German Tips & Tricks

Myths About Germany and Its People

We grow up with stories about princesses and knights in shining armour. These stories, however, are always accompanied by some or other myths. As we grow older we realise that these were only stories and not the truth at all. The same applies to myths about Germany and its people.

Myths about food and drinks

Sauerkraut soup is everyone’s favourite

The first myth is that Germans all love sauerkraut soup. Sauerkraut is actually one of the most popular foods in Germany however it isn’t always served as a soup, but can also be served with bread and sausage.

‘German chocolate cake’ is a German invention

The name of this delicious cake can be misleading and it is often thought that German immigrants brought it to America, yet it is an American invention named after an American with the surname “German”. The apostrophe and “s” is being left out of the name, hence the confusion.

The fact that this cake is indeed truly American is supported by the fact that the 11th of June is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America.

The most popular drink in Germany is beer

It is easy to assume that Germans prefer beer over anything else seeing that they are popular for their Oktoberfest amongst other things. Yet, this is simply not true; according to the Goethe-Institut coffee is the most adored beverage in Germany. They also tell us that the average German drinks 2,6 cups of coffee per day. This amounts to about 150 liters of coffee, per person, per year as to a little less than 100 liters of beer. This large amount of coffee consumed puts Germany second to Finland which is the country with the highest coffee consumption.

Myths related to language

German is not a romantic language

German is characterized as a language that is not very romantic as opposed to, say, French. The reason for this is that German might sound harsh, but in reality, French has many of the sounds that make German sound harsh.

Another reason for this stereotype is that Germans, as mentioned above, are portrayed as diligent and strict on following rules and in all honesty, very often, according to Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans, Germans would like to be portrayed as such.

Actually, for a quick promotional break, Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans is an amazing book that I would really recommend to any German learner who wants to know more about the Germans (and if you are learning German you actually should do so!) You can buy it on Amazon using the below link:

Back to the post, as I said, Germans are seen to be cold and harsh or even just rigid rule followers. This leads to the (mis)conception that German as a language is the same and this is simply not true. Just take a look at the following poem by Goethe. It is the perfect example of German being far more romantic than it gets credit for.

Ich denke dein

Ich denke dein,
wenn mir der Sonne schimmer 
Vom Meere strahlt; 

Ich denke dein,
wenn sich des Mondes Flimmer 
In Quellen malt. 

Ich sehe dich,
wenn auf dem fernen Wege 

Der Staub sich hebt,
In tiefer Nacht,
wenn auf dem schmalen Stege 

Der Wandrer bebt. 

Ich höre dich,
wenn dort mit dumpfem Rauschen 

Die Welle steigt. 

Im stillen Haine geh’ ich oft zu lauschen,

Wenn alles schweigt. 

Ich bin bei dir,
du seist auch noch so ferne, 

Du bist mir nah! 
Die Sonne sinkt,
bald leuchten mir die Sterne. 

O wärst du da!

I think of you

I think of you,
when I see the sun’s shimmer 
Gleaming from the sea. 

I think of you,
when the moon’s glimmer 
Is reflected in the springs. 

I see you,
when on the distant road 

The dust rises, 
In deep night,
when on the narrow bridge 

The traveler trembles.
I hear you,
when with a dull roar 
The wave surges. 

In the quiet grove I often go to listen 
When all is silent. 

I am with you,
however far away you may be,
You are next to me!

The sun is setting,
soon the stars will shine upon me.

(Translation by Fred Owens)

All Germans are good at English

The next myth is that all Germans are very good at English. While there has been a big push around the world to learn more languages, this also means many Germans have taken on some of their own language skills too. This myth is entirely untrue and most people who live in Germany will tell you they aren’t fluent in English, but do enjoy speaking it when given an opportunity.

Myths about Germans as people

Germans are all cold and hard

People tend to think that Germans are not very loving, but in my opinion, that is merely because they see only one side of the coin. Germans most often split their lives into public and private. The private one is reserved for friends and family (which actually plays a big part in most Germans’ lives as they tend to be very oriented towards friends and family when they are not at work).

This separation, however, leads to the fact that most people see only the formal or public side of Germans. People then think that Germans don’t like to smile or partake in small talk. Yet, it is only because they don’t feel that it is necessary and has nothing to do with culture, but rather personal preference. While many Germans may not initiate a conversation during business hours, once you get talking to them, they will often open up.

Also, there is also the fact that they like to see themselves as romantic (see the next section). Xenophobe’s Guide to the Germans says it beautifully when stating that inside of all Germans there is a “touch of the wild-haired Beethoven striding through forests and weeping over a mountain sunset, grappling against impossible odds to express the inexpressible”.

Lastly, the Germans hold very high regard for truth and honesty. This means that they sometimes do not soften the blow when telling you the truth. Which, in turn, leads to them being seen as rude or tactless.

Humour Amongst Germans is Unknown

German humour tends to be very different as compared to some other cultures. So maybe, one can say that their sense of humour is non-existent, but who says that humour can only have one definition? In their case humour is more serious. They tend to be sarcastic or mock others’ weaknesses.

People who live in Germany will often say that the stereotypes you hear about their country and its people are largely untrue. The general consensus is they’re not as strict as everyone thinks but also aren’t quite as laidback as we might think either. Some of these myths may have been started by other countries looking to poke fun at them, or could just be a result of German culture being misunderstood due to language barriers. Either way it’s interesting learning what Germans really believe themselves!

I hope that you learnt something from this post and please feel free to share your ideas. Bis zum nächsten mal! (Till next time).

xoxo,
Charlé

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Myths about Germany and its people

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