Myths & Misconceptions About Germany

by Haruto Abe

Over the years, people have come up with a stereotype for almost every nation in the world. If you put it into a game, the question would be naming the first things that come to mind when someone mentions a place, i.e Germany! Arguing about the foundations of these assumptions is as hopeless as trying to prove them right. There is simply no way any formula could genuinely describe a population of over 82 million as one. 

Berlin Festival.
Berlin Festival. Photo by Haruto Abe

It’s not only narrow-minded and uninformed people who have tendencies to generalize entire countries and groups. We all do it. Humans have the tendency to group and categorize whatever they can in order to understand it. Fortunately, people don’t fit nicely in boxes; they are more interesting than that. These common misconceptions placed on Germans are quickly proven untrue after living among them for just a short time.

Wurst and Schnitzel Eaters 

Germans have a vast tradition of delicious dishes that differs depending on the region. It’s true that meat is an essential component, but wurst (sausage) is not the only meat they eat. Foreign countries and cultures have made a deep impact on the landscape of cuisine in Germany. It has revolutionized their menus and resulted in nearly every city offering Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, French, and other restaurants serving their best recipes. 

Cold and Asocial

People tend to associate Germans with rather strict characteristics and they do tend to stick to a more formal attitude around strangers, but they are FAR from antisocial or cold. Germans are normal people like the rest, a bit more withdrawn in the beginning yet true fun lovers and adventurous once they’ve opened their hearts. Once you make a German friend, they are a true friend for life. They are not often fond of inside jokes, secretive gossip, or irony and sarcasm. They are open, genuine, and straightforward with their opinions and love to have a good time that involves everyone. 

Plus, don’t forget the cultural events that Germany is so famous for and happen throughout the year in different parts of the country. Millions of people gather for events like Oktoberfest, simply to celebrate. Germans love to party and that’s a fact.

Organization Rules

Many German people are always punctual and have plenty of managing skills up their sleeve and the country is clean and well organized overall. You will meet people who obsess about punctuality just as some Japanese, American, or British people do. On the other hand though, there are a lot of others who couldn’t care less, more laid back people who live for the day and don’t mind chaos. At the end of the day, even chaos is a way of organizing – frantically speaking. 

Hair, Hair Everywhere

This one is a bit ridiculous. The fact that some stricter, elderly women of tradition don’t shave their legs or armpits isn’t something you can relate to modern German women everywhere. 

Don’t Dare Speak of the Holocaust

Of course if you insult them publicly, point your finger, and assign blame to the current generation, things aren’t going to go well. They will likely not participate in the debate or share their point of view in this situation. It’s true that this can be a sensitive issue and they might be hesitant to remember the hurtful facts. But, if the conversation is objective  and free of emotional attacks the conversation can smooth and open as well as extremely fascinating. 

Germans Won’t Speak English

Germans do speak English, especially among the youth. In fact, it’s highly improbable to find anyone who is NOT proficient in English, or not willing to use it. Obviously they’d prefer to speak in their own language in their own country. However, they are quite flexible on this matter and will try everything to understand you and be understood. They are quite amazing about the language barrier. If they notice your German is poor but you understand some words and are making an effort, they will answer in German in order to help you improve your skills. 

German “Free of Charge” Universities

There is SOME truth in this one. Universities in Germany are mostly free of charge yet there is this thing called a semester contribution which ranges from 250 to 500 Euros and is obligatory. This payment provides the benefits of using the Bahn in and around the city you are studying in for free. European Union students aren't required a visa to enter the state, but pay an equal amount in tuition just as every other German student does.  

Pragmatic Romance

If by that, you mean all the German men are open about their intentions, say exactly what they mean, and stick to their words and that all German women know what they want, then we may need a whole new chapter on the issue rather than a single point in an article. Men are men and women are women in every country. Romance and relationships are the hardest job of all therefore even for Germans, it’s all about an ideal ratio of interpreting who we are and how we really feel.