Tag Archives: Germans

A few interesting facts you might not know about Germans

There are clichés about every nation, and many of these contain at least a grain of truth. Here are some of those clichés about Germans, or some of those grains. As you like it.

Germans usually say what they think. This can be really great at times, and really insulting at other times. Not all Germans take criticism as well as they hand it out, though.

Germans are not naturally polite. Stop to let a car pass on a road, and if you by law were required to do this anyway, mostly the driver will not thank you. It is taken for granted. Likewise, only if someone was very clearly interfering with somebody else, is ‘sorry’ seen as a necessary word. Simply pushing past to join the front of the queue is not enough of a reason.

Germans tend to stare. Figure someone dropping something, or a person slipping on the pavement, or an accident on a road. Most Germans would simply stare patiently or drive past slowly, while a few would actually help.

Germans in fact do have a sense of humour. It varies in different parts of the country, but by laughing about somebody looking silly you can seldom go wrong. Self-humouring on the other hand is less appreciated.

Germans are often afraid of missing out. Although Germany is probably one of the countries with the highest standard of living worldwide, Germans are often enviously discontent with their status quo and forever strive to change this.

Germans like to follow authority. Call it fear, cowardice or opportunism, but many Germans like to conform and obey the system, and only dare to mumble quiet criticism of those above them. Thus any kind of opposition needs a large critical mass, but once this is reached, it can drive a dangerous dynamic.

Germans enjoy to clap rhythmically to music. Play a song to a German audience, anything a bit upbeat, and you will mostly get a predictable and sometimes misplaced response of everyone joining in with their hands. Those not participating are using their hands to hide their faces.

Germans want to show how well they are doing. Probably no nation spends more of its income on riding luxurious cars. While the quality of workmanship is praised, the fact that these are faster, look intimidating and seem to have an inbuilt right to drive close to the person in front may help.

Germans are everywhere. Go to the most northern tip of Scandinavia or to the most remote Asian island, and you are always bound to meet at least one nature-loving German called Stefan, Peter, Julia or Katrin.

Defining a German is becoming increasingly difficult. With a growing number of descendants of foreign workers and ex-Eastern-block immigrants living in Germany, it is quickly becoming futile to define Germans by anything else than their language, common culture and place of birth. The only problem is that the shared culture is not representative of any origin, but instead tends towards the lowest common denominator.

Germans cannot talk about the past or present without emotional polarisation. As not so many decades ago some really bad things happened in Germany, most Germans are not able to talk objectively about bad things happening today. They either feel guilty or are fed-up with feeling guilty. That is a shame, as many are actually quite well educated.

Germans appreciate to do things thoroughly. That can be good or bad, depending on what it is about.

Germans are being cheated by neoliberalism the same as people elsewhere. And just like people elsewhere, Germans are usually too brainwashed by media to notice it.

Germans enjoy to criticize their own. ‘Typically German’ is a phrase often used by Germans, about Germans. It usually entails one of the points mentioned above, but implies that the person making the statement is excluded due to his or her insight.

Germans are mostly just like people anywhere in the world. At the end of the day, they want to eat, drink, sleep, multiply and be happy.

Note the larger seagulls sitting closer to the water. It's called Darwinism.

Note the larger seagulls sitting closer to the water. It’s called Darwinism.

On the Germans, and the strange alliance between left and right

I must get this one off my mind. It is about us Germans. My observation as a half-German, half-English, is that many Germans posses a certain mixture of characteristics that can be conflicting and, I feel, at times dangerous. I believe it is the force of history, of a century-long socialisation that has worked its way into both the rules of this particular society and into the genetic makeup of its people.

It is strange. On the one hand, Germany is seen as and in many cases is the country of poets and thinkers, of technicians and inventors, of exactness and accountability. Of course, these characteristics are spread unevenly across the country, and the people in the middle and South are generally seen as a bit more enterprising and cultured, perhaps because their ancestors were more influenced by Roman settlement all those millenniums ago.

Nevertheless, a relaxed lifestyle or the appreciation of self-humouring lightness are traits not usually associated with most Germans. Instead, there seems to be a certain essence of character pervading here more than in other European people. It can perhaps best be described as a canalised fear and envy of those unreachable and more powerful, which expresses itself in subliminal negative emotions against those who can be reached, in a fear of always getting a little too little of the cake, of somehow being left out and thus not wanting others to have more than oneself.

Of course, this is a great drive for striving to be at the top, for having the biggest car or whatever maximum symbol you can achieve, and thus it undoubtedly furthers economic success. But it is a polarising trait that can be misused, and it has been frequently. Tell the already discontent post-first-world-war little man on the street that above all the blame lies on bankers of a certain religion, and you can find a veritable drive for fascism. Tell the little man that it is the academics who are rising above them, and you have a good basis for a police state. All this happened.

The thing is, as these traits are not bound to a certain political direction, you will find them in people of left and right convictions alike. Reducing, while trying to keep to the point, the characteristics in the left seem more connected with a kind of naïve idealism and a socialist approach, whereas in the right they appear more associated with self-interest and an individualist approach. In Germany, at least, this has led to an interesting constellation.

In many cases in which a general discussion among people of all political wings would help to preserve civil peace but at the same time would hinder the personal gain of a few, the politically right have understood to instrumentalise the politically left for their own good.

The ingredients are simple: Take your personal gain agenda, mix it with an emotionalised social sounding theme and feed it to a left-wing idealist of about average intelligence, who is in addition primed with the deep engrained feeling of guilt that only Germans know. Then sit back or get on with your life. The funny thing is, the left, who more than anything dislike the right, can’t seem to gather what is happening.

And so it goes from there: Talk about the control of immigration in Germany, and you are labelled a semi-fascist. Talk about the reasons for the enlargement of the European Union, and the same happens. Talk about the introduction of the Euro, the treaty of Lisbon, in fact about anything where a few people profit financially in a big way and many only in an idealist way, and you can only lose in Germany.

Troubling events scarred the history of this country. Once upon a time, peasants started to rise against aristocracy. With the support of such good-intending reformers as Martin Luther, they were brutally suppressed and killed off in the tens of thousands. The peasants never rose again, ever.

You could think that today hope would at least lie with the German middle classes. But conformed by media and fearing for the loss of a dwindling status-quo, the middle class seems more than ever defined by materialism, and less than ever by culture. That is dangerous, because it removes the basis for a society grounded on moral values.

I do not think Germans are better or worse people than others. The Romans conquered and killed, the English ransacked during their colonialism, the United States with their neo-imperialism are today wrecking the lives of many in the middle East, and Muslim terrorists are slaughtering without regard for anything much. What I believe, though, is that too many Germans possess a combination of resentment and persistence that can, and I fear will again, be harvested by those clever, manipulating and ruthless enough to do so.

We will see what the future will bring. History usually is a good indicator.

Such a nice picture for such a serious subject

Such a nice picture for such a serious subject