Friday, August 17, 2012

Odd Questions and Stereotypes

A great view of the Frankfurt Skyline from the terrace of the Nextower Building

As an expat in Germany I am asked quite a number of questions. Most are simple and I'm happy to answer them: How is life over there? Is learning a new language difficult? What's the biggest difference between America and Germany? 

Every once in a while, though,  someone asks a question that makes me go...huh? These questions are usually based upon stereotypes and can be pretty hilarious. Steven and I were talking about this the other day and came up with a list of questions we've been asked that made us scratch our head.

Questions I have been asked by Americans about Germany:

1. Oh my gosh, do you get to drive on the Autobahn?! 
Guys, the Autobahn is just the normal freeway system in Germany. It is not a special racetrack designed only for German sportscars. About 50% of it doesn't have a speed limit, but drivers are efficient. "Weaving" through cars is absolutely not allowed, so the slower cars drive in the right lane to let the fast cars drive past them in the left. I feel much safer/less stressed driving on the Autobahn than I ever have driving on US freeways, and there is much less traffic because people actually drive like they know what they are doing. I would love for this system to be in America as well, but we have to be real: Americans lack the emotional maturity to handle driving without a speed limit.

2. Are people drunk there all the time? 

No. I guess many Americans think that Germans are always drunk because German beer is so famous and the legal age to drink beer and wine in Germany is 16. I do not drink so I'm not the expert in this, but I personally like Germany's system better. In Germany it's not uncommon to see a teenager at dinner with his or her family drinking a beer, opposed to American teenagers who get totally plastered in secret because drinking alcohol is this really awesome, cool, rebellious thing to do. While I don't frequent the bars and clubs where people do get drunk, in general I'd say drinking is a much more social thing here and very few people drink with the intention of getting wasted. 

3. Is the German accent like, really weird?  
Okay, first of all...rude. Second of all, it is SO funny for me to see how Germans are portrayed in American media. The fake German accents that you see in TV are often more like exaggerated very southern German/Swiss accents. I have met very few Germans who talk like this, in fact most Germans under 40 speak English VERY well - sometimes when talking to a German stranger in English I'll first think that he or she is British, because British English is taught here in schools and their German accent is essentially nonexistent.  Steven lived in America for 2 years before we met, so he sounds very American when he speaks English and you only pick up an accent on certain words. 

Questions Steven has been asked by Americans about Germany: 

1. Does the Autobahn have turns that curve up so you don't need to slow down? 

No. It's a normal freeway guys, and the outside lane is for the slow cars anyway so that really doesn't make any sense.

2. So you're German. Do you think Hitler is still alive? 
I'm not even going to comment on this one.

3. Is the Autobahn a road that runs perfectly straight from North to South? 

A lot of Autobahn questions from Americans. I'm going to add that the same person who asked Steven this question also asked him if the autobahn had the raised turns...those questions COMPLETELY contradict each other and I have no idea what else to say. 

4. So, is there electricity in Germany? 

I saved this one for last because it cracks me up every time. Steven's response: No, there's not - we make all of our BMWs completely by hand. 

Now that I think about it, Germans have asked me a lot of peculiar questions about America as well....maybe this post needs a round two?  


tiarenie said...

ha! this post is so funny! sometimes ignorance really baffles me. people need to travel more !

Lauren said...

Some people are just so uneducated. I mean, sure if you haven't been there, it's normal to have questions (I'm sure even I do, just none that I can think of off the top of my head) but some of these just baffle my mind. And I love your response "Americans lack the emotional maturity to handle driving without a speed limit". Ha! So true, unfortunatly.

I would be interested in seeing the other side of this.


Jessica said...

I definately want to here what questions Germans ask about america. I agree completely with the idea that Americans lack the emotional maturity to handle driving without a speed limit, and I wonder how this relates to the drinking age, and how it being lowered would be handled.

Ashlee Michelle said...

This Post makes me laugh because of how *dumb* people can be sometimes. That just baffles me..Stereotypes are always going to be there I guess.

My family is Irish (along with a few other things) but we mostly celebrate our Irish roots because we are the most of that...and We have family that live in Ireland. I've had people ask me so much about the legal drinking ages, or "Is your family always drinking? And getting into fights?"...Uhm No, No We aren't.

I couldn't imagine being an American and living in another country where you can faced with these questions daily. Good for You Girl, on knowing how to answer them.

-Ashlee Michelle

Erin Marie said...

That last answer about BMWs is hilarious. Thanks for the laugh this morning!

Katrin said...

Haha, you made me laugh so much, Daryl! Love this post!
It's really funny that people always ask me about the Autobahn and beer when I tell them that I am German.
Lots of people really think that all Germans are drunk, drive 200 km/h and wear Lederhosen. :)

Errissa said...

I've gotten so many stupid ones, like
"Do you have a German accent now?" ...No, I'm American. Why would I have a German accent? -_-

"Don't you think the language sounds so harsh?" No. Maybe if you didn't only watch war documentaries you would agree with me.

"Ah I bet you get so much more access to cool fashion" HA!

RetreatingAndAdvancing said...

Hilarious! :D

San said...

Ha! I always find it funny how stereotypes seem to persist even though a lot of them are not true... :)

I have gotten weird questions from Americans about Germany as well..

Joslin said...

I don't get questions like that about Italy, but I get TONS of questions about Hawaii. It's a US state and some people ask about huts and are shocked that we have fast food and malls. It gives me a good laugh.

Kristin said...

Ahahaha xD This is incredible. I got a load of bizarre questions when I came back from Japan, and it's amazing how funny and arbitrary some stereotypes are and really makes you wonder how people can be so ignorant. But then again, my host dad firmly believed that the U.S. was part gangster, part cowboy, and part Arnold Schwarzenegger. Go figure.

Kelsea Echo said...

Haha oh gosh, stereotypes are so ridiculous!! I guess it's always going to be that way... but still. GEEZ! Thanks for the laugh! =)

Alex Butts said...

Ha I can't lie, I thought the autobahn was like 1 big road before I moved to Germany, I think it's because of this game:

Sherbet and Sparkles said...

Omg do people actually say those things?! I got the most ridiculous things from Japanese people when I lived over there, too.

Nicole Louise said...

This absolutely cracked me up!

Emilia said...

I think you need a part two!

As I've taught English in Germany, and been an American "ambassador" I've gotten a lot of weird questions about America and the English language.

I just stumbled across your blog and might ask you for a custom designed header!


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