Global Education

Countering Stereotypes: Germany

By Louisa Warnke
Published: November 2010

Black Forest cake is advertised with Schloss Neuschwanstein on its box.
How wrong can you get?
Schloss Neuschwanstein, a castle in Bavaria, isn’t even close to the Black Forest.
All Germans eat Sauerkraut. Incorrect. Germans drink a lot of beer. Incorrect.
As with every country, there are so many stereotypes associated with Germany. Yes, I do have to disappoint you: most of the stereotypes are incorrect.
Throughout my life, I have lived in Germany, in England, and in the United States. I experienced each country’s cultures, and the people’s stereotypes of the other countries I’ve lived in. As a result, I learned how different the people and the stereotypes really are.
In England, many people consider all Germans to be Nazis, and, regardless of the proximity between the two countires, that is the only knowledge that the British have about Germany.
Well, almost, because next to the empire of Nazi evil the British idolize German ingenuity- as long as it results in fast cars.
As usual, these preconceved extremes are wrong, along with the idea that BMWs are made by little elves in the black forest with tiny hands and a love for mechanics.
Actually, most BMW’s are made by hired Turkish workers in the outskirts of Munich (great diversity, right?).
So what is at the heart of being German? Being German means you are the greatest and best.
No, but seriously, being German is almost the same as being of any other nationality, except that the language and some of the customs are different.
Usually when there are visible differences in my culture, people believe that every single German will act accordingly to what those cultural differences are.
Let’s think: are all Americans the same? Of course not. So why should you assume that Germans are?
What else do people think of Germans that I totally contradict? Oh yes, apparently, we are all constantly acting serious and we are always on time.
Yet there are some stereotypes that I completely fit in with, for example having blond hair and blue eyes. But then again, I am the only one in my family with those features.
I would say that here in the US, I don’t hear as many incorrect stereotypes as I used to hear about in England. I think it might be because the population is much more diverse in the United States, so they can understand how different individuals can be within a country.
I don’t really mind people referring to German sterotypes because I mainly find them amusing, and I know most people tend to joke around.
My family always finds it entertaining when we pass “Le Chateau- Fine Italian Dining on our way to New Hampshire.
But not every stereotype is something to joke about, so I’d recommend you watch out for what you say.

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