That’s German!

Today 21 years ago Germany got reunited after being separated for 40 years. The separation was a result of World War II, reunification a result of the strong will of the people in the former GDR.

Have to tell you – yes I am a sentimental woman – I still shiver and still cry when I think of moments like November 9 1989, when I walk through the Brandenburg Gate these days or when I look at the Reichstag when passing by in a bus.

Am I proud to be German? – I don’t think so, but I am proud of the people that live here.

Special days again, national holidays of a crazy country. A country that still has her wounds resulting in World War II, but also a country that has become big again in a certain way. A voice in Europe, a partner for the free world – at least this is what the papers report.

Since I am a happy person having so many friends and contacts all over the world – Australia, Denmark, Great Britain, Canada, India, USA, Croatia, Holland …please don’t be angry if I have forgotten a country, ok since I am pampered in that way, I sometimes ask myself “What is typically for a nation?”
Do we really have unique attributes so that you can say: “Oh yes Helen is German!”

What does it mean “That’s German?”

I have read a great newspaper article on that, I will give you the link, but I am sorry: it is all in German.

Let me quote and commend some of the statements. Berliner Zeitung journalists have asked journalists from the USA, Italy, Netherlands, France, Poland, Austria, Ireland and Mexico who are living in Berlin what they think is the major attribute for being German.

Very interesting.

One journalist is fascinated by the technical ability of Germany. I grew up with this idea.
Made in Germany was and is a kind of hallmark of excellence. But technical ability is not typically German. Other countries are famous for this too – Just think of Japan.

When I talk to friends in Great Britain I am sometimes quite astonished that they have to wait for a long time for a handy man. Usually somebody will come over in a week, in Berlin.
If he tells you he will be at your house at 7am (shiver too early for me) he will ring the bell by 6:45am.
I trust my handy man.


“Es gibt viel Liebenswürdiges an Deutschen, aber auch einiges, was ich immer noch nicht verstehe. Neid etwa. Warum können Deutsche sich nicht ein bisschen mehr für andere Leute freuen, die Erfolg haben und vielleicht sogar Geld dadurch verdienen? Ihr habt sogar ein Wort, das so unübersetzbar ist, das es seinen Weg in die englische Sprache gefunden hat: Schadenfreude. “
Erik Kirschbaum, 51, US-Amerikaner, Korrespondent der Nachrichtenagentur Reuters

He is so right. He says that German people are easily jealous and envy. It is a problem, which I see as a German myself, a huge problem, that people get envy on other people who are successful and who even dare to earn money with this success. So they are watching this guy and hoping he will fall down again. Mr Kirschbaum even says that there is a German word for that “Schadenfreude” which is also part of the English vocabulary as well.
People hope that somebody who is successful will fall on the face. Isn’t that strange.
The tabloids live on that. They push somebody up to smack him down again.

The same people can never stand when somebody knows her own value.
When applying for a job, you usually get asked how much you wold like to earn.
Certainly you know the sum you need to live on.
There will be always somebody who tells you “Oh I would be happy if I could earn THAT much.”
They will never tell you how much they actually earn, they just want to give you a feeling, that you are greedy!


Compared to American people German people are not patriotic. No way.
My neighbor has a German flag in his garden. This is extraordinary. Hardly any German has a flag in the garden or the window.
Being proud of the army – the Bundeswehr – who are fighting in Afghanistan side by side to the US-troops. No way in Germany.
We rather hit the defense minister. Personally I am quite happy that they have stopped the general conscription. So my son will not have to think of alternative service and I don’t have to suffer on this.

But we will never have military parades. We don’t like it.
When becoming part of the army, the soldiers have to vow. This oath is taken public. But there are always demonstrations when such an oath-taking-ceremony happens.

Fondness for Children

I guess German people are not very fond of children.
Children are loud, children are dirty.
My neighbor – the one with the flag – is somehow pissed that the house is next to a school and the care center has its playground next to our garden.

Yeah sometimes, after a hard day, I also think it is a bit tough being in a filled bus with a mom and her screaming child. Mom isn’t doing anything to pamper the child – “let it scream, let me talk” she seems to think.

Germans love their dogs more than their children. Nothing wrong with loving animals, but ……

I know children are our future. Germany is suffering less and less childbirth. We are going to become a nation of seniors. I will be one of the seniors.
Who will be helping me to put on my chucks when I am 84?


Germany is a nation of naggers.
There is always something you can use to bitch around.

One teacher of my son told me “Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof” – “Life is not a pony farm”, means: it is not easy, so get used to it, don’t expect fun, expect nagging and discontent.

I know this summer has not been THE summer – the weather was patchy all around.
But hey, no sweating for me in my apartment. I was pleased.
Ok the wetness has made it easier for mosquitoes to breed and they think I am their favorite supper.

But all in all it could have been worse.

My German fellows kept nagging the whole summer about the weather.
To cold, to hot, to wet … ok I didn’t find the term “to sunny”.

Another favorite item to nag about is “Deutsche Bahn” – the railway.
Everybody knows somebody who has suffered the “not being on time” of the German Railway.
Some have experienced it by themselves.

The papers are full with this problem.

I guess we will miss a lot when “Deutsche Bahn” will start to deliver proper service.

We are a nation of discontent naggers. Nobody expects each other to be satisfied or even happy. Maybe happiness is a curse word here. I am not sure.
Smiling seems to be somewhat unprofessional.
Even our chancellor does not smile . he looks like as if she would be nagging all day.

We extended the nagging a bit.
The Euro is in danger.
Why? Other European nations seem not to save properly.
So the chancellor is nagging that they have to many holidays, stop working to early ………

We are good naggers.


Other German attributes: we love insurances.
You can have an insurance for everything and anything.

Health insurance is mandatory since Bismarck.
Pension insurance, insurances if you had an accident, insurance if you are not able to work anymore, insurance if your dog bites another dog, car insurance, special teeth treatment insurances, life insurance, death insurances … maybe the insurance for JLo’s behind is a German insurance.

I also presume the statement “Better safe than sorry” is the slogan of a German Insurance.


It gets better. People allow themselves to think on their own much more than 70 years ago.
But yet there are still enough people who believe in authorities.

But this believe also allow the standard German citizen to fight for his rights.

We have a right to demonstrate, and we use it – if we want – we will fight for this right, because we believe that it is true what they have written in our constitution.

This applies for every right!

But if something doesn’t work properly you can easily get the advice to ask an authority!

Doctor, lawyer, teacher, priest or major of the city … they have to know it better than yourself.

At least some German think so.

German people are also very helpful … when they can pay for the help, like “helping Haiti” or “Brot für die Welt” … helping the neigbor next door is a bit tricky.

Guess there must be more attributes that people think are “typically German”. And no: not all German women have blonde hairs which they wear as pigtails, dirndl and lederhosen are not typical German clothes – we love jeans and t-shirts as much as other people love them.

And we don’t eat sauerkraut all the time … me in fact hates it. So I am doing some lovely spaghetti with sauce ala napoli now

One thing that I really like about Germany is “Kaffeeklatsch” – “Coffee klatsch”. Meeting the girls for a cup of coffee and cake, tons of cake.

So what do you think is typically German?
What is typically for your country?

Write a comment about it.


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8 thoughts on “That’s German!

  1. Knity on said:

    Oh, I forgot to mention a book about a young American girl came to Berlin I don´t wanne keep it back you.
    Becky Bernstein goes Berlin` for me a German it is such a goog laugh the view of someone from overseas

  2. Knity on said:

    I am Knity from Germany,
    what´s typically German to me ?
    I ve no idear. Helen you mention most. I don´t knoe if it is typicall German,pertty often I get realy anoyed abut pepole who `know`nothing wil work without even begining. dear oh dear.
    Sometimes ppeople here seams so smallminded.

    • maybe being german we don.t exactly what other people consider typically for being german.

      people are small and narrow minded that is true

  3. If being prompt and efficient is a German trait (and I believe it is) then we need more Germans in the US! Tammie and I (fellow UBC bloggers) tend to be more “on the ball” than many people we have to work with or encounter. It can be very frustrating at times. We are called “anal” here in the US. Not an entirely flattering phrase…. I own an auto repair business and pride myself on being as informative and accurate in predicting expenses and “down time” for my customers as possible. It is necessary so they can plan their schedules and budgets. I do believe it is appreciated as they recommend my shop to other people. Besides, I think it is just common courtesy. So…. if you can… send us some more Germans to work with…. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Carolna 🙂
      Would love to come over and work in the USA by myself – but yet that green card stuff … ;D

      You are right, people love efficient work, they want it to be done as promptly as possible.
      Mañana is certainly not an German invention.

  4. Hi – I am a Brit who has been living in The Netherlands over 30 years and I have a German neighbour. He can certainly be picky and precise, complain a lot, especially about the government/council etc. However, he can also be very kind and understanding.
    I travel to Germany a lot, too. And although I find the people to be reticent and reserved, I have also come across that same kindness.
    I have been an expat for long enough to realise that stereotypes begin to melt away.
    Maggie (from the UBC)

    • thanks Maggie for sharing your thoughts.
      i guess the complaining of your neighbor is the typical nagging attitude i am observing at my fellow country men / women.
      complaining about government is very popular here :D.

      I have heard quite often that people think Germans are so precise.

      But the more we all meet different people the more we will learn from each other.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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