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From the Hamburg Brit to the Berlin gob

Every nation has its stereotypes, and they’ve often got an element of truth.

People in the north are all reserved, the typical Rheinländer (i.e. someone from Cologne) is forever in a good mood, Berliners are famously rude, Swabians (whose home is partly in Baden-Württemberg and partly in Bavaria), are super stingy and Bavarians think they’re better than the rest. There are lots of regional stereotypes within Germany. But are they true?

As always with clichés, it’s a mixed bag. There wouldn’t be a stereotype in the first place if there hadn’t at some point been a justification for inventing it, right? On the other hand, you can’t put a whole group of people in one big bag, tie it up and put a label on it. However, let’s have a closer look at some of the things that Germans think about other Germans.

People from Hamburg, as a prototype for northerners, are reserved, introvert, maybe a bit arrogant and nose-in-the-air. Funnily enough, they’re also always said to be the most British in Germany. No comment. Hamburg certainly has a bit of a soft spot for all things British or rather, what is conceived to be British. There’s a Polo Club, an Anglo-German club and you definitely won’t have a problem finding some typical British attire (Barbour jackets, anyone?). From my personal experience and as someone from the southwest of Germany who’d obviously be more than happy to believe that the northerners are all stuck-up, my encounters with Hamburgers and the like were (almost) all refreshingly pleasant. Good sense of humour, nicely on the dry side, down-to-earth people.

As for Berliners being rude, well, let’s such put this down to the famous Berliner Schnauze, literally ‘Berlin gob’, and their way of expressing things in a sassy and brash way. They just like to say it as it is. Straightforward, very direct, and sometimes, well yes, maybe that can come across as a bit harsh. From my personal experience with Berliners they also have a certain way of, how should I put it, not engaging if they don’t want to. A little story to illustrate what I mean:  A friend of mine recently got in a cab in Berlin asking to be taken to a certain hotel and the cab driver – for whatever reason – just couldn’t be bothered apparently and told him “Sorry, this hotel doesn’t exist.” – “Well, but I’ve been in the past, more than once. So, could you please … ?” – “No, there’s no hotel of that name.” Or as many Germans would say: only in Berlin. If the Berliner doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to. End of.

When it comes to the Swabians, I can’t really comment on their alleged stinginess. (I’d rather say in general that Germans are fairly sensible when it comes to money and like to have savings). What I can say, however, after having spent two years working in Stuttgart is that they’re without doubt the most orderly, in particular when it comes to things like rubbish, recycling, cleaning the communal parts of apartment buildings, pavements and the like. Let me just mention one word in this context: Kehrwoche (the week when someone has the duty to clean the communal areas). It doesn’t get more Swabian. Anyone who’s ever had any contact with this, will know what I’m talking about. And for the rest of you, consider yourself blessed. Let’s just say they’re very serious about anything that can be summed up under ‘cleaning up’. Not putting the right piece of rubbish in the right place can come close to a major offence.

Me, I’m from the Palatinate region in the Rhineland-Palatinate, and I’d say we’re fairly easy-going people, influenced by our proximity to France, our wine and our pleasant climate. And not surprisingly, we’ve got our very own local stereotypes, about our next door neighbours in the Saarland, Germany’s smallest federal state. We like to look down on them as the ‘little ones’ who don’t really know what’s going on and speak a very funny dialect. But then again, I’m sure there’s a region somewhere in Germany which thinks exactly the same about the area where I come from.


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