Isn't it funny how every language, country and nationality has a reputation, and more often than not, said reputation really is true? Apparently, the French are romantic wine-drinkers, the Italians are sensual pasta-fanatics, the Spanish are laid-back party-goers, and the Germans... Well, most people think Germans are just sensible sausage-eaters.
While on my year abroad in Germany, I've taken it upon myself to discover just whether the (largely less-than-favourable) German stereotypes held by most Brits do in fact prevail.
As I psyched myself up for six months of sausages (mmm), I wondered: would the Germans really be as blunt as I'd been warned? Would I be arrested if I crossed the road before the green man appeared? And was I about to embark on a new life devoid of humour?
All has been revealed, and it's safe to say not every stereotype has proven true, thankfully. No-one's been rude (bar one Bavarian waitress), I have witnessed crime scenes in the form of German pedestrians breaking the law (yes, really) and impatiently crossing the road too early *gasp*, and they do make jokes, even if sarcasm doesn't always go down well.
So, let's assess some of the common German stereotypes in a clear, organised list (German life seems to be rubbing off on me already):
1. Germans are efficient and punctual - true and true. A colleague was once a whopping five minutes late to meet me and I thought something awful had happened. Germans aren't late! Ever! It turned out he just couldn't find a car parking space. Phew. I know.
2. They love Wurst - man, do they love it. Apparently, there are over 1,000 types of sausage in Germany. And while Britain may be inundated with street-side doner kebab-sellers, Wurst stands are far more ubiquitous over here in sausage-land. In most restaurants and supermarkets you're faced with a choice of pork, pork or pork. In various forms.
3. German food isn't good - not true, and there's genuinely more to German cuisine than pork. Schnitzel (OK, often pork too, and yes, technically Austrian), fruity crumble cakes and soft, warm, freshly-baked pretzels are all regular occurrences in my life as of late. There are bakeries round every corner, and I am LOVING it. I've realised the greatest challenge of my year abroad isn't going to be mastering a foreign language or integrating into a new culture, but rather not getting fat. They don't tell you about that in the pre-year abroad talks at uni...
4. Germans drink a lot of beer - so much beer! You may think you're pretty hardcore spending hours in your local Coach & Horses, but until you've been to Oktoberfest in Munich, you know nothing. It's mental. But awesome.
5. They wear Lederhosen - this is also pleasingly true. Whilst German people don't don their Dirndls (Heidi-style dresses) and Lederhosen (the leather trousers and checked-shirt ensembles) on a day-to-day basis, most people will own one for festivals and weddings and the like. Going to Oktoberfest in your normal clothes? Pah! What a tourist.
6. They don't queue - we Brits find it hard to get our heads round this, but it's true. Germans tend to just mosh. I'm going to again return to Oktoberfest as my example (it seems to have demonstrated every point so perfectly), as waiting to get into a tent was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Everyone just squished each other like sardines! Considering Germans are so orderly in every other aspect of life, I find the lack of queuing a little bizarre.
7. German people are rude - from my experience, this is such an unfair stereotype. Every single German I've met has been really friendly and unbelievably helpful. Despite being a random English girl who can barely string a sentence together, so many Germans have made the effort to talk to me, invited me out and offered to help. It's lovely.
Germany is also absolutely beautiful. OK, I haven't seen the whole country, but by whizzing through the countryside on the (very efficient, natch) trains, I've discovered a fair bit, and it's stunning.
Interestingly, my German friend actually told me most German people hate being called typically German, which I think is a real shame. It would seem a lot of the aforementioned stereotypes actually apply to, well, me! I am efficient and punctual (most of the time), I do love Wurst and I'll also wear my Dirndl at any opportunity. (Well, wouldn't you?)
So, I hope I've convinced you that Germany is more awesome than you might think, and whilst some stereotypes are true, others are worth taking with a pinch of salt. Well, this is what I personally have found - to be fair I've only been here a month and obviously haven't met every single German person in the world. That would just be ridiculous, now, wouldn't it?
I'd better wrap this up though - don't want to be late to meet my new German friend for Wurst and beer while wearing a Dirndl...