked to people and this is a list of the 10 prejudices I’ve heard most often.

- Americans are extremely superficial.
I tend to blame this on the celebrity culture on both sides. I hear that superstition a lot, but I can’t really see us Germans being different. Yes, I guess you are superficial, but so are we.

- What’s with all the fast food?
The biggest fast food chains in Germany: McDonald’s & Burger King. Of course there are also some Subways, KFC and Pizza Huts. When we think fast food, we think America. And to be honest: I think Americans DO eat more fast food, although I have never heard of a decent Doener Kebap in the US. That’s Germany’s favorite fast food.

- You like to watch how people die, but not how they are made.
This is one of my prejudices about the US. After the “Janet Jackson incident” at the Superbowl, I got an IM from an American. It went something like this: He: “You wouldn’t believe what happened. JJ’s tit fell out. I could totally see it!” Me: “So?”. On the other hand you have no problem with violence in movies. That’s where I’m some kind of wuss. What can I say? I’m more of a productive type ;).

- Americans are war mongers.
Sorry, but you’ll have to live with this prejudice. Foreigners will always judge you by the actions of you government. I don’t know anyone personally who voted for Bushes second term. But if you did, let me use this opportunity to say: You fucked up!

- Beer will kill you, guns won’t.
Minimum age to drive: 16. To own a gun: 18 (depends on state, I know). To drink a beer: 21. Uhm, do I need to explain, why this sounds a little bit weird to a German?

- Go to America and you’re gonna get killed.
It’s easy to understand why people think that. News about violence simply sell better than a documentary about neighbors hugging each other. In 1993 there was a series of murders in Miami. A couple of German tourists were killed in carnappings, if I remember correctly. Even 14 years later, people still remember that. It seems that fear has got a long lasting durability.

- Americans are religious nutjobs.
Jesus Camp, no premarital sex, “I don’t believe in evolution”, homophobia, a president who believes to have dialogs with god - Again, I have never met anyone personally who shows symptoms like that. I don’t think that many Americans are such religious nutjobs, but if you meet a German with this prejudice, don’t be too hard on him. Stuff like that is really hard to comprehend.

- Americans don’t give a shit about their poor people.
In Germany everyone is entitled to certain benefits. If you can’t afford a place to stay, clothes to wear, food to eat, health care, you get help. That’s how we believe it should be, and we pay a load of money for it. You get a lot more help than in the US. Some Germans see that and think of the US as a country where no one cares about the poor. In Germany we don’t have your culture of voluntary work or public service.

- Everything needs to be XXL (houses, cars, refrigerators, Burgers, breast implants,…).
Okay, this is more of an observation than a prejudice. What do you need SUVs for? The place? Don’t you have station wagons? And who needs these huge fridges? And who eats this gigantic portions at your restaurants? Hey, I am fat, and even I don’t need that much. Seriously, could someone explain that to me?

- Americans are a bunch of self-centered ignorant people.
I wouldn’t say it that harsh, but self-centered? Yes, I think so. Your news, no matter what medium, concentrate a lot more on your own issues than the news in other countries. It’s easy to get the impression that you simply don’t care about the rest of the world. Although from my own experience, I got a totally different impression of the Americans I’ve met (on- and offline).

Okay, take a deep breath and calm down. It’s over. After compiling this list, I’ve become curious about the way you Americans see us Germans. So, I’d like you to tell me, what your prejudices are about us. Take your time and tell me what you think about Germany and why. The more, the better. Leave it in the comments, use the contact form or send me an email. I’d be happy to hear from you.

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