An insight into the reality behind the German stereotype from our roving reporter, Kay Currey, in Heidelberg:
Along with the French and us Brits, Germans have always been quite easy to stereotype. I remember going on holiday when I was young, when the organised people early to breakfast and promptly on the bus for the day trip, along with everything they might need, were undoubtedly German; my own (British) family, however, were always late, disorganised and everything we had intended to bring, we had forgotten. Stereotypes, no matter how annoying, are a convenient way of grouping people’s behaviour together because they are, in general, based on some element of truth.
Germans, in reality as well as stereotypically, are excellent time keepers. At British universities, you’ll often see students roll into the lecture theatre barely awake twenty minutes after the session has started, with no excuse or even apology. That doesn’t seem to happen in Germany. The doors are closed on the hour, and if you are late, you can’t go in – partly because it would be incredibly embarrassing. Being late is synonymous with being disrespectful; it’s just not done.
Germans are sensible and responsible people. They actually wait to cross the road when the green light comes on. They don’t dash across and risk their life – a daily occurrence on the busy streets of Cardiff. We’ve all been there; running late (well, we are British at the end of the day) and in a rush. But in Germany, people don’t run late, and they don’t jaywalk. And if you did jaywalk in Germany, then you’d get a five-euro fine (though only if you got caught, obviously).
Germans are blunt. They say what they think and sometimes it can seem abrupt. They’re not being rude, they’re being honest. They won’t pussyfoot around and worry about hurting someone’s feelings. They get things out in the open, knowing that it is better for everyone that way. Small talk isn’t really done in Germany either. If you are at the supermarket and the cashier is tilling through your goods, you don’t make small talk. Again, it might seem rude, but it’s really not intended to be.
Germans love sausages. There are over 1,000 types of sausage in Germany. Wurst stands are everywhere, synonymous with the chip shop in Britain. In restaurants and supermarkets, the sausage section is the biggest. And the meat section in general is all pork, pork, pork.
The Germans love beer just as much as they love sausages. You’ll be hard pressed to find a German who doesn’t love beer.
So stereotypes sometimes do fit, and are a helpful way of understanding different people, whilst also taking into consideration that everyone is different and anyone can buck the trend.