BY ASTRID WAGNER AND MARKUS SPIER When you think of Germany, what comes to your mind first? Let me guess? Beer? Even though I am most likely right you might also have thought of Lederhosen, beards, German Shepherds, the German’s love for David Hasselhoff, the Autobahn and many more.
But that’s okay – stereotypes are not necessarily wrong and statistics show that Germans indeed drink more beer than other nationalities, some Germans wear Lederhosen, some Germans have fancy moustaches, some Germans have German shepherd dogs, and some Germans do even love “the Hoff.”
Some stereotypes are insulting, such as the one that Germans are fat, some stereotypes are respectful and show admiration of the Autobahn. But as you can tell by the frequent usage of the word some, stereotypes are not very accurate. But that should be common sense.
Just as Americans have their stereotypes about Germany, there are many clichés about Americans, as well.
The stereotypical American seems to be fat and lazy, he watches TV all day and the only exercise he gets is the walk to his oversized car when he drives to the nearest fast food restaurant and orders a supersize meal. Americans are stupid and slow, and their geographical knowledge, nay awareness is restricted to the state they live in. These are just a handful of the many stereotypes that exist but all we want to do is to raise awareness to the insufficiency of stereotypes when it comes to describing a people as diverse as that of the United States.
Again, you will find confirmation of the stereotypes or exceptions when depending on where you look and what you look for. For example, when I spent a year as an exchange student in Roscommon, MI, I was asked if Germans really live in caves without electricity and running water and if Hitler really still is in office. But questions like these are the exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, most Americans we meet display a genuine interest in foreign cultures and many Americans know at least about the countries of their ancestors. While it is true that many Americans are rather oblivious of anything that happens in the world if it doesn’t concern their lives directly, one has to keep in mind two things: First of all, the U.S. are a huge country and there’s enough going on in North America to keep track of. Second, you will also find many Germans who don’t know much about things that go on outside of Europe.
Probably the most persistent stereotype of Americans is that they are fat. While there are many obese Americans, there also is a huge counter-movement advertising a healthy, well-balanced diet with plenty of exercise. If you compare this to Germany again, you will be able to observe the same. As a matter of fact, in any Western country, people live in abundance – they can eat whatever they want whenever they want – and their lives have become extremely convenient. Maybe this development has started in the United States or Americans have bragged about their achievement of creating abundance the most and that’s why they are now portrayed the way they are. However, these stereotypes are slowly changing as the Western world moves closer together and American historian Peter Bladwin claims that the Atlantic is getting smaller.
There is one stereotype however, that so far, we have only found one exception to. Americans never are on time, which is especially hard for the stereotypically punctual German. The only exception is Eric – but he has spent several years in Germany.