So I was at the Frankisches Volksfest in Crailsheim a few weeks ago. It’s a festival in Baden-Württemberg that T likes to celebrate as a precursor to the upcoming Muswiese festival that is one of the highlights of our year. While people watching with Nicola – she commented on the oddity of folks from Baden-Württemberg wearing Dirndls and Lederhosen (since it’s only traditional in Bavaria).
Suddenly I was truck with an epiphany. As an American, we have these ideas of what Germans should dress and talk and the like but after living here for almost a year and half – I have discovered that while some of these stereotypes are true, they only account for a small percentage of the overall German population.
What are they? Well….
1. Lederhosen and Dirndls:
This goes back to my Simpsons post from way back when. In the US, we have this idea that Germans only wear lederhosen (and dirndls) and hike the Alps on a regular basis. This reminds me of a quote from Inglorious Basterds (I know I have mentioned this movie quite a few times of late but bear with me):
The doggie docs gonna dig that slug
outta your gam. Then he’s gonna wrap
it up in a cast, and you gotta good
how I broke my leg mountain climbing
story. That’s German, ain’t it?
Y’all like climbin mountains,
I don’t. I like smoking, drinking,
and ordering in restaurants, but I
see your point.
Besides the fact that the Alps only take up the southern border of Germany – Dirndls and Lederhosen are only traditional in the Free State of Bavaria (only one federal district of sixteen that are found in Germany). Wearing one of these outside of Bavaria is the German Equivalent of someone wearing a Patriots Jersey anywhere outside of New England.
That’s right, fuck Tom Brady…..
2. The Accent
Sorry to those Americans who thought to amuse T with your attempt at a German accent. Especially when you only ended up sounding like Arnold Schwarzenegger. He didn’t find it funny. He actually didn’t understand what the hell was happening.
First, Arnie is Austrian…not German. A lot of Germans don’t even have that strong of an accent (but some do of course yet they don’t remotely sound like our favorite Governator). T only recently discovered the awesomeness of Schwarzenegger’s accent when he watched Terminator 2: Judgement Day in English for the first time. It was like a light bulb went off in his head why all these weird Americans were talking like they had some brain parasite and kept them from speaking correctly….no, they were just imitating Arnie.
This is like that episode of Flight of the Conchords where Bret and Jermaine were harassed by the local fruit vendor only to find out he was only an ass to them because he thought they were Australian by their accents (they are actually from New Zealand)
3. The Land of Beer and Pretzels
My friends back home always ask me, “How are things in the Land of Beer and Pretzels?” I mean, it’s common sense in knowing that German cuisine does not consist of ONLY beer and pretzels….but they are certainly favorites here in Deutschland. German cuisine actually consists of a lot of delicious food and it’s not all meat and potatoes. Here in Southern Germany they are big fans of pasta (sometimes more than potatoes) – this may be due to the fact that they live only a few hours away from bella Italia. But that’s just my observation.
Also, there are sometimes you just NEED a buttered pretzel for breakfast. When in Germany, I highly recommend trying this – it will both hit the spot and ruin you for all pretzels in the future.
When I first studied German back in college, we had a section that had a list of vocab words concerning clothing (along with drawn images). I guess it was very convenient that they were able to cover the words for socks (Socken) and sandals (Sandalen) at the same time! Granted, there are still those of an older generations that still wear this height of fashion. Even among Germans they like to joke about it.
Once at work, I was too lazy to take my socks off when changing from the lab shoes to my sandals when going on break. My teammates immediately started laughing and calling me a “real German.”
5. German sounds like everyone is yelling all the time
I get this image posted on my Facebook wall all. The. Frickin. Time. T has seen it and has simply stared perplexed. There was definitely a time when I found that funny (ok, sometimes I still do) but the German language is not as harsh as you think. It may not fall under the Romance language category (Romance meaning that they are Latin based) – but German does have a lot of Latin influence. There have been several times at work where I couldn’t remember a German word so I threw out the Spanish version to see if it worked – and a lot of times it did! Granted the pronunciation is a bit different but those Latin roots are there.
Also, Germans do know how to be poetic (it is the country of Goethe afterall).
6. Germans are efficient
Three words: Berlin. Brandenburg. Airport.
For those of you not in on the joke – Berlin has been constructing a new airport. It was planned to be finished in 2010, then there was talk of 2016, then 2018, and I believe 2019 has also been tossed around. This is probably due to Germany’s infamous bureaucracy. Anyone who has ever dealt with German bureaucracy knows that efficiency is nonexistent.
What can DEFINITELY be said is Germany’s ability to consistently produce excellent products. Germans follow their processes to a T every single time. Once they have their process down and it works then you can definitely expect the same excellence every time with very little error.
7. Germans are rude
No. Just no. Germans are direct and straightforward (and occasionally lack tack). But the vast majority of Germans that I have been in contact with have only ever been friendly, open, and outrageously generous.
That being said, there have been a few times where I have come a crossed people who felt the need “to be honest” when really they were being downright bitches.
First example: one of the other tenants in our buildings wished us a good evening (to which we responded good evening as well) only to start complaining that we didn’t say hello first. Oh yeah, it wasn’t enough that we smiled and wished the gentleman good evening – we were supposed to say it first. Where the hell is that written?
Second example: while waiting in line at the grocery store, the family in front of us was having a friendly small talk conversation with the young woman at the checkout as she rhythmically scanned items (The check-out folks in Germany are some of the most efficient scanners I have ever seen – it is a marvel). Anyway, some other woman waiting in a totally different line proceeds to yell at our check out lady, telling her to shut up and do her job because there’s a long line waiting. Oh and it gets better! The family as well as T and I proceed to tell the girl to ignore that woman because she was doing a fine job (because she had been doing her job this entire time). Apparently this bitch was not happy with that because she reached over and took the girl’s phone apparently to file a complaint.
If you come to Germany and see such behavior, just know that this is NOT typical German behavior. That is someone who simply was not hugged enough as a child.
Overall, you know where you stand with a German (whether they like you or not). I find this very refreshing because you know that when a German likes you – they are genuine. And even when they don’t like you – they are still genuine. There is no grey area.
8. German worship The Hoff
Going back to my old German classes in college. In order to learn the parts of the face – it was the face of the one and only David Hasselhoff:
Well, according to T, they do worship him because “he’s that guy from Knight Rider!” but in all honesty, they don’t really care.
9. Germans have no sense of humor
First off, Germans don’t function in extremes like the Americans do. They don’t “love” everything (“OMG, I love this song” or “I love Chicago-style Pizza” or “I love my best friends, they’re like my soulmates” – you get where I am going with this, yes?). The same goes with humor. They don’t find everything to be “the funniest thing ever.”
I find this hilarious for some inexplicable reason. T simply smiles. Yes, he finds it funny but not at the same level as when he watches Reese from Malcom in the Middle. T has sometimes laughed longer and harder than I have at some the great one-liners from that show.
I also work with some hilarious women. They are a great group and we laugh together often (sometimes at each other, too) so the humor is definitely there.
Honestly, the best argument I have about this topic is the following YouTube video of German comedian Michael Mittermeier.
The cool thing about living in a different country is shattering these stereotypes while among people of a different culture. They learn more about your culture through you and how you are as a person and you learn more about theirs.
For those of you living (or have lived) abroad: what stereotypes were you surprised to learn to be untrue?
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