(How to make your movie villain more badass?
Easy. Make him German. 8D)
You probably know this situation: You need to do serious stuff, work on very important things, or simply get your shit done. Then you turn on the scourge for mankind a.k.a the Internet because you're a master of procrastination and want to look up something. Just for a moment.
After reading a Wikipedia article about sharks, two hours later you end up with a site about how to build bombs. Or watching cute animal videos. Most likely both.
With me, it were neither sneezing pandas nor bombs but Disney songs on Youtube. From time to time i just feel the urge to cherish some good old childhood nostalgia again and what would be better for that than watching openings of the old tv-shows you loved or the ever popular songs from Disney, Dreamworks and friends? Disney songs in particular are perfect for that.
After a while and because i mostly see the links on the right, i continue with Disney songs sung in other languages for shits and giggles. Top comments from Non-Germans on German Versions?
- Ugh, just listen how aggressive it sounds
- Whoah, in German even the most light-hearted song sounds harsh
- Lol, German, HEIL HITLER, lololol!
And you will always find at least one of these under every German Disney Song since the „everything's German harsh and angry"-saying is one of the most popular prejudices about good old Germany...well...besides the infamous Nazicrap of course.
Instead of being insulted i always rather find these surprisingly amusing and interesting because it reflects so perfectly how many (in fact, teenage!) people still stick to this kind of stereotypes. And Germany – without a doubt thanks to her history – seems to be one of the most favoured countries when it comes to those clichés. After reading through these comments on Youtube i felt kind of inspired to look around and collect even more of these; i recalled the true stories that i, being German myself, experienced with Non-German people (many of them Americans) and their views – and the list that resulted is quite impressive. And since most of my watchers here are not from Germany but all over the world i thought it might be interesting to some of you if i'd give you a few insiders regarding these and talk a little about them.
(Keep in mind, though, that i rather speak about the average and for myself than for a whole nation and thus draw upon my own experiences)
And how to begin it better than with one of the most common stereotypes about Germans that i already mentioned in the preface:
„The German language is a throated snake language. Germans always sound harsh, angry and ugly"
Wrong. Definitely. Wrong.
Now while i absolutely disagree with that (and i may also explain later why) i still do see where this stereotype is coming from and the reasons of its persistence.
One thing, i believe, is the spelling of grouped consonants like the guttural ch-sounds in the German language – a very common sound that reminds you of a hissing snake or cat and which frankly is quite feared among native English speakers who try to learn German and i suppose that this unusual pronouncation of ch, st, pf, sp, etc. is what makes German sound kind of harsh and clipped in comparison to the English language which has indeed a much more mellow, gliding feel.
The other thing is only my very own theory but also the crucial one: Usually, kids get their first contact of the world beyond their own country in school when learning a little about Geography and History – and when it comes to German History we all know what part takes the biggest cake – Adolf Hitler and his attempt to fuck things up with WW2. I think i don't have to mention that he was a majorfuck of a megalomaniac moron – because there is so much footage of his speeches that all reflect his insanity: He yells, snarls, croaks, forcefully rolls every R and gnarls in a way that it is impossible not to shudder while listening. And why, yes, the words he's shouting just happen to be German. With such a (first) impression it is no surprise that many kids and people in general get the idea that the German language is indeed frightening.
Fact is, though: NO normal German talks the way Hitler does. No one (Hitler's way of babbling actually is so diverge from the norm and unique in its own morbid way that every German can tell for instance that it's him when someone impersonates his talking style). My belief is that Hitler and his speech impressions are partly responsible for this notion that Germans yell every word they say and snarl all the way through, which is not true.
Look at this video for example:
I'm not insulted but totally shit my pants everytime i see it because it plays so ridiculously awesome with stereotypes that you just have to laugh for the shits and giggles. On the other hand you should keep in mind, though, that this is exactly what it is: Stereotypes over the top in every way and nothing else. The German guy is the only one who intentionally exaggerates his spelling compared to the others – no wonder that the German words (which are different enough from the other examples) sound awfully aggressive. Now, take one of the other words like Aeroplane or Sorpresa and don't say them in a normal manner, but YELL them out instead and empathise every character just as the German bloke – it will sound just as harsh and aggressive. („AERROPPLANE!" D8<)
As said above i can see that German has indeed some characteristics that makes it less mellow than the English language for example – but the truth is that there really is nothing aggressive or harsh about it. At all.
It can be pretty intimidating for sure when you decide to verbally keelhaul some poor bitch but actually, you would be surprised of how gentle and melodic it can be; there is nothing comparable to a man who realises that he lost his heart to someone and tenderly whispers a soft-spoken „Ich liebe dich" in all devotion and honesty. Don't believe me? Check out the German dubbed version of Oldboy or The Prestige for example: Both movies are a journey through the German language with all its shades of different and genuine emotions just expressed with spoken words.
Now...there still is another thing that is related but surprises me. In contrary to all this hate about the German language that you usually see on the Internet i also spy a most curious beginning „trend" for German in recent times and i catch that on Deviantart in particular. Kids coming from all over the world who (similar to several annoying Animukids) sprinkle fragments of German in their comments, on their profile and whatever elsewhere. And i do wonder why; not in an offensive, haughty way but out of genuine curiosity. So many people apparently hate German so....where the heck is this coming from now? Is this a thing that derives from an honest fascination for the German language or do you use it just because it seems cool and badass to you? (if so, i might just let you know that Google Translator doesn't give a shit about any correct grammar; sometimes so bad that the translated stuff gets just unreadable for native speakers and German is a special pain in the ass when it comes to grammar - what kills a lot of the seriousness you may try to convey. Use Google Translator to translate a thing you don't know or to get a feeling about the content and sense of a foreign-language phrase. NEVER use it for the sake of copy-pasting it later somewhere because it seems hip. It's not.
Don't get me wrong: If you are truly fascinated and really want to learn a language – i find that awesome and i'm totally behind that. But don't fucking use Google Translator for everything – get some books and dictionaries, learn about the correct grammar first, take courses of the language you want to learn. Because only then you will be taken serious and not like some wannabe weeaboo-kawaii desu baka bla. )
„Germans are cold"
In the past there was a period when i spent some time of my life in Putney, England. Besides loving London by nature i will never forget how frigging nice and courteous those people were. There were complete strangers who would lead me the whole way to the Hotel after i only asked for a brief direction, people saying sorry when i was the one who bumped into them, shopkeepers who'd just talk with me about nonsense in a total loveable manner („Oh, you're from Germany? I do talk a little German, watch this: Hallo, uh...wie geht's?"...such a sweet fellow) and bus drivers who'd greet me and seemed so happy about everything.
….Total culture shock. 8D
If you compare German nature to those of British or Americans for example you could indeed argue that this is true – we Germans are not instant best friends forever with every random person we meet. We even can be neighbours for years and still remain total strangers to each other. And although every bus or train has double seats, you will notice that if Germans have to choose between an empty double seat and a double seat where one seat is taken already they will choose the full empty one (and i say „we" here since i not only experience that with other Germans a lot but because i also am totally just like that). Bus drivers in my hometown are the complete opposite of the happy-joy-ones that i met in England – total Grinches who don't give a shit about you and won't greet if you don't. The average German will avoid smalltalk if he can and only talk to strangers when he is directly addressed or somewhat involved and even then, he may be polite but still very aloof.
BUT i would also say that cold is not the right word for this. Instead of „cold" I'd rather say that Germans are much more reserved than others.
While it is true that we are warily polite instead of openly friendly and don't make friends so easily – if we make friends with someone, that certain someone can be sure that the trust is genuine and that we really mean it when we open ourselves. And without justifying anything i have to admit that i prefer an honest sympathy and trust much more than some random everyday friendliness that might be just fake and a mask according to expectation. We rather have a small number of really close friends we can rely on than being best buddies with every face that might cross our way.
So don't be disappointed or feel bad when a direct question like „Wanna be friends?" causes a German to backtrack first. Because it doesn't work that way. With Germans, friendship is something that has to grow and trust must be earned (keep in mind, though: I am talking about the average here. Speaking of reserve and healthy suspicion I for myself totally fit that category of what you may call a typical German but it always takes all sorts to make the world and therefore it is absolutely possible to come across a German who might be more „American" in such manners)
„Germans love Sauerkraut, Sausages and Beer"
Another popular prejudice, hence the word „Kraut".
About Sauerkraut: I hate it. Hate it hate it hate it HATE it. I can't eat it, it is impossible; and if i try it actually causes nausea – this is how much i can't stand it (though, i might be biased here since this is what i feel about most vegetables. I may sound like a stubborn child here but I can't help it. I'd really love to like vegetables but i simply can't stomach it. If you'd force me to eat a dish of asparagus, Sauerkraut and tomatoes OR a living worm – i'd take the worm). Therefore i find the term „Kraut" especially offensive (i don't eat that, come on! D8< calling me „Spaghetti" would be more accurate) – if you really feel the urge to call me something related on my German heritage use „Jerry" instead. *shrugs*
That is only me, though. What about other Germans?
While i find many older generations genuinely liking and eating Sauerkraut (a relative is such an example; 70 years old and loving „Sauerkraut und Bregenwurst" to the core.) i experience that most younger generations prefer the sort of food that is worshiped by everyone else on Tumblr: Pizza, McDonalds, Chips, Pommes, Noodles and cohorts. And if i ask those about Sauerkraut, the answer generally resembles my own: They'd eat it but i never heard that they'd love it.
So, to clear things up: Yes, Sauerkraut is a national dish but among younger generations it lost a lot of its popularity and is kind of outdated nowadays.
Sausages: Yeah, we like them (with the exception of vegans and vegetarians, i'd say). But honestly, i never noticed that Germans would eat more sausages than others. Kinda passed me.
Beer: It's true for most people i think. I love it (there actually exists some footage of me as a baby drinking it and i even seemed to be pretty yearning for it – not sure if that is such a good thing, though, ehem) and most Germans i know do so as well. Heck, i do have relatives whose job actually was brewing beer. So, with saying that the average German likes beer you're probably on the safe side.
„Germans wear Lederhosen"
[Atticus Finch voice] Do you really think so?
The answer is no – we absolutely don't (the only „Lederhose" that i own is a black leathered thing that is more towards...."Hardrock/Metal Style" - and i only wear that one when i want to feel especially cool). Lederhosen is a Bavarian thing (and Bavaria is, as you hopefully all know, just a small part of Germany) - and even there it is only worn on special occasions. You have no idea about the amount of embarrasment you'd have to go through if you'd come to Germany and decide to wear Lederhosen everywhere. People would actually look at you like some kind of tourist attraction. 8D
Germans run around like everyone else, it is as boring as that. But even though we definitely do not wear Lederhosen, speaking of Bavaria it remained indeed a sign of regional pride and i guess it can be compared to the Scottish Kilt.
„Germans are crazy about the English language"
Yes, we are. And we are to such an extent that it appears almost sick, prompting some people to ironically call our language „Denglisch" (Deutsch (German) + English). 98% of all adverts do have at least ONE English word somewhere and it is said that native English speakers who travel to Germany would have no problem whatsoever to actually understand what's going on on adverts and the like.
The feelings about that are quite controversal. There are purists who damn the amount of English we use in the German language and predict its downfall. Others argue it would be just a sign of trend and zeitgeist – using anglicisms to be a cut above, like French or Latin used to be in past times. And there are even more arguments.
As for myself i seem to be stuck between all of these. I also find many anglicisms unnerving, especially when there already exists a German word for it which works just as fine and the English one obviously is only used to sound hip.
On the other hand i believe that language is something that is constantly changing. Take the word „gay" for example. There were times when it actually meant nothing but „happy" or „joyful" (and it still appeared with that meaning in songs from West Side Story or Disney's Three Caballeros; keep in mind that these came out only about 50 years ago) – today, it's meaning changed into „homosexual". We're living in a time that is dominated by the Internet, we're globally connected like never before and just like technology, language also changes and evolves. It always did and i don't think that there's anything wrong about that (although i must admit that i'm a sucker for the stiff way of talking from the 19th century. Just had so much more style. Anyway, it makes you wonder how people might think about textspeak, „lol", „yolo", „swag" and all that jazz in 100 years.)
„Germans can't and won't speak English for the love of God"
This might appear a little contrary to the upper prejudice but actually is something that i myself witnessed many times whenever i spent my holidays in foreign land and would come across fellow countrymen. You know, this special kind of old fat geezers who wouldn't even try to speak English (or whatever language is spoken) but insist on their wishes in German and expect to be understood – because „Funununu, i'm doing my holidays here, i'm guest and king in your land, so obey, bitches". A relative is such an example of that kind and i could slap his face whenever he does that and acts like a douche because he is too lazy to learn at least a bit of English to get around a little better.
Anyway – while these unnerving individuals sure do exist it thankfully is just the minority. A good deal of Germans are in fact quite fluent in English, since it is a major subject in all schools right from the start (nowadays, being multilingual actually is obligation here. Getting a decent job and speaking only one language? Forget about it.)
Another reason for this prejudice also might be the thick German accent some of us may have when trying English (i had an English teacher who was a particular bad case. Dear God, Klaus from American Dad sounds like an all perfect american angel compared to that dude's fat accent). An english talking German sounds funny for sure but which accent doesn't? Making fun of a German individual who can't properly say „squirrel"? Try saying „Eichhörnchen" for a change and then we can go on talking.
„Germans are punctual"
Yes, we are. There is a popular saying in German that goes somewhat like „better one hour too early than 30 minutes too late" - and it's true. If you're on a date or meeting with Germans, you better make sure to be there just in time (some of the worst things one can do to me actually is standing me up without calling me, noting me or letting me know otherwise. I simply hate it to wait for someone who's late on a fixed date). One of the many reasons why we hate our train system called „Deutsche Bahn" (for which – despite being German - punctuality ironically seems to be a word of foreign origin).
But it's not only the time. We are punctual in any other situation. The average German loves to structure his day, making plans, To-Do-Lists and sticks to even the smallest of rules (and even though i for myself can be quite the lazy ass whose discipline fails epically once in a while, i actually am a sucker for planning my days, making lists and striking those events out again which are done). Oh and yeah, the friggin' bureaucracy, of course. Germans are fucking crazy when it comes to bureaucracy. You would not believe how EVERY little shite needs a motion here. Whatever it is, it has to be on some piece of paper - what can be especially annoying at times.
„Germans are Nazis"
And here we have the Number 1 cliché. The Nazi-cliché. It's so stale that I actually had problems to believe that there are still people out there who could really think that way and seriously stand behind this belief until i made certain experiences that appear especially absurd if not even alarming to me.
I once got a note from an American kid which went like this:
„Hey man, i love your art and such but i wonder how come you're so good and if i'm allowed to like you since you're German? My parents told me that all Germans are Nazis/evil people, all of my family think that way and i wonder now if that is true?"
Imagine my face when i read that. At first i thought it was a joke, but it wasn't. It also wasn't the only note of that kind i got, there were many more. These were actual notes from actual American kids, written and sent not fifty years ago but in this actual time. I was even more baffled when i found out some time later that some individuals in America (i dare say rednecks?) even think that we don't have electricity and running water over here. What.
I think i don't have to go much into detail here when i say that the „All Germans are Nazis, we still love Hitler and if you're a Jew you'll get killed here"-shite is not true. Far, far away from that. National Socialism and all its philosophies are stigmatised in Germany like nowhere else in the world and this for good reason. Don't believe me that? Then try the Nazi salute in public – people won't only give you an evil eye, they will actually lock you up in prison for that in no time. It's absolutely forbidden here and the contempt for those Neonazi-idiots who still roam out there is not only tremendous but nationwide.
Germany is a thankful victim when it comes to this cliché and it most likely always will be like that (thanks to that one single douchebag in the past with great brainwashing skills who provoked WW2). I only wonder why is it that a good bunch (yet thankfully not all) of Americans are so fast in bitching about German History when their own History happens to be just as bloody? Wiping out Native Americans for example (an enormous genocide that easily bears comparison with the Holocaust when it comes to barbarism), or how about slavery...no one ever comes up with that for some reason. Just saying.
Yes, all of our forefathers made their mistakes. That doesn't mean that we would follow their footsteps.
„Germans have no national pride"
This one interfaces with the Nazi-thing in a sense. Compared to American Patriotism our „national pride" is indeed is pretty low if not to say non-existent – the only time you'll find German flags raised on private households is the World Cup season.
If you'd say something like „God Bless Germany" or „I'm proud to be German" you'd get weird looks here and as i said, it sorta lies in our past that blocks us to be all too enthusiastic about our country. Even though WW2 is over now for more than 60 years we're still very aware of it. What happened back then is nothing to be proud of, the opposite is the case and i think that Germany still didn't get away from that shame. Saying out loud you're proud to be German simply has a slight negative connotation and people just tend to be aloof. No one wants to be seen as a Nazi here.
Adding to that, i think that this also is a mere cultural difference. I don't know, but i for myself never thought that „national pride" is something that actually justifies „pride". Sure, i love my country, i love my native language and i am of course happy and sort of „proud" when i see that fellow countrymen like Beethoven, Goethe, Hans Zimmer and Christoph Waltz (though, he doesn't count really since he's Austrian ) get their international critical acclaim, but why should i otherwise be proud to be born in a certain part of the world? It appears just as senseless to me as saying „I'm proud to be white" or something stupid like that - Blimey, I'm proud to be a world citizen, I'm proud to be an individual. That should do it.
„German Shepherd Dogs everywhere"
Nope. Germany is a cat nation, actually. 12,3 million cats live in German households which makes the cat the Number 1 favourite pet in Germany. Dogs are only Number 2 with 7,4 million (it is especially crazy here where i live. Every third person living in our street has at least one cat). This last fact is more a fun fact but i thought you'd find this interesting since the German Shepherd Dog appears to be one of the most popular dog breeds in the States.
Anyway, that was my little journey through German stereotypes and clichés (and kudos to you if you made through the wall of text). Hopefully it was interesting to some of you (again, keep in mind that i always spoke of the average and drew from my own experiences. I never intended to lump together a whole nation, may it be the Germans, the Americans or anyone else. )
Speaking of which – even though Germany has especially many stereotypes, other countries do so as well. What are the most annoying/common/amusing stereotypes of your country?