Xenophobe's® Guides: How the Germans see others

Xenophobe's® Guides: How the Germans see others

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Do you know what Germans think when you tell them where you come from? Here are some hints.

Xenophobe's® Guides: A book series that highlights the unique character and behaviour of different nations with insight and humour.

The Germans generally adore the British and have suffered in the past from unrequited love. Britain used to be the ultimate role model with its amazingly advanced political, social, industrial and technological achievements. The Germans regard the British as being very nice and mostly harmless. Almost German.

They admire Americans for their (un-German) easy-going pragmatism and dislike them for their (un-German) superficiality. For the Germans, the United States is the headmaster in the school of nations, and accorded due respect if not always affection.

With the Italians Germans have a close understanding because they have so much history in common. Through wars, invasion and other forms of tourism, a deep and lasting friendship has been established. Italian art treasures, food and beaches are thoroughly appreciated. There is also a connection arising from the fact that Italy and Germany both achieved nationhood in the 19th century, and are still not entirely sure that this was a good thing.

The French are admired for their sophisticated civilization, and pitied for their inferior culture. The French may have higher spirits, but the Germans have deeper souls. Despite this, Francophilia is widespread among Germans, especially those living close to the French border.

Like a wistful child looking over the garden fence, the Germans envy Mediterranean people for their more relaxed attitudes, cultural heritage and warm climate. But only when they are on holiday.

The only people to whom the Germans concede un-questioned superiority of Teutonic virtues are the Swiss. No German would argue their supremacy in the fields of order, punctuality, diligence, cleanliness and thoroughness.

How they would like others to see them

The Germans long to be understood and liked by others, yet secretly take pride that this can never be. After all, how can outsiders understand such a complex, deep, sensitive people? What can they know of the German struggle for identity or the tortured German spirit searching for release?

They would like to be respected for their devotion to truth and honesty. They are surprised that this is sometimes taken as tactlessness, or worse. After all, if I know you to be in error, surely it is my duty to correct you? Surely the Truth is more important than pretending to like your ghastly shirt or sports coat? Foreigners just cannot seem to appreciate this.

Dismissing German introspection as navel-gazing is taken as proof of shallowness. Complaints about German rudeness show misunderstanding. The Germans console themselves with the thought that devotion to higher causes and being true to the demands of the inner self are bound to rub a few people up the wrong way. It is sad, but quite unalterable. A good German wears his Weltschmerz (world-pain) on his sleeve and doesn’t really mind being misunderstood.

For more, read The Xenophobe's Guide to the Germans.

Reproduced from Xenophobe's Guide to the German by kind permission of Xenophobe's® Guides.

Photo credit: chavezonico


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3 Comments To This Article

  • Richard Schmoyer posted:

    on 10th March 2013, 17:12:05 - Reply

    Perhaps "Linda" should change her first name. I am an American with a
    German last name. All of my relatives, but one, have Germanic last names. I am absolutety not going to change my name!
  • Linda posted:

    on 10th March 2013, 13:44:47 - Reply

    It is not true, we do not admire the Americans nor the British, nor the french. I think most Germans feel more connected to eastern europe/southern europe. America, britain and france also have much more incommon than Germany has with any of them. [Edited by moderator]
  • Michael Whitehead posted:

    on 6th March 2013, 13:52:35 - Reply

    As a Brit living and working in Catalunya but having lived in Paris, Milan, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Amsterdam. Geneva and New York, over the years I have made a great many German friends and business colleagues and consider myself a 'Germophile'. I think the country and the people are often overlooked for more 'glamorous' countries and cultures but sit in the English Garden while enjoying a beer or two, or stop for lunch at a roadside tavern and you'll encounter friendly, courteous and fun people, enjoying life (although maybe not dancing on the table).

    I think you have also missed one key characteristic - loyalty - you almost always know exactly where you stand and once a friend, you have to work pretty hard to break that relationship.