German Hacks

German Hacks Episode 3 – German Stereotypes

German Hacks

Hi, I’m Kirsten Winkler. Welcome to episode 3 of German Hacks.

As announced last week, today I’m going to talk about stereotypes. Now you might wonder what stereotypes have to do with hacking the German language. I think that language and culture are closely related, one depends on the other in many situations.

There are famous quotes from writers or politicians everyone uses in his native language and there are things you don’t mention or don’t feel comfortable talking about. All this defines how we use language on a daily basis so knowing some of the stereotypes, true or not, can help you to circumnavigate some unpleasant situations when visiting Germany.

Being a German citizen but living abroad, I’ve reflected a bit on that topic and whether there is something to that question: what is particularly German versus what others think it is.

The most common stereotypes I have encountered seem to be of anglo-saxon origin and these are actually less German but rather Bavarian or, if we define it a bit broader, southern German stereotypes. But Germany is far more than our, admittedly beautiful, South.

OK, let’s bring it on with stereotype number 1: Germany is a country of beer lovers.

Although true for most part of the male population, the consumption of beer is actually in decline for quite some time now. The younger audience seems to prefer fancier and often high proof beverages. In night clubs you won’t see many people ordering a beer but more Vodka Redbull or so called Alcopops. And besides Germany has some excellent wine regions, mostly for whites but also some good pinot noir varieties. So Germans don’t always drink beer, and I recommend to get familiar with the concept of highly popular Apfelschorle.

If Germans do drink beer, it’s far more versatile than the ridiculously big “Humpen” you see at the Oktoberfest in Munich. There is Pilsener, Schwarzbier, Altbier, Schankbier, Kölsch… you name it. Basically every region in Germany has its own special type of beer.

Speaking about the Oktoberfest. Yes, it’s well-known throughout the world but it’s only a few weeks in the year and only in Munich, though I have to admit that the concept is so popular that other regions in Germany also imported the Oktoberfest. Well done, Bavarians! But for all of them one thing is true: these days, Oktoberfest has mainly become an excellent opportunity to take tourists to the cleaner’s = jemanden wie eine Weihnachtsgans ausnehmen (in German).

Which brings us to the stereotype of Lederhosen and Dirndl.

I guess, that’s particularly based on tourists from around the world visiting Munich and Bavaria. Back home they apply this concept to the whole country but sorry, that cannot be upheld. Basically no one outside of Bavaria is wearing Lederhosen and Dirndl. If at all, traditional dresses are seen at local holidays or in very touristy areas like the Schwarzwald / the Black Forest region.

Last but not least, if you really want to embarrass your German friends or host, bring up the good old Nazi conversation.

In about 75% of my talks with people from outside of Germany, I can count down to the moment when Hitler, the Second World War and everything related is brought up. There seems to be a more relaxed attitude with the topic in other countries, but for us Germans it is still a very difficult part of our history. Of course, we will talk about it when asked yet don’t expect Germans to feel comfortable about it.

The thing is, we are not in denial about it. I think Germans are probably the only nation that has faced such a deep self reflection of their own dark pages in history. A huge chunk of our curricula in school are dedicated towards the reworking of the Third Reich, what led to it and there is still a feeling of guilt deeply entrenched in our common awareness.

Hence, if you are really curious about this part of German history do yourself and your German friends a favor and visit one of the many exhibitions on the topic in Germany or watch one of the infamous documentaries of Professor Guido Knopp.

In next week’s episode I’m going to speak about some stereotypes that are actually true, unfortunately. So, stay tuned. Tschüss, bye bye!

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Title Music by: Dan-O at DanoSongs.com | Undiscovered Oceans

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor in chief of Fair Languages. She is one of the most renowned education bloggers, founder of EDUKWEST and has been an online language coach since the early days. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.