How to Be German

German Flags at the 2006 World Cup
Licensed by Creative Commons (Cameron Parkins)

I’m not sure if it’s my little-celebrated German ancestry, my occasional studies of that nation’s history, or that I’ll be spending five days there in January with my World War I students, but Adam Fletcher’s two-part post, “How to be a German in 20 easy steps,” made me laugh as much as anything I’ve seen on the Web this month.

Thanks to Charles Lansing (who’s actually a German historian and doesn’t, like me, just play the role from time to time) for suggesting it!

If I’d been writing this list, it probably would have included a cheap shot like, oh, “Invade France. Repeat.” But that’s living in the past! (Maybe the EU did deserve the Nobel Peace Prize…) And now I’ve digressed…

A few highlights:

#3 – Planning, Preparation, Process

Just because they call it spontaneity, doesn’t mean it can’t be scheduled. There’s a time and place for fun, and it’s to be pre-decided and marked in the calendar. All else is frivolous chaos.

#6 – Speak German

Deutsch is mostly an incomprehensible jumble of exceptions. A dungeon designed to trap foreigners and hold them hostage, repeatedly flogging them with impenetrable and largely useless grammatical devices, whose only merit is to very, very, explicitly state who has what and what is being done to whom, by whom.

#12 – Look for a job

It should be impenetrable to outsiders, shielded in its own complex language. Ideally, it should also start with an e and [end] in ngineering. But other accepted professions are scientist, lawyer, doctor, teacher, something that involves organising things on a large scale, like logistics, or anything to do with cars.

#14 – Say what you mean

English is not about what you say, but how you say it. German is both, but more the former. Since what Germans say tends to be direct and prepared with minimal ambiguity. Ruthlessly efficient, if you will…. Germans do not dance around the point in such elaborate, transparent displays of faux-friendship, they just say “I need this, do it, by this date. Alles klar”? Then walk off.

Bavarian flag
Licensed by Creative Commons (Caleb D. Cochran)

#16 – Hate Bavaria

…while only one part of this huge country, it’s responsible for 91% of all wider held German stereotypes and 100% of the annoying, inaccurate ones.

And don’t miss the description of German Sundays (#19). Tschuß!

3 thoughts on “How to Be German

  1. Hi Chris, thanks very much for featuring my article! Yeah, it was difficult to step delicately around certain parts of German history, there is a small subtle joke about the Germans and France in my next book, but super subtle. Anyway, this is just a short comment to inform you that the series has now been turned into a dual language, 50 step book released by C.H.Beck Verlag. More info at –

    Thanks, Adam

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