1) German roads have no speed limits. As much as Germans love their fast cars, they value order far more, and that kind of chaos would kill them. Roads do, in fact, have speed limits. What you may be referring to is the Autobahn, the simple word for highway in German. But it’s not a single stretch of fast-moving cars, as some may think. While there are certain sections that don’t observe speed limits, there’s certainly a sprawling collection of distinctly regulated roads, with speed limits in the 50 to 75 mph range. But the unregulated section…thrilling!
2) Everyone in Germany is a Nazi. You can’t be serious. Defining a population of 82 million by its history is just ludicrous. That’s like saying everyone in the United States is part of the Ku Klux Klan. Yah, ridiculous. There may be a tiny, tiny percentage of the population that belongs to the Neo-Nazi party, but it certainly is not representative of the entire country.
3) German chocolate cake originated in Germany. That is incorrect. I can’t even remember how many times I was asked how I enjoyed authentic German chocolate cake when I came back from Germany. This was actually the brainchild of an American named Sam German back in the 1850s, and the name has stuck since then. It literally has nothing to do with Germany.
4) East and West Germany are still two different countries. Umm, where have you been?! I’m sure even in the bubble you live in, you must have learned in school that both sides reunified in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I highly suggest reading the news more, or firing your history teacher.
5) Germans wear Lederhosen and Dirndl everyday. The person that said this to me must have just come back from Oktoberfest in Munich. Mostly worn in Bavaria still, and that too for special occasions only such as Oktoberfest, the Dirndl for women and Lederhosen for men is not commonplace in the rest of Germany today. In fact, if you spot people on the streets of Berlin clad in traditional Lederhosen and Dirndl on an ordinary day, chances are that they’re either misinformed tourists or attention whores, or both.
6) German is a harsh language and is not pleasing to the ears. Honestly, it really just depends on the person who’s speaking it. I’ve actually heard German sound really sexy. Yes, I just admitted that.
7) Germans are cold, stoic, and hostile. Ouch, that’s a bit harsh. Some Germans can certainly be direct individuals, and might find little need for sugarcoating, but they are warm, friendly people, once you break down the ice wall. Sure, tact and subtlety are not their fortes, but they’re not all cold and heartless people. Try talking to them, you’ll see.
8) All Germans drink beer, and only beer. Trust me, there is way more to the German repertoire of drinks than beer. Yes, for the most part, Germans absolutely love their beer, and may be known for it around the world. But if you can believe it, I’ve met many Germans who can’t stand the taste of beer (oh, the nerve!). Germany has some excellent wine regions as well, so try the Riesling (white wine) or Eiswein (ice wine), and you’ll gain a whole new perspective.
9) All Germans are diehard believers in punctuality. Oh boy, it pains me to say this, but that’s just not true. And maybe it’s just a social change seen more frequently in the younger generation, but German punctuality just might be an obsolete concept. Don’t get me wrong, you will still probably meet certain Germans, mostly older, that will give you the stare of death if you happen to show up 10 minutes late, but don’t sweat it or expect it if you’re dealing with a younger crowd.
10) Germany is the fattest nation in Europe. No, I think Britain enjoys that title.
11) “The Little Mermaid” is a German fairytale. Sorry, but Germany can’t take credit for this one. This was created by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. However, what Germans can get credit for are Hansel and Gretal, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, Rapunzel, and many other popular fairytales. Danke schön, Brothers Grimm.
12) A German joke is no laughing matter, i.e. Germans don’t have a sense of humor. Quite the contrary. German humor is a bizarre combination of dry wit and slapstick. Poignant, to say the least. Most of my German friends are quick-witted and sarcastic (as hell), and will generally laugh at things other people don’t find funny or understand.
13) The extent of the German cuisine is sausage and sauerkraut. There is no denying that Germans love a nice juicy piece of sausage with pickled cabbage, but the hearty cuisine is as varied as the landscapes and the people. Here’s a few items to try: the endless varieties of bread, Spätzle, and Maultaschen. Oh, and don’t forget German chocolate.
14) All Germans are well-educated and affluent. While the educational system in Germany is superb and many Germans take advantage of it, it’s not entirely egalitarian and not everyone you meet in Germany will be drowning in multiple degrees. There’s a sizable low-brow, lower-middle class society where children are sorted out Brave New World style, down to the wardrobe.
15) Oktoberfest is the only thing to see in Germany. C’mon now. As one of Europe’s largest countries, that just can’t be possible. Experience the magic of the Christmas markets all over the country. Witness the electrifying ambiance of Karneval in Cologne. Gawk at the massive, gorgeous castles in Bavaria. Relive history in every corner of Berlin. I could go on, and on, and on, but I’m sure I’ve made my point. Germany is a treasure trove of delights, and one single beer festival is certainly not above them all.
Before I lived in Germany, my view was largely shaped by what is taught in American schools and portrayed in history books, especially the World War II era. And I imagine, most German stereotypes from Americans come from that superficial, skewed exposure to Germany. But detach yourself from those horrifying images, and understand that the country has evolved. Take my word for it; it HAS evolved. Don’t believe everything you read in the media, and go experience Germany for yourself–you’ll love it!