9 German Stereotypes That Are Straight Up True

Quick, True or False: The national pastime in Germany is playing soccer while eating Sauerkraut dressed in Dirndls and Lederhosen with Kraftwerk and Rammstein playing in the background.

I’m sorry to disappoint you before you head out on your long-awaited journey to Germany, but the idyllic image painted above is not entirely correct.

Of course, stereotypes are total cliches. They are very generalized, simplified and are not a correct representation of all the people in a given country. However, the thing about stereotypes is that some of them are actually based on facts and address real national characteristics.

So without further ado, here are a few Germans stereotypes that have some truth to them.

Contents

1. Germans Are Direct

In the business world and in general, Germans are known as straight shooters and not the most diplomatic bunch. This tendency can sometimes come off as downright rude, especially in cultures where there is a stronger emphasis on indirect communication.

The reason is that Germans tend to be very goal-oriented in their interaction. They want to get right to the point, and not beat around the bush.

Germany also doesn’t have as big a small-talk culture as for example the US, where it is much more common to talk to strangers on the street.

2. Germans Love Rules, Organization and Structure

Three Ordnungsamt facing forward

Germany has an abundance of laws regulating all aspects of life (see, for example, the German beer law below) and its people like to obey them.

This tendency is one of the many leftovers from the values propagated by the Prussians. Prussia used to be a German kingdom known for its unusually well-organized and effective army.

This love of rules manifests itself in many ways. For example, crossing the street as a pedestrian at a red traffic light is frowned upon, even if no car is coming.

Every house has at least four different garbage cans: plastic and metal, paper, organic waste and general garbage. Plus, there is even a government office called Ordnungsamt, which literally translates to “office of order.”

3. Germans Are Punctual

Being on time is considered a virtue in Germany. They would rather be too early than too late. Punctuality is seen as a sign of respect to the person you are meeting. It does not mean that every German is good about this, but they will apologize if they arrive past the agreed-upon time.

On the same line of thought, train and bus schedules are given in exact minutes and yes, people do expect transportation services to be true to their schedule.

However, the Deutsche Bahn (German rail service) has a reputation that their timetable is merely an approximate reference for when trains will arrive or leave the station.

4. Germans Love Football (Soccer, That Is)

Footballers cheering and holding a trophy

“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” – Gary Lineker

By a wide margin, football is the number one most attended and practiced sport in Germany. It is so popular that it could be considered a national pastime. The German Football Association consists of more than 26,000 clubs and 178,000 teams. There are more football fan clubs in Germany than any other country.

In addition, the German football league, the Bundesliga attracts international superstars and is followed by many people outside of the Germany. The country’s national team is strong in international contests and has won four world cups.

In recent years, women’s soccer has also been getting more attention as the women’s national team has two world titles to boast.

If you’re interested in German culture, definitely check out watch a German football match at some point! You can also learn more about German culture while picking up the language with the videos on FluentU. 

5. Germans Are Well-insured

Germany is a land of insurances. You can secure yourself against almost anything.

Personal liability insurance, household insurance, legal insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, pet insurance, car insurance, bicycle insurance, unemployment insurance, you name it. Whether that is due to a special Teutonic need for protection and security is up for debate.

While it definitely makes sense to be insured for some fundamentals (health insurance and car liability insurance are mandatory in Germany), foreigners might think the fact that many Germans have their own personal insurance adviser is taking the whole thing a little too far.

6. Germans Are Distant

You may have heard that Germans are often described as being a little standoffish and cold. That might be because people’s personal space bubbles are larger here than in other countries.

Therefore, Germans have a tendency to treat strangers rather formally, especially at first encounters and–as mentioned earlier–are not always big on small talk.

Though sometimes this might seem like they have sticks in places where they don’t belong, it just means they take a little longer to warm up to others. As a consequence, close friendships with Germans don’t necessarily happen overnight, but when they do form they are generally very genuine. 

7. Germans Love to Drink Beer

Two beers on a table

Germany has over 1,300 breweries and more than 5,000 different brands of beer. The country even has a law about which ingredients may be used in the production of the beverage. The beginning of the so-called Deutsches Reinheitsgebot dates back to 1516.

That being said, it’s no wonder that in 2009 the country ranked second place for beer consumption per capita in Europe, eclipsed only by the Czech Republic (and they invented Pilsner).

Germans like beer so much that one of the first things they did after establishing colonies in China was build a brewery. To this day, Tsingtao is China’s second-largest beer producer.

8. Germans Know How to Bake Bread

German bread is awesome. The variety, the taste, the quality, the fact that it is not squares in a plastic bag meant to be placed in a toaster all make it baking heaven.

Baking has a long-standing tradition in Germany and bread is a big part of the traditional cuisine. Bakeries have tons of shelves full of all kinds of different loaves and rolls. Dark, white, sweet, savory, crunchy, soft, plain or with all types of seeds – you can have it your way, any day!

A lot of bakeries will even open on Sunday morning just so that people can get fresh bread for their breakfast, even though, by law, all shops are usually closed on Sunday.

9. Germans Love Sausage

Currywurst in a white container

Meat in general is a mainstay of German cuisine. However, sausage, or Wurst as it is called here, seems to have a special place in the heart of German meat eaters.

Don’t believe me? Watch this: Bockwurst, Wiener Wurst, Blutwurst, Cervelatwurst, Bratwurst, Currywurst, Weißwurst, Brühwurst, Kinderwurst, Sommerwurst, Rostbratwurst, Mettwurst, Teewurst, Fleischwurst, Jagdwurst, Leberwurst.

And that was just from the top of my head.

 

As a foreigner and newcomer to German culture, it can be hard to sift through the true and false ideas about traditions, customs and behaviors. You certainly have to be careful with stereotypes, but now you at least know some of the truer stereotypes you can expect to encounter on occasion in Germany.

And One More Thing...

Want to know the key to learning German effectively?

It's using the right content and tools, like FluentU has to offer! Browse hundreds of videos, take endless quizzes and master the German language faster than you've ever imagine!

learn-german-with-videos

Watching a fun video, but having trouble understanding it? FluentU brings native videos within reach with interactive subtitles.

learn-german-with-interactive-videos

You can tap on any word to look it up instantly. Every definition has examples that have been written to help you understand how the word is used. If you see an interesting word you don't know, you can add it to a vocabulary list.

learn-conversational-german-with-subtitled-dialogue

And FluentU isn't just for watching videos. It's a complete platform for learning. It's designed to effectively teach you all the vocabulary from any video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you're on.

practice-german-with-adaptive-quizzes

The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you're learning, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe

Close