It is fair to say Germany does not have the best reputation abroad. As a Brit, I can empathize with this as we also have a similarly negative image in foreign climes. The stereotypes of Germans, not least in the UK, are particularly unforgiving: Lederhosen wearing, beer guzzling, sausage eating men, Blonde ladies with ample bosoms wearing Dirndls (traditional dress), completely humourless, fastidious, punctual, excessively law abiding….the list goes on. And, let’s not forget those pesky Germans who nick all of the sun loungers and towels before we’ve even had a chance to get to the beach when we are on holiday. Having been in Germany for some time now I am now able to shed some light on whether these stereotypes are just mumbo jumbo or if some actually do ring true.
Firstly, I am happy to say that I have not seen any men in Lederhosen or Dirndl wearing women. Of course, I am in Hamburg, so it would be rather uncharacteristic as, contrary to popular belief, this style of traditional dress is only worn in Bavaria; however you would not see people strolling around in Lederhosen and Dirndls on a daily basis. You would mainly see people wearing them at traditional Bavarian events and, of course, Oktoberfest.
On the other hand, I cannot deny the stereotype regarding beer drinking and sausage eating is not true. The Germans love their Wurst, and with good reason – it’s delicious, especially accompanied by a beer. The array of sausages and sausage related products available here is quite mind boggling. Of course, there is lots of international cuisine on offer besides the famous Wurst, but I would defy anyone to go down a street in Germany and not find a restaurant or Imbiss (snack bar) selling Bratwurst.
The Germans, it is true, are very straight down the line when it comes to rules and regulations – there is no grey area. Something is legal or illegal, right or wrong. Interestingly, however, I have noticed Germans are trusted to do the right thing. In Hamburg, for example, there are no barriers in train stations and you do not have to stamp your ticket when you buy one – you are simply trusted to buy a ticket. This was very surprising to me as a Brit: if there are no ticket barriers, people won’t buy a ticket, so we have ticket barriers in abundance. People in Britain, it would seem, are much more likely to break the rules. Rules, as the saying goes, are there to be broken, though I highly doubt there is an equivalent saying in German. In other German cities I have visited, Berlin for example, you do have to stamp your ticket; perhaps the citizens of Hamburg are particularly law abiding.
It is however interesting to note that Germany is not a queuing nation. I find this a little strange as they are quite regimented in other aspects. It could be, however, that because there is no law they do not feel obliged to queue up. I’m sure if a queuing law was implemented you would see as many queues in Germany as you do in the UK. Though the Germans do not queue, they do tend to wait obediently at traffic lights for the green man, except in Berlin where they are particularly rebellious. Jaywalking, is however ‘strafbar’ (a punishable offence – people have been fined for this), which explains the waiting .
There is an assumption abroad that the Germans are glum people and do not have a sense of humour, let alone know how to have fun. Certainly during my time here I have found quite the opposite. They are fun to be around, are not afraid to laugh at themselves and can let their hair down as much as any other nationality. Comedy wise though, according to the experts, it is hard to decipher German jokes if you are not German due to the extremely long and convoluted sentence construction. I can certainly vouch for this theory – once you have got to the end of the sentence (where the verb is) you have virtually fallen asleep. Essentially German jokes are always lost in translation unless, of course, you speak German – so dust off the dictionary!
If you are thinking of coming to Germany and are expecting lots of yodelers wearing lederhosen and women in Dirndls you may be best off going to Oktoberfest. As for the sausages and beer, you will find them aplenty. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find in Germany, just make sure you stick to the rules!