Germany has recently been pronounced the world’s most popular country. Meanwhile, the Germans are one of those unlucky nations that are marked by the world’s stickiest stereotypes. Everyone has their own perception of Germany and its people even before they enter the country or have their first conversation with a real German. It’s a tough fate, really. I also had endless misconceptions about the Germans before I moved to Leipzig in September 2012. How surprised I was to find out that everything I thought about them was false! So, in order to save you from too much astonishment, I officially present to you the most common German stereotypes that are completely false according to my own experience.
1. Germans have no sense of humour.
In general terms, Germans are lovely outgoing people who love to have fun. But, I hear you say, having fun and being fun are two different things. You are right, of course, but the thing about the German sense of humour is that it’s very peculiar. Back during my time in Leipzig, I found that Germans enjoy having a good laugh and appreciate a good joke unless it becomes too personal, extreme, or insulting. Germans hate insult jokes, and they don’t really get the purpose of sarcasm either. But the main reason why Germany is officially the world’s least funny country (says The Telegraph) is that Germans don’t know how to laugh at themselves. They take themselves extremely seriously and take jokes too much to heart. So don’t you ever, EVER, point out that there’s something funny or foolish about them unless you want them to dislike you.
2. Germans are very organised and super responsible.
Germans love making lines in the supermarket and they never cross the road at the red light. But it stops there. You would be surprised at how disorganised Germans can actually be! Sometimes their lack of self-discipline reaches shocking peaks, e.g. the phone company forgets to cancel a service after you’ve already cancelled the contract and still wants to keep charging you, or your professor at the university loses your bachelor thesis, or the debt collector suddenly wants to assign you false bills, or you get an official warning for downloading a movie you never even heard of… I didn’t just randomly come up with these examples – they all happened to me during my two years of living in Germany, the place of the world’s most organised chaos. So, if making generalizations, I really wouldn’t say that Germans are super organized – quite the opposite!
3. Germans love cars more than anything.
Given that Germany makes the best car brands in the world (Volkswagen, BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes), this stereotype is somewhat acceptable. And indeed, the Germans do love their cars – but they love their bicycles more. If you get to visit Münster, for example, known to be the bicycle capital of Germany, you’ll see that Germans give preference to more eco-friendly means of transportation.
4. Germans are extremely punctual.
Totally disagree! I have, maybe, only one German friend who has never been late to anything. From my experience, Germans don’t take time schedules too seriously (especially Deutsche Bahn which is never on time).
5. Germans are rude.
This is, probably, the most common of all the German stereotypes. Usually everybody thinks that the Germans are tough-toned and strongly-worded. And indeed, they tend to be quite harsh in expressing their opinions, but it’s not because they’re genuinely rude people. It’s because the German language is extremely precise – in fact, a bit too precise to show too much tact. Germans know exactly how to word an idea without drawing a veil over it, because ambiguities in the German language simply do not exist. So Germans are not being rude, technically. They have just a precise manner of speaking.
6. Germans are bookworms.
There’s no doubt that German people are quite well-read. But, unlike the common belief, Germany is far from being the most reading nation in the world. In fact, their reading rate is relatively low even in comparison to the world’s least prosperous countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines, or India! Video games, surprisingly enough, get way more love from the Germans than books do. Germany has the largest video game market in Europe and hosts the world’s leading gaming expo every year (Gamescom in Köln).
7. Germans are romantics.
Even though it was Germany that began the movement of romanticism in the late 18th century, the Germans themselves can hardly be labelled as hopeless romantics. The language they speak is definitely not Die Sprache der Liebe, the language of love, and this really shows in their down-to-earth behavior. The Germans are very open, straightforward, and honest, which is a good thing, of course, but there’s very little element of flirtation and seduction. The common joke is that, in Germany, a man can be passionately in love with you for years and you would not have any idea. I’d like to think that there were a lot of Germans in love with me while I was living in Leipzig, but they were just too German to show their feelings.
8. German language is ugly.
A harsh, overly complicated language with words that are kilometers long and can only be used for insults – that’s what people think of the German language. But the thing is, German is an acquired taste. Once you get the melody of it and learn how to follow its rhythm, the language starts to sound different in your ears. German is not ugly – it’s just horribly difficult. And those are two different things.
Over to you! Are there any other German stereotypes that aren’t true?