I Like Germans

The stereotypes about Germans as gruff, grim, and humorless – did anybody else here have this stereotype or is it a Ukrainian thing? – was not borne out by reality. The Germans I’m meeting here are fun, chatty, kind, and playful. Of course, those who are Hispanists are impacted by the culture they study but everybody else is great, too.

I went carousing the streets at night the other day, and there were crowds of very drunk young people everywhere, but the town feels extremely safe. Of course, I got lost. A bunch of young men who spoke English like I speak German (I do a mean “Ich spreche nicht Deutsch” but that’s about it) were beyond nice and helpful, going out of their way in a literal sense to figure out what I wanted and how to help me.

It’s really funny that I never get the blank stares here when I say something to non-English-speaking Germans that I get every single fucking time I say anything in my very good if slightly accented English where I live. It’s so frustrating to get a completely incomprehending stare whenever I say something basic like, “And how is Jake doing? I haven’t seen him for a while” on the playground or at Klara’s school. The blank stare is not a linguistic phenomenon but a psychological one.

The only time I got the blank stare in Germany was when I got distracted and addressed the German host here in English. He speaks an amazing Spanish but has no English at all. Plus, he’d spent two days listening to me rattle on in Spanish and didn’t expect any other language to come out of me. As I said, the stare is an uncontrollable psychological phenomenon. People aren’t trying to be mean. It’s a completely automatic response, but God, is it ever annoying.

Neither does anybody here give me dirty looks, roll their eyes or scoff when I start stumbling on my sad little “Ich habe kleine. . . I mean, keine. . . I mean, algemeine,” like they do in the French-speaking Quebec.

In short, Germans are great.

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4 thoughts on “I Like Germans”

  1. I’m glad that you’re having such a good time.

    Many Americans also have that gruff, grim, humorless stereotype of the Germans. I think it’s partly due to WWII films and documentaries, partly the result of tourists who only go to the most heavily touristed places and decide that the harried staff in such places are representative of the whole culture, and partly a once acurate observation that is now outdated. When I was a student in Germany in the 90s, I encountered lots of older Germans who fit that stereotype and Germans my age and a little older all have tales of horrible older relatives, teachers, or coworkers who made their lives miserable at some point. It was the generation of people who had had their childhoods and youths during WWII or the post war rebuilding period when everything was in ruins and there wasn’t enough food, housing, or anything else. The general attitude back then appears to have been shut up, work your ass off, and be glad you’re not dead. Those generations are all dead or in nursing homes at this point, but I think they were a source for that grim, humorless stereotype.

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    1. I look at the German hosts, and it’s so weird to know that just 70 years ago my grandpa was killing their grandpas or fathers and vice versa. And now we are all here eating wurst together.

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