Friday, July 2, 2010

The Seven Personality Traits of a German

Over the years, I've come to agree....there are are seven obvious and traditional personality traits of a typical German. I realize....that I will take heat for this. But in some ways, I consider these to be positive in certain ways. And no, not all Germans are this way....but these are the obvious ones that you will notice.

First, stubbornness. It was obvious from two world wars. It's obvious from the 1950s and the rebuilding of Germany. It's obvious from the economy stumbles....especially from the vision of Greece and its woes. A German simply holds to one ideal, and continues on. They don't change their opinion often....and when they do....it's a necessity that they approach in a mental sense and just do it.

Second, holding to traditions. If a German starts a tradition....they rarely fail to accomplish this. I would put Octoberfest as the prime example....but there are millions of these in German society. It could be the start of fall clean-up in your neighborhood and the accepted date for that. It could be the summerfest week that has gone on for sixty years in your local town. Unless a flood occurs, folks don't shift from the traditions.

Even on the personal level, there are things like a guy sticking to Opel cars for his entire life. Or the wife who demands a weekend getaway to Berlin the 2nd week of May of each year. Or the color scheme of a house that's been owned by some guy for forty-five years. It might even be the tradition of using only one car mechanic for your entire life, until he retires.

Third, thriftiness. Normally, I'd just call this cheapness....but I have to be fair here. You could walk up to most Germans and tell them they have $300 for an entire 10-day summer vacation....and somehow, they'd figure a way to enjoy their 10 days off....with such a modest amount of money.

When you look at German retirees....and what they often end up with at age 65.....and then somehow....they live off $1000 a month and you are kinda shocked how they do it.

Right now, there is this massive use of Hornbach (the German home improvement store). Instead of paying some guy to renovate your bathroom....a German will find the right Polish guy for a week....buy all the materials.....and then do the paint and tile himself.

Fourth, argumentative. This one.....some folks might argue about (get it?). Germans can find a thousand things to argue about. It could be one guy planting shrubs of a disliked nature that the neighbor can't stand. It could be the act of cranking your car for two minutes in winter to warm it up. One minute of such a cranking would be tolerated, but not two, and thus inviting an argument sooner or later.

Pointing out how you screwed up....would go hand-in-hand with this personality trait. They'd like to let you know something....and hopefully you agree....otherwise, it's an argument.

Fifth, a bit of humor that is different. The wild humor of Robin Williams doesn't work in Germany. Jerry Lewis humor doesn't really work. Seinfeld humor doesn't work. But you start to notice is a cynical sort of humor that most Germans tend to appreciate. It's the comparison of how bad the political system has become when compared to a drunk in a pub....which will make a German laugh his head off.

Germans love office humor if it's compared to their actual environment. They laugh over the stories at a butcher shop or government bureaucracy.....because they face this each and everyday.

Sixth, coldness. It could take a decade to really know your neighbor after you move in. In fact, you might never know your neighbor beyond a beer you share together once a month when mowing the grass.

You don't see cases where a German gal meets some guy and agrees to marriage within six months....that simply doesn't happen.

A German keeps this coldness.....as a defending tactic. It protects their inner circle and makes them feel secure.

Seventh and final.....creative. The little sensor that detects rainwater on the windshield of your car and automatically turns the wiper on? It's from a German. ABS? It's from a German. There are dozens of car devices which relate back to a German who just kept thinking about how things work.

It's the same with heating systems, pens, printers, tires, subway cars, and even zippers. They sit there and pause over the way things work.....and then announce this fantastic vision with just a simple toggle switch or a light sensor.

So I hope I didn't insult any Germans....but it's just a note of mine about their lives and impacts.

73 comments:

Anonymous said...

you are right on and I'm proud of all of them.

Becky Z said...

I got a real kick out of this post...my family has strong German roots, settling in Pennsylvania in the 1700s to farm. Our personalities fit this list perfectly, despite being removed from the country for centuries. We don't like change! hehe.

Anonymous said...

In mostly German but i also have dutch roots. I'm adopted, so i wasn't that sure about my ethnicity...i just relied on looks. this really helped me personality wise to discover that i am with out a doubt German

Stuttgartgirl said...

Great post! I found myself nodding my head. Regarding German humor, it's a tough one. Many times I find myself making a sarcastic comment, only to have it taken literally by a German, shaking his head at how stupid I must appear, but I'm learning.

Anonymous said...

I have an exchange student from Germany. These traits are right on... Bingo! This definitely fits her. Good to know...

t said...

I can't confirm or not confirm that you marked Germans correctly. However, your last point of instinctively thinking about how things work at length is true of me. It is one of the best topics to talk with my dad about. And, a German friend visited me in LA. We went to a bar with a lot of hot chicks. He didn't make a single remark about the hot chicks. However, he expounded at length in what ways the bar could be constructed better.

Anonymous said...

Happy Oktoberfest! Great Post of German Traits...each one fits spot-on for me, especially the stubbornness & the argumentative traits. Creativity and dark humor are also at the top of the list for this Meissner girl!

Matt said...

I so agree with all of these! I'm a bit more than half German and I have to say right now that I found myself nodding my head the whole time. I can't say there's a single one I don't have in myself. Ever since I was little I've always been stubborn, argumentative, and known to get on someone's case about anything I see wrong. I'm also known as the "perfectionist" haha. This was a great post and I can't disagree with any of 'em, so even if you didn't nail Germans head on, you've got me perfectly.

Lindsey said...

I actually just found out that I have German in my family tree. I was looking into the personality traits of the German culture to see if it really fit with me and my family.

Who would have thought my ability to not step out of my familiar "I have to get the same thing when I go to this restaurant, coffee shop, etc" really had to do with my stubbornness to keep traditions going. :)

These made me giggle.

Amber said...

This made me laugh

Amber said...

This made me laugh

manxman.abroad said...

Hey, you've saved my life! Really! I'm new to Germany and was taking everything so seriously. But today I discovered your blog and can begin to laugh at my response to the 7 (I'd like to add a few) personality traits. And they're ALL truly German. Thank you.

Pagesculptor said...

Yup. I am learning as I am trying to understand the odd behaviors of my German co-worker. Oddly, I'm Mexican but I tend to reflect these same traits at him whenever he's around. Not sure why, but it happens.

Pagesculptor said...

Yup. I am learning as I am trying to understand the odd behaviors of my German co-worker. Oddly, I'm Mexican but I tend to reflect these same traits at him whenever he's around. Not sure why, but it happens.

Eileen Kocherhans said...

Schnitzel Republic! What a great hedaing! Schatzkopf game, Anyone?

JACLYN said...

This is so interesting, I'm at least 1/4th German and see the traits in my family.

Marty said...

I have a Dutch family, a lot of these traits are true of us as well.

Anne German said...

Hello from Germany.
I discovered your blog.
I can confirm that you marked Germans correctly. Best, Anne

Wiebke Albers said...

Don't agree with point number 6.
My mum got engaged to my father after 5 months.
(They are still together, so much about the traditions...)

I don't really think its coldness. It is more like whenever a German accepts you as his or her friend, they are bound to give you whatever you ask for, not because you ask for it, but because you- as their friend- need it. It is a bit like being part of the family.
There is also a great difference between people in the north and in the south of the country, the north being more "open" to strangers, but never completely opening up to them, whereas the north is just as you described. It may take twenty years before someone calls you a friend, but when they do, you really are.

Michelle said...

Haha this is great...stumbled upon this post on accident. I am VERY predominantly German (Great Grandfather was a 'Zimmer') and everything from my physical features to the personality traits of this post describes me to a "T". The creative and thrifty part made me smile. In 2011 I launched a fashion apparel consignment store because of how "thrifty" I am. Soo weird, but a huge validation for my "weirdness" Thank you so much!

Tanja Olsson said...

Haha this really fits me, the fun thing is that I'm swedish but a german friend of mine says that I behave german :P

Anonymous said...

I'm German and I don't think you can generalize on Personality Characteristics.
Or should I say all white Americans from the South are uneducated racist rednecks?
And how about Americans in general are are arrogant ignorant noisy and shallow?
How do you like this judgement?

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoyed your article and think it accurately reflects reality. As to why this is, I have an idea you might find interesting. Germans do share a lot of genetics but they also share a specific national history. This is a powerful combination to inherit and I believe that history often trumps genetics. Many people who come to the US as immigrants find that within one or two generations, they not only live, eat, work, worship and think like all the Americans they know, but they even begin to physically resemble a kind of American norm - taller than average, higher than average weight, friendly at first meeting but generally guarded and diplomatic, interested maintly in the utility and practicality of new things, and not married to traditions - not of their own families nor anyone else's. Case in point is a full blooded Chinese man who is a bank president in San Francisco. This man is so tall and heavy and his face is so relaxed, you would be hard pressed to identify him as Chinese on the street. You would never know his national origin unless you saw his name in print - and without that his nationality would be a mystery to you, unless you asked him about his family. People with similar histories act similarly and hold many of the same beliefs about how to live their daily lives. Put this way, it's not too mysterious to imagine that many German people have the same personality traits. Similarly I think anyone who grew up in Ireland, regardless of his own nationality, would share many of the attributes of the Irish people. They're living in the same environment, with the same history so it stands to reason.
Kathie Godfrey

Anonymous said...

I too am of German extraction, (and English), and I think you are right on with the Germanic traits. I would add also that it seems to be a trait to be quite orderly and organized, even a little OCD, but perhpas that is just some. Also my family (Keller) are quite cordial, even jovial social settings, especially with plenty of beer, wine and schnapps!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Agree with most observations as my mother-in-law and family are German and my wife is very similar. However, the "argumentative" type is different from being critical and an inability to offer praise, particularly of one's own family. I doubt this is a German trait in general but perhaps so? I think this is a very sad charateristic in any person / culture.

Another strong trait I suspect could be genralized is loyalty and trust but with a reciprocal demand of "doing one's fair share" (i.e., always keeping score.)

Like any personality / cultural traits....some good and some bad.

We all have something to offer.....very American I'd say.
;-)

Anonymous said...

I am German andI agreed with everything on here.

German said...

Coldness is a misunderstanding. It is a part of loyalty. Trust is given after a period of time and we stay loyal to the end. It is really the logical thing to not waste effort on relationships that are not based in truth.
Stubborn-yes/Cheap-really just being frugal and sensible.

vacations-My wife and I spent 10 days in Florida in the US and spent $200 and that included Disneyworld.

Anonymous said...

I come from a family that is 100% German on one side Native American on the other. My mother was the first in her family to marry outside her race. Her maiden name was Zinsmeister. I aggree with most of the traits you have listed, although my father had very similar traits as well.I think that these personality traits can be found in any culture that has struggled to survive, that have been told what they can and can't do by someone outside of thier communities.I hold to the traditions of both sides of my as much as possible and have taught my children to do the same. Because I truly believe you can't know who are, if you don't know where you came from.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is not only Germans, but also Austrians, Dutch, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, British and Americans who have had roots in these nations and or have been influenced for decades by their cultures developed in America.


I would also add one negative trait of Germanic nations. It is a vice of acting in a superior manner, subconsciously thinking that their ways, their behaviour, language, culture, knowledge are the best and all the nations towards East are less superior (because they only learn) or inferior (when they go their way) and thus (Germanic people think) we must educate and change them. That is why the U.S. wages so many wars, criticises everyone, that is why Americans cannot believe that people in Ukraine or Slovakia can have mobile phones. That is why they think that we (Slavs) all live in some semi-dictatorial, poor dens etc. etc. WW II taught Germans to hide and mitigate these vices. I think that the same must happen to Americans and British as well.
Simply, no one can be better than they are. And when someone is really better than they are, they never recognise it duly.
At present, Germanic nations have the political power and influence over the world and their culture is at first sight (spread by american films) very attractive. This makes it difficult to tell them that not everything is as they think it is.

Anonymous said...

Funny...I'm half german and experienced most of this first hands and did get cussed out by some german for leaving my car running for 2 min in the winter to defrost my windows!!!

fwbikecommuter said...

Thank you so much for writing this down. Out of the blue I realized that I need to understand my 7/8ths German personality. Extremely enlightening and right on!

Anonymous said...

All that,and most remain very likeable.Pretty impressive.

Anonymous said...

After hosting an exchange student and hosting the parents for 2 weeks you have forget the 8th trait of most Germans... They are RUDE!!! I also noticed this from my visits to Germany. From paying for their meals to them being in control on my home the are rude and controlling...

Anonymous said...

The accuracy of this is frightening lol describes this Pennsylvania boy perfectly. My father X10!!

Mumm said...

This totally describes myself, my family, and my German friends! I consider them all fantastic traits, but they do hinder me at times. "Typical Americans" just do not get what logic, etc bring. I am proud of my German lineage and the traits that accompany it. Great posting and ever so accurate.

Anonymous said...

I fit every one of these traits. I have zero German blood.

I think the author is trying to pigeon hole the German

race for his/her own biased reasons.

Suffice it to say the world is a better place because of

the German people.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Totally true! I'm 23 and yep... I have every single one of those that you listed! Sometimes I find people baffled by my personality, but it is just the German in me coming out! :)

Miriam Morales said...

Germans are also very proud of their ethnicity, their language and their homeland. They dont allow foreigner to get away with breaking the law as they will step in and complain about it, report you to the Polizei , etc. They are very strict in environmental conservation as well. Most of all Germans knows to speak English but sometimes they refuse to speak it. Unless of course you speak Deutsch to them first and then excuse yourself for not understand Deutsch completely.

Mumm said...

After Miriam's post, I feel even more rooted in the German psyche. I cannot abide people not doing as they should and I have great respect and interest for the nature that surrounds me. Any time I have encountered a person of German origin, I instinctually greet them in German, and beg their pardon that I don't speak the language well and ask if we can converse in English - or a mix. (People in Quebec, Canada are much the same - if they feel like it, you get French!)

Anonymous said...

My family heritage is in large part German, so I've been told. These characteristics sooo describe my family that we certainly must be of German ancestry! I love it! Have traveled in Germany several times and always came home having developed a new German friend.

Anonymous said...

Hi ! I absolutely agree with all the points you mentioned although I would like to add that Germans are really, really strict about time. I was dating a German guy who once refused to eat at a restaurant as he didn't get his order in the stipulated 7 minutes! To an Indian like me, it was really odd to watch even though I was used to his typical German traits!

Peter Handeland said...

Peter said, Hi. Guten Tag.I am a native German and very proud of it. I felt this pride because my grandparents instilled it into me. So, yes, family is very important doing that. I've noticed that there is a type of coldness about me. Not being mean but far from it. It is genetics and is a result when we were the old warriors. I am so proud of my culture and though I live in New Mexico (I have been in America since I was seventeen) I am fluent in German. I teach it. Language is so important and because of it I will never loose my Germanness. I work with the Navajo Indians and so many of the young ones are loosing their language and culture which causes chaos. I have been with the Navajos for a long time. It is good for Germany and my own sense of pride. Peter Handeland, University of New Mexico, Gallup, New Mexico. Auf Wiedersehn.


















Anonymous said...

Oh my God! So true! My father was German and my mother was from Central America. I was raised in the US. The way you described germans hit it right on the nail, except for being cheap. He loved giving gifts and loved having a good time, so I could never say he was cheap. He also was very frank and he'd say what was his opnion of you, if you liked it or not. His humor was one, that unless you were german, you'ld not understand or think he was rude. But in reality he was a great guy. He died 8 years ago and had just turned 80. I would spend hours listening to him, about how he grew up in Germany and how things were. I miss him dearly!

Mumm said...

Isn't it great to have been able to hear the stories about life in Germany? Myself, and my German family and friends, are terribly cheap BUT love giving gifts... and not just on special holidays or events. It is all about the thought, and I never think of the cost when I deem it worthwhile. We also love to enjoy ourselves and I know I spend good money on what I enjoy. I may not buy a bottle of water when I am running errands, but I will drop $10 on a mixed drink when out with friends, to be sure! LOL!

anke said...

wow, you are very right! *proud*

proud_of_my_heritage said...

So true, great post!! Life is what it is. I'm guilty of every trait listed here and more, not that I like to admit it sometimes but we are who we are. My family roots are mostly German with some Swedish and Norwegion. I also grew up in the upper midwest.
Hope nobody is offended by the list because these are in my opinion the traits of some of the greatest minds. They never stop thinking and are always improving their current understanding of everything.

Anonymous said...

My grandparents and their children (one of whom is my father) immigrated from Germany to the US in the late 40's. Knowing my father, 2 aunts, and 4 uncles I feel I have a decent vantage point for comparing the article's personality traits with individuals of 100% German ancestry. My father, aunts and uncles were also all subject to the culture of the US as they grew up, but the majority of the individuals have all the listed traits. The degree of the traits does vary. It is hilarious to hear them refer to one particular uncle as being "tight fisted" with his money when all of the family members would be considered quite financially frugal by normal US standards. The males in the family are quite cold by nature, but the two sisters are not when compared to the males. All have had a strong work ethic (aged & retired now), all are deeply rooted in tradition. Although not mentioned in the article, part of this tradition includes religion in this family.
As a child I grew up listening to frequent... "lively" arguments in the German language that could (and often did) go on for hours.
I could elaborate on the degree to which each of these traits are expressed in these individuals, but it would require too much time and space. Suffice to say that I considered each trait carefully and related it to specific behaviors that the individuals have exhibited over the almost fifty years I have known them.
I found the traits listed by the author are very accurate in my German family members.
I love my family very much and do not consider these attributes to be negative, just true. I could not ask for a more loyal family and although my uncles may not be demonstrative with affection, Mister, you don't want me to have to ask for back up. I think they are bears in people suits.
I have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. Have a beautiful and blessed day!

tiffy122881 said...

I have my German heritage traced back to the 1600's and i am a lot of those things. It really explains a lot of why i am the way i am. Great post, good read. I'm also half Irish so we always joke that we are a drinking problem waiting to happen lol. Never mind i do drink a lot!

Rudi Fischer said...

Where do I start? Germans living in Germany probably do not agree with your assessment. Those of us who escaped the Vaterland and saw how the rest of the world operates agrees with you. My German humor was not appreciated much when I grew up in Germany but when I went into the rest of the world it was not only accepted but sometimes I do get some laughs. The exception to that rule is the Orient. Asians have no sense of humor and it almost got me killed. As to your seven Personality Traits you were right on. Loved the post.

Anonymous said...

I just read this even so it is 3 years later. I am half German (mother immigrated to US after the war) and I can now understand some of my traits. You hist 6 out of 7 with me. I do enjoy meeting my neighbors...

Anonymous said...

I went to this site because I have a German Exchange student and I am trying to understand her thinking better, this is her to a tee. It is kinda sad because she does not seem all that happy inside really,. She always wants to argue, she is always right (so she thinks) she is a teenager whom thinks she is grown. She says one thing and does total opposite. This site helps me understand her a bit better I guess.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the very definition if racism to attribute qualities/defects to certain groups.

Racism:
"the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races". Germans are cool, but you can't classify them all...

R Hammond said...

On the thought of racism comments, then any comment...about German, American, British, Chinese, or even Texans...would be racist in nature, and thus forbidden to render in any public setting?

When you pick up this philosophy and start swinging it around, you tend to limit just about anything you could say...other than 'nice weather' or 'flowers in full bloom'.

Go back to the professor who dumped this intellectual argument onto you about racism, and ask for your money back. A higher train of thought wasn't achieved on that investment of capital. Societies, cultures, and countries are different, and if they weren't, then we'd all be dressed in gray, singing glory songs, and sipping ginger tea. Each brings something different into the world. Some positive, some negative and some...just plain silly.

Anonymous said...

Heaven is where police are British, cooks French, mechanics German, lovers Italian and all organized by Swiss.
Hell is where cooks are British, mechanics French, lovers Swiss, police German and all organized by Italians.

I am a German with DARK BROWN EYES AND HAIR and a dry sense of humor...stereotypical?
I know numerous Americans who permanently reside in Germany and returning after a U.S. visit, remark about American peculiarities...
My take...sometimes Germans are correct...sometimes Americans are correct.
I have used this knowledge to my advantage...

Anonymous said...

Wow.. Now I understand my German husband and in laws... This from a open, affectionate, spends money , high maintenance woman who loves Robin Williams and knows no strangers.....

Anonymous said...

Seinfeld humor doesn't work in Germany?
I'm german and it's one of my favorite tv-shows, but then again I don't know anyone else who's watching it.
But I guess you're right, I love cabaret.

Lisa Stamey said...

My great grandmother immigrated to the US when she was a child so my mom's side of the family is very German (looks and personality). This list is crazy accurate.

Lisa Stamey said...

My great grandmother immigrated to the US when she was a child so my mom's side of the family is very German (looks and personality). This list is crazy accurate.

Evelyn said...

Some of the comments made me giggle. Germans are very loyal. They love order do a degree of being obsessive about it. Punctuality is a must. Not so sure about the humour, but most of the US stand-up comedian I just do not get, but I love English humour. I have no problems being friendly with people, but yes... making a good friend takes time, but they are friends for life and considered part of the family.

Anonymous said...

Ja, I'm proud of being German all right.

Rosette Antopina said...

Bang! All of these are what I encountered when I met my German boyfriend via Skype. Its really hard to make joke with him. How can I help it? Being a fun loving person and from a country that loves to smile. Joking/humor is in my everyday life.
I'm still learning and knowing him more :)
I'm positive we will acquire from each other good characteristics we can apply to make the relationship work :)) I hope. Hehhe
And I hope he smiles often hehe :))and stop being cold and open up to me.

Anonymous said...

U are totally right my family is part german and russian, spanierd, french, canadian, and others too.

Anonymous said...

My parents are German and that describes them perfectly! Except my mom who is very friendly with anyone and my dad likes to critize everyone lol

Anonymous said...

Im half German-Dutch and this goes soooo well with me and my German side of the family except they are very more Sociable than me.

Anonymous said...

Lol typical German response

Anonymous said...

I'm curious about the supposed German penchant for oscillating compulsively between extremes. I've certainly had that personality trait, and a grandfather was born in Germany. I know quite a few people of German origin or descent who have it. I wonder if it's a coincidence. After the War it was attributed to Germany's being precariously sandwiched between the civilized and intimidating West and the uncivilized and threatening East. Has German childrearing been a product of that chronic insecurity? Is it still?

Anonymous said...

Ja, du kann Dutche sprechen?

Anonymous said...

Now I know why, until now of being 1 year in a relationship... he never asked me for marriage. :)

Anonymous said...

This is me. Great article and right on target

Anonymous said...

Lol

Anonymous said...

One trait that I find true in all my German friends is Schadenfreude. I don't find it attractive but Germans seem to get great pleasure out of others misfortunes. Even so far as laughing very loudly as a friend stubs their toe or bumps their head. It seems the more you are hurt, the funnier this is for them.

Anonymous said...

Also, Germans are missing the"gratitude gene". They do not like to show gratitude or feel indebted to any one.
They will explain away something you've done for them as how it was somehow for your benefit, and they would have done it better if they'd have done it themselves.

Anonymous said...

I have deep German roots in my family tree. There is a majority of these traits that describe me.