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Culture

More Fun Please, We’re German!

In a bid to promote itself as a fun-loving, humorous nation, Germany is targetting British schools with a new campaign designed to counter the negative images surrounding the country and its history.

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"Germans having fun? Where are the sausages and lederhosen?" Britain is about to learn about the new Germany.

The nationwide promotion, using personalities such as supermodel Claudia Schiffer and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, is hoping to project the image of a German version of Cool Britannia – British Prime Minister Tony Blair's attempt to liven up the UK's sometimes staid image.

Love Parade, not Nazis

In an effort to neutralise Britain’s perception of Germany as the evil adversary and land of non-existent humour, the message being packaged for delivery will focus on love not war.

The annual Love Parade in Berlin, which attracts 1.5 million people, is a prime example of the new Germany and an event worthy of promoting the country as a whole according to Ulrich Sacker, Director of the German Cultural Centre in London, the Goethe Institute.

Bayer in Lederhose

A typical German sets off for work (British view).

"We are still dealing with some of the old stereotypes like the Huns, the Nazis and the beer-drinking Bavarians," he said.

"But people do not know about the other side, the more contemporary Germany, the hedonistic side, the travelling spirit of the German."

He added: "It is not about prejudice, it is about lack of information and one of the reasons is the very low level of youth exchange and teaching of languages in schools."

Famous Germans hope to reverse negative attitudes

The Germans intend to promote their country through catchy phrases and lively visuals on 10,000 postcards which will be backed up with a billboard and internet campaign.

"Learn German and you too can be in the pole position," says one of the postcards featuring Formula One World Champion Schumacher.

British schoolchildren will be asked as part of the campaign to write their own slogans to add to the promotion with a language course in Germany as the prize.

Media Biased Against the Germans

Lesley Nicol, Head of Communications at the German British Forum in London told DW-WORLD that university students in the UK studying German at degree level learn as much about the culture of the country as the language itself. It is the teaching in schools that needs to focus on modern aspects of German life.

"Up until 1995, 75 per cent of the history curriculum taught in schools would focus on British history," she said. "Now, children learn more about European and International history, although it still isn't enough."

Nicol praised the campaign aimed at school children and said it could only be a positive thing as media representations of Germany in Britain tended to be biased against the Germans.

"The media needs to adapt," she said. "To use the language of prejudice is the easiest way to approach German-British relations. The fact is relations between the British and German governments are more solid than ever."

The Sun

The early edition of the British tabloid "The Sun", with the headline proclaiming a Labour victory, is read in Downing Street, London, by waiting media Friday, June 8, 2001. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

She added that it was a brave step for the Germans to implement the campaign in the face of sustained British abuse, especially in the nation's tabloids. (photo)

"The Germans are keen to learn from the British, they value their creativity and flexability...which is impressive considering the hard time they get from us," Nicol said.

Britain's alleged ignorance of Germany appeared to be confirmed by results this week taken from the Reader’s Digest magazine survey of 19 countries on general European knowledge. Britain landed in second to last place.

Promotion of Britain in Germany should be the next step

The German attempt to build bridges over the waters of prejudice could be the start of a new understanding between the two countries. But perhaps it is also time for the British to start rebuilding their image in Germany.

One of Germany's most popular news magazines, Stern, last year published a savage critique of modern-day Britain - describing pockets of poverty, a decrepit health service and school system, a disorganised civil service and bungling politicians. Maybe an overhaul of the ‘Fool Britannia’ image wouldn’t be amiss.

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