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April 07, 2007

15 common American prejudices about Germans - True or not?

Posted in: U.S.A. Germany

From all your answers to my call for prejudices about Germans I have collected the 15 most common. I’ll talk about them in detail and tell you whether I think they are right or wrong. Oh, and when I say “we” I mean “Germans like myself”. I don’t know every German and as in every generalization there are exceptions.

Dead on:

- Germans are obsessed with soccer.
We are. And no matter how often you tell us that we’re wrong - we’ll always call it “Fußball”. The French call it “Football”, as do the British. In fact, I can only think of one country that thinks “football” would be a good name for a sport, where people throw a ball and carry it around in their hands.

- Germans build great cars.
No need to argue this one, I think. Volkswagen builds cars for the masses, Mercedes, BMW, Audi & Porsche show what can be done when the price isn’t that important. Engineering is one of the two things we’re famous for, and rightfully so.

- Germans are inflexible.
This was the most commonly mentioned prejudice, and unfortunately you are right. And it is true in every imaginable way. We don’t move for a new job as often as you do, we don’t adapt ourselves to new situations as easily as you do - yes, we lack flexibility.

- Make great beer & drink a lot of it.
Ah, the other thing we’re famous for. We’re not the country with the highest per capita beer consumption. That’s the Czech Republic, followed by Ireland (map from 2004). But it’s true, Germans (Yours truly being one of the exceptions) drink a lot of beer. And German beer is good. Probably because of the “Reinheitsgebot” (purity requirement).

- Germans are insecure about their history and have no national pride.
You can read how I feel about national pride here. As for the insecurity - you’re totally right. Can you blame us? We have a rich and interesting history, no doubt about that. But thanks to the idiocy of our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation - Yes, we are insecure, and we will be for a long, long time.


- Germans are rude & boorish.
That depends on age/location/occasion. I can surely understand this prejudice. Worst Case: Middle-aged men on vacation on Majorca (Spain). Majorca is sometimes referred to as the 17th federal state of Germany. Some parts of that island are like a year-around spring break. Only with beer-bellied German guys in their 30’s instead of young students (Okay, I’ve never been there. I only know it from tales and TV. My own little prejudice).

- Germans love kinky, naughty sex.
Uhm, we do? This prejudice caught me by surprise. We’re more open about sex, I know, but kinky? Are you sure you’re not mistaking “Deutsch” for “Dutch”?

- Germans have a stone-age attitude towards women.
The older the guy is, you’re talking about, the better your chances are of being right. Unfortunately the persons in charge of human resources are mostly not young enough. Yet.

- Germans like rules and follow them.
Oh yes. Cross a street when your lights are red, and you will hear an old lady tell you to behave yourself. And when old men are bored, they run around the neighborhood and take notes on who is parking wrongly. Again, the magic word is: Old.

- Germans are extremely efficient.
Well, kinda. It’s true that we can get things done quickly and professionally. But only if it is thoroughly planned. Hey, we have to be efficient. We need to get the same stuff done as you, and we don’t work as many hours.


- Germans are all anti-semites, xenophobic and/or Nazis!
And I’m not gonna list what other words I’ve read in some mails. Of course we have our racist idiots, but who hasn’t? In regions with high unemployment rate you have more, in regions that do better, you have less of them. Yes, it is a shame that these people are what they are. At least ours don’t wear stupid robes.

- Germans have no humor.
They do. Okay, my favorite comedians are all American (Carlin, Leary, Hicks, Maher & Black), but there are some good ones in Germany and we have a long history of fine political cabaret. If you don’t understand German humor, maybe it’s because of the language (thanks to kirun for the link). German is to exact for a lot of the wordplay you can do in English.

- Germans are cold natured.
We are definitely not. But we are careful. When we meet someone for the first time, we tend to act reserved, seemingly reluctant. Maybe that comes across as cold. But once we warm up to someone, we are just as much fun to be around as anyone. And this reserve also has an advantage: When a German calls you a friend, you can be sure that he’s not just saying it to be polite.

- Germans make the worst music in the world.
Nope. “Schlager” and “Volksmusik” are painful to the ears - I’d never call that music. Apart from that, there are some really good bands in Germany. For Punk/Rock you could try “Die Aerzte”, “Die toten Hosen”, Wizo or Rammstein (of course). If your into Hiphop give Seed a try (I don’t like Hiphop, but them I actually like). There are a lot of other good bands. Maybe I should write an extra post about German music.

Which brings us to the meanest, the most offensive, hurtful and unbearable prejudice of them all. And I’m afraid we will have to live with it until the day Conan O’Brien retires:

- Germans love David Hasselhoff
No one does! I know he has an alcohol problem, but that doesn’t qualify him as a German hero. We don’t like his singing, we don’t like his acting. And he hasn’t brought down the Berlin Wall, no matter what his rotten brain makes him believe.

Okay, that have been my comments on your 15 most common prejudices. Any comments or questions? Let me know.

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