If there’s one country that people seem to love stereotyping, it’s Germany. Perhaps it’s from the image of Germans that Hollywood movies give, but I always find that people hardly ever give you a neutral response when you mention the word “Germany” or “Germans.”
Person: Hey, so I’m moving to Iceland.
Everyone: Well then have fun. Remember to bring a parka.
Person: Hey, so I’m moving to Germany.
Response 1: OMG Oktoberfest!!! Chug! Chug! Chug!
Response 2: OMG you should go to Berlin! I was in Berlin for a month and I can’t even remember it…that’s how epic it was!!!
Response 3: Why Germany?! Aren’t they still Nazis?!
Response 4: Hope you like sausages and schnitzel!
And while most Germans will blame Bavarians for all their stereotypes, being a Canadian living in Germany, I can’t help but notice some of these stereotypes on a day to day basis (I live in Baden-Württemberg). While most stereotypes aren’t fully true (how can you say a country of 80 million people are all the same?), some I do find hilariously true to a certain extent. After living in Germany for a few months now, here’s my observations on the most popular German stereotypes. Do I agree? Or disagree? Read more to find out!
Germans are very punctual
One of my German friends told me that Germans consider it better “to be 30 minutes early, than 5 minutes late,” which I find true. What I find amusing is how some Germans will search up schedules on the Deutsche Bahn website, so it’s not even, “Hey, let’s meet at around 5,” but rather, “Hey, let’s meet at exactly 17.27.” And when they say 17.27, you better be there at 17.27.
Of course when you do run late, they’ll tell you it’s fine, but underneath their happy, smiling exterior, you can totally sense their disappointment. Unless of course, you blame the transportation. In the land of punctuality, for some reason the Deutsche Bahn is never fully reliable. All Germans seem united in their hatred for the Deutsche Bahn, so just work that into your excuse, and your tardiness will be forgiven.
Germans are very efficient and love making schedules
When I first noticed my 26 year old roommate penciling in all his plans on his wall calendar and computer calendar, I was definitely pretty surprised. Sure, it’s common to write down deadlines for school assignments, and work shifts, but I was surprised that everything from “call so and so” and “grocery shopping” were all written down. While not all Germans I’ve met do this, most of them do like having a plan for the day.
There’s no “Hey, let’s hang out sometime!” because that would be too vague, and perhaps bordering on chaotic for a structured German day. Instead, I find Germans to really want a purpose in everything (perhaps so they can pencil it into their schedules). So instead, something like “Hey, let’s meet for coffee on Thursday at exactly 17.27” would be the correct German response.
Germany is the country of insurance companies
I’ve never heard of this stereotype until I moved to Germany, but when I did move, one of the first things I’ve noticed was this word “Versicherung.” And it would be everywhere – elegantly written across large fancy buildings, to every other commercial on TV with cute puppies and flowers mentioning this word “Versicherung.” I thought it must have been something exciting, mystical and very European, until I found out that it meant insurance.
Germans are cold
Ironically, the first time I’ve met a bunch of Germans was when I backpacked across Australia. There, I made lots of German friends and had the time of my life partying with them almost every night. So when I told people back in Canada that I was planning on moving to Germany, and people would respond with, “those Germans seem like really cold people,” I was genuinely surprised.
Living in Germany, I can sort of see why people think that. Back in Canada, if you go to any given bar or club, there’s always guys wanting to buy you drinks. If you walk down the street, it’s likely you’ll get chatted up. You get hit on at the bus stop, marriage proposals in the food court, and someone always seems to make jokes in the elevator to keep the silence at bay. If you’re reading in a coffee shop, someone will comment on your book, and people will invite you to house parties after five seconds of talking to them. After a week in Canada, if you don’t have more friends and drinking buddies than fingers, than you’re definitely doing something wrong.
Of course, all of this rarely happens in Germany, and I have to admit – I still have more fingers than German friends in Mannheim and I’ve lived here for way more than a week. But does this mean they’re “cold” just because they’re not as open as other countries? I find that Germans like to have a sense of purpose before initiating a conversation, so saying something like, “Hey, what’s up?” to a total stranger is pretty foreign to them. When you do strike up a random conversation with a German though, I always find them to be such friendly people, and it makes you think about the value between quality versus quantity.
So are they cold people? No, I don’t think so. Reserved is a better word….
Germans are reserved
Unlike home, where it’s common to become “instant best friends” with someone, Germans tend to need some time before they open up to you and include you in their “circle.” What I find surprising is how Germans always keep their doors closed in student residences, and despite studying and living in another city, a lot of them go home almost every weekend. Some of my friends say that they know people who go home every weekend! I’ve been in student residences (rez) on weekends, to find the place empty and completely quiet, when back home, any rez on any given weekend would be packed with people passed out in the hallways.
Total culture shock.
When I lived in rez, I remember that everyone had so much fun and we became such good friends that we only went home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and reading week (Canadian equivalent of spring break). Some people had so much fun in rez, that they didn’t even go to class. However, a lot of Germans seem to refer to their friends in rez as their “classmates,” and their “friends” as their childhood friends from their hometown.
Therefore, don’t feel too dejected if Germans aren’t rushing over to become instant besties with you. Close friendships with Germans don’t usually happen overnight, but when they do form, I find it a lot more genuine (aka none of that “OMG your top looks so hot” when you know it makes you look frumpy bullshit).
Germans love beer
Germans love bread
I’ve been told that I’ve never actually had bread until I came to Germany, because those sliced packages of bread we have in North America (you know, like Dempsters), isn’t actually bread, but toast (even when it’s not toasted). Or more specifically, “American toast.” And so, it’s easy to note that Germans take their bread very seriously. But for good reason, because it’s delicious! There’s bakeries on almost every street and every train station, and some of them even open for a few hours on Sundays!
Germans love sausages
I’ve never actually seen my German friends eat sausages on a regular basis, so I can’t quite confirm this point. Maybe they do but hide the fact when I’m around so I don’t rush to tell all my friends back home that all Germans love sausages, further contributing to this stereotype. My roomie is also a vegetarian, so I can’t even spy on his eating habits for the purpose of this post. However, walk around any German city centre, and you’ll find stands selling bratwurst, currywurst, wurst wurst….so someone has to be eating them!
Germans have no sense of humour
I find all my German friends to be very funny, but then again, I’m easily amused. Actually, I think almost everyone is funny. Especially very serious people, because I find serious people especially funny in their need to be serious all the time. You know?
With that said, yes I do think Germans have a sense of humour. While their humour is more subtle, and not the sort of drunken debauchery (“Haha Tucker Max is the shit!”) sort of humour (even after a crazy night out!), they are definitely funny in their own way, and hearing a German joke is always a delight.
One thing I will note, is that sometimes Germans don’t always get that you’re telling a joke (until you tell them that you are) and they might interpret it very seriously. In that case, always tell them you’re telling a joke beforehand. That way, they’ll laugh if they find it funny, or just stare at you blankly if it’s not funny (because Germans won’t forcefully laugh at your jokes if they’re not funny just to be nice).
Germans are very unromantic
I know a German guy (and don’t ask how I know) who says that he’s a really nice guy because he’s always honest to every girl he meets. “I grew up with five sisters” (or something like that), he said. “And I see how some guys treat them and it’s horrible. They’re such douche bags. I never want to be like that, which is why I always want to treat girls with respect…because I’m such a nice guy. Did I mention that I’m a really nice guy?”
So you must be thinking, “aww this German guy must be a total romantic!” Well, that is if you ever meet him, since he “flirts” with girls by saying, “Hi you’re very pretty. I don’t to be in a relationship with you because I have to move to (German hometown) in a few months, but do you want to have sex?” And in all seriousness, he actually finds this to be very sweet, honest and affectionate.
With that said, while German guys aren’t like French guys, who write heartfelt love poems all the time… they just show their love in different ways. And on the plus side, it’s uncommon to find couples sucking face by the lockers here, as you do in high schools back home! So yay for avoiding those awkward moments when you need to get something from your locker but can’t!
Germans all have dogs
I thought all Germans would be walking around with these large German Shepards everywhere, but I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of cute little fluffy dogs as well. SO CUTE. Although it is also annoying when you’re walking down the street and talking to a friend, and you keep losing your train of thought because you keep getting distracted by cute little dogs everywhere.
Germans love football
Not all Germans are passionate about football (soccer), but a majority of them do love it. Which I don’t mind, because I love it too. When one of those Bundesliga games are on, everyone seems to be running to the nearest TV. And almost every shop has some sort of Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund product to sell. I also see Schweinsteiger’s head pop up everywhere for different endorsement deals. I just have to find a Schweinsteiger Versicherung ad, and that should totally complete my German experience.
Germans love rules
It’s true. There’s signs everywhere telling you what you can’t do. Some of them I can’t read, but I know it must be stating something that is not allowed, whatever that may be. My least favourite is their garbage rules. I mean, I love it because they’re actually self-actualizing and doing something with their waste, rather than chucking it in the US like we do in Canada, but at the same time, there’s different bins and coloured bags for everything. Does wax paper go in the paper bin? But it’s waxy so maybe in the product waste bin? There’s bits of cookie dough on there though…do I have to scrap it all off to put in the food waste bin? When I first moved here, I was in fear that one accidental move will probably have the cops at my door. So instead, I usually put my ambiguous garbage in a bag, and bring it to the city centre, and throw it in a public garbage can there, like I’m sure all the other confused expats do.
Have you lived in or visited Germany? What are your thoughts about German stereotypes?