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Tea and royalty: Top 10 German stereotypes of Brits

October 19, 2019

With Brexit just around the corner, what are the stereotypes which Germans hold most dear about their (for now) fellow EU members? From politeness to an unhealthy obsession with the war, here are 10 of the most common.

Cup of tea
Image: Fotolia/Grafvision

From drinking beer to eating sausage, Germans may have to deal with a lot of stereotypes in the English-speaking world, but what do Germans think about some of their oldest rivals, the Brits?

Here are 10 of the most famous stereotypes which Germans have about Brits:

1. Tea-drinkers

The stereotype about Brits drinking tea is one of the most widespread in Germany. The Haus der Geschichte Museum in Bonn is currently running an exhibition called "Very British" about Germans' stereotypes of the Brits, and advertising the exhibit is a large, unweildly teacup. Some Germans believe that Brits drink up to 10 cups of tea a day, in contrast to Germans' "Kaffee und Kuchen" (coffee and cake) culture.

2. Crazy politics

Brexit may be the least of it — Germans have a perception of British politicians as eccentrics. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's international renown as a lovable buffoon has slowly altered in recent months as the Brexit date approaches.

Caricature of Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson's Brexit antics have been closely followed in GermanyImage: Céline Rübbelke

German political commentators and comedians like Henning Wehn have made their name in the UK for their mockery of the Brexit process and old-fashioned British politics in general.

The state opening of Parliament, for example, includes a speech by Queen Elizabeth II in all her finest jewelry.

3. Bad food

Germans are famous around the world for their love of sausage and schnitzel. Brits, meanwhile, face a far worse reputation in Germany itself. They are perceived as having awful food, with many dishes being either deep-fried or tasteless. The only upside is the universally popular fish and chips.

Fish and Chips
Boring food may be an unfortunate stereotype about Britain, but everyone loves fish and chipsImage: Imago

4. Politeness

This stereotype has been put under a great deal of pressure in recent years, but it still pervades: Those Brits are awfully polite chaps. Many Germans believe that Brits say sorry even when they are not to blame, ask "how are you?" an unnecessary amount of times and are generally very well-mannered. 

5. 'Don't mention the war'

Over 70 years may have passed since the Second World War, but many Germans do not believe that British national memory is so short. British TV comedies such as "Fawlty Towers," which coined the famous phrase "Don't mention the war," have managed to cement this stereotype. Figures like this have become famous in Germany for their obsession with the war and disdain for the Germans.

John Cleese in Fawlty Towers
John Cleese's 'Fawlty Towers' helped popularize the stereotype of the British fixation on World War IIImage: picture-alliance/Mary Evans Picture Library

Anti-EU rhetoric also referenced Germany and World War II in the run-up to the Brexit vote.

6. Royal family obsession

Having got rid of all their own aristocracy after World War I, many Germans believe that Brits are obsessed with theirs. Although the Queen only performs a ceremonial role in modern Britain, her role in Brexit, including claims that Boris Johnson lied to her, have highlighted longstanding British royal traditions. 

Queen at the state opening of parliament
The Queen only plays a ceremonial role in British politics, but recent headlines might suggest otherwiseImage: Reuters/T. Akmen

7. Queuing

They don't know if Brits love it or love to hate it, but regardless, Germans believe Brits do spend a lot of time standing in line. The quaint perception of the British "Warteschlange" (line) is well-known in Germany as another example of Brits being polite.

8. Sense of humor

The famous British wit and irony is well-known in Germany, often through TV shows such as "Mr Bean" and "Monty Python". "Dinner for One", a 1960s British comedy skit virtually unknown in the UK, has a cult following in Germany. Shown every year during the festive season, it is the most repeated TV show ever in the world.

Filmszene Dinner for One oder Der 90. Geburtstag
'Dinner for One' has developed a cult following in Germany, though it's virtually known in the UKImage: picture-alliance/United Archives/S. Pilz

9. Pop music

The stereotype that all British music is great may be flagging in recent years, but iconic names of the '60s and '70s like The Beatles and The Sex Pistols remain vivid in German national consciousness. British pop music, Germans believe, was once the greatest of all time, even if it is no more.

10. Football hooligans

The football rivalry that some say stems from the World Cup in 1966, where England narrowly beat West Germany in the final, has continued to the modern era, and with it comes a slightly unhappy stereotype. Brits in Germany have a reputation, as in other parts of the world, for "hooliganism" — aggressive and often drunk behavior at football matches. Thankfully, this stereotype is running out of steam.

1966 football World Cup
England and Germany have a football rivalry dating back to the 1966 World Cup finalImage: Imago/Pressefoto Baumann

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Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH Elliot Douglas
Elliot Douglas Elliot Douglas is a video, audio and online journalist based in Berlin.