Let’s start with an amusing liberal 5 minute German video in English (some NSFW language): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMQkV5cTuoY
Now that that has realigned your impressions of Germans… =)
I have been told that the north and south differ significantly, but this is not unlike other countries around the world, including the U.S. (P.S. Berliners and Bavarians aren’t “German” either.) Roughly speaking, southern Germans are more likely to be Catholic, conservative, and have a distinct dialect and/or accent. Northern Germany is more Protestant and liberal, and speak closer to what “Hochdeutsch” is meant to be (the ideal German is spoken from the region around Köln). After four years of living in Baden-Württemberg, I have noted the following cultural quirks about southern Germans:
- Big Sunday brunch — breads, spreads, etc.
- Have insurance — health, auto, personal liability, apartment contents, etc.
- Outdoor clothing — my kind of fashion!
- The outdoors (sailing, swimming, kayaking, hiking, biking, climbing, etc…)
- Respect the academic degree. 🙂
- Carbonate their beverages — water, wine, juice, etc.
- Open a beer bottle with anything but a bottle opener. 😛
- Punctuality and efficiency (celebrate the Deutsche Bahn, Autobahn).
- Bureaucracy — paper, paper, paper.
- Environmental (pretty clean, elaborate garbage rules, renewable energy sources).
- Love the car — clean it, tune it up, buy German.
- They’ve never seen “The Sound of Music”.
- They’re reserved, not cold. There’s a difference.
- Nudity is ok.
- Closed on Sundays. Everything. Sunday is for resting, except for the…
- Sunday walk. Exercise is healthy. If the sun shines, Germans are outside.
- Hate Bavaria, unless you’re Bavarian. They’re the richest state, responsible for Oktoberfest, and they greet with “Gott”.
As the stereotype goes, the main cuisine consists of: beer, bread, sausages, sauerkraut, and döner kebab. But the dairy and chocolate products here are excellent (although I find the chocolate pudding to be weak). Produce tends to be fresher and groceries stock more of what’s in season, there’s respect for locally-sourced foods (shop at your farmer’s markets and roadside stalls), and supermarkets label from where everything is produced.
The perfect quote to describe the people: “Serious people are funny in their need to be serious all the time” — Germans will self-critique endlessly, but do not like to be poked fun of by outsiders. It’s a pretty significant observation, along with that of Germans being non-friendly. They’re not the warmest, but if you need help, ask a German. Don’t imply, don’t wait for it, don’t assume anything — just ask. I was told this is out of a respect for not interfering in others’ business, and for everything to be perfectly clear and direct. Never assume!
Finally, I agree with Confessed Travelholic on the romance (or lack thereof) department. And finally, Berlin is my favorite city of all.