But What About the Schadenfreude? | News and current affairs from Germany and around the world | DW | 10.08.2007
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But What About the Schadenfreude?

Despite the Germans inventing the word for taking joy in the hardships of other, a new survey out shows they're really more kindhearted than their vocabulary suggests.

young women laughing

They're probably not laughing at someone's rotten luck

The survey, by the Stuttgart-based Institute for Rational Psychology, indicates most Germans have a poorly developed sense of self-irony. That comes as no surprise to foreigners living here.

The poll found that just 16 percent can laugh about their own misfortunes or embarrassing moments.

But what might shock some is that the same survey found that Germans are even less capable of laughing at the mishaps of others. Thirteen percent of Germen men and just five percent of German women think there's something funny about other people's troubles.

So although German has one word -- Schadenfreude -- that perfectly describes taking delight in the disasters of others (which requires at least five words in English to express), the Germans themselves don't seem to feel much of it.

The study was commissioned by the Hamburg-based magazine Young Care and surveyed 2,639 people aged between 16 and 72 years of age.

While Germans don't much like to laugh at themselves, they do find comedy programs on television particularly funny -- 68 percent said they can have a good chuckle while watching sitcoms, sketch shows or other comedy formats.

One in two said their partners provided reasons to laugh while 44 percent laughed about jokes and 38 per cent found comedy films amusing.

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