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More than beer, pretzels and cars - India's view of Germany

When we in India think of Germany, the first things that come to mind are tongue-twisting German words, German cars, German beer - and Adolf Hitler, writes Shivam Vij. But, he notes, that picture has become more complex.

Indians are fascinated by how Germany rebuilt itself after the World Wars, how it has been able to put behind the ugly past and become a happy, modern country. I feel that is something Indians could learn from, given the rise of Hindu religious fundamentalism in India.

The foreign countries most popular in India are those with large Indian expat populations, but there are only a very small number of Germans living in India. Yet there are an increasing number of Indian students living in Germany. They are studying mainly in the field of science and technology. Generous scholarships have helped, even creating a small community of Indians studying German literature.

These students bring back stories of what Germany is like, and the first thing they have to talk about is its affordability as compared to most other places in Europe. They say that Germany has a large middle class that lives on affordable rent and is content with their lives.

The German capital Berlin has become the most popular European city amongst Indian artists. Berlin is seen not only as Europe's art capital, but is also celebrated for its underground art scene.

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan's film 'Don 2: The Return of the King' made Berlin popular in India, the German embassy in Delhi recently used a Bollywood song for a PR drive: The previous ambassador, Michael Steiner, produced a YouTube video which had him and his wife dancing on a Bollywood song, 'Kal Ho Na Ho' (There may or may not be a tomorrow). The song shows an Indian politician wooing Steiner's wife but Steiner wins her back. The video went viral and was reported by TV news channels. Steiner told me the purpose of the video was to break cultural stereotypes.

DW-Korrespondent Shivam Vij QUALITÄT

Shivam Vij writes for DW from New Delhi

Thanks to an increasing number of Indians who are travelling to Europe, we now also know of Oktoberfest,with many restaurants and cafes now using Oktoberfest as a time to celebrate beer in India also.

With the growing popularity of football in India, young, urban Indians tend to follow the German national football team; and the German top club Bayern Munich is attracting a growing - if still marginal - number of followers.

Nothing, however, beats the love for German cars. Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volkswagen are objects of desire. They are status symbols. They are the reason Germany has an image of classy engineering and design.

Most Indians have little interest in foreign news. Not many care about the current refugee crisis in Europe.

The Greek bailout and the Euro crisis made big news here, and most commentators seemed to sympathise with the tough German position.

But the recent scandal surrounding German car maker Volkswagenallegedly cheating on emissions tests in the United States, however, has been of much greater interest than any other Germany-related news lately. The Volkswagen scandal came as a bit of surprise as Indians see German cars as safer and of better engineering. By contrast, cars made in Japanese or South-East Asian companies, are seen as more fuel-efficient but less reliable.

On the question-answer website Quora, an Indian computer science student described what Germans think of Indians. You can imagine the number of people who want to know the answer to that question when you see that this description on Quora has been read nearly 75,000 times.

He writes that spicy Indian food is so popular with Germans that they would have brought down the Berlin Wall long ago if they knew there was spicy Indian food on the other side.

The appreciation is mutual, with many Indians fancying pretzel and cheese with beer.

Given Germany's increasing popularity amongst Indians, it is apt that Chancellor Merkel is visiting India to make those ties even closer.

Shivam Vij is an independent Indian writer and journalist based in New Delhi. He writes for a number of international journals including DW.com. https://twitter.com/DilliDurAst

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