Milan Obradovic, a German living in Los Angeles posted a very interesting and funny article on his blog Living in America. He discusses the stereotypical German as defined by Americans. Export goods such as cars, machines and beer are seen as high quality and Germans are seen as punctual, efficient and organized, which Milan says would make a German in California the “anti-Mexican”.
Problems arise when German are mainly associated with Bavaria, which is clear when looking at the ‘St. Pauli Girl’ beer, which depicts a women wearing a traditional Bavarian dress, whereas St. Pauli is actually a part of Hamburg, which is about 600 kilometers away from Bavaria. I have encountered this many times myself. When going to local “German Festivals” for example Bavarian outfits and foods equal Germany. When talking to people about Germany one of the first questions/comments often includes one of the following: “Oh, Oktoberfest!” And “Is that near the Black Forest?” Or some other indication that Germany is really just seen as an extension of Bavaria.
Milan further talks about typical German food sold in the U.S., as in Pumpernickel, and Liverwurst which neither actually looks and tastes nothing like the German Version.
The VW Jetta is actually a cool car in LA and Birkenstock sandals are sold in boutiques on Melrose Avenue, rather than at Granola stores, as is the case in Germany, whereas German cultural goods such as Goethe’s novels, Beethoven’s music or Günter Grass’ books are hardly known, some exceptions such as movies (Run, Lola Run) or the song 99 Red Balloons by Nena do exist.
German names such as Fritz, Hans, Heidi or Gretchen are not very common in Germany at all, except with people 60 and over, yet in America these are the “German names”. Gretchen is actually a nickname. Some German things are not identified as such, one example being T Mobile or Milli Vanilli, which actually might not be so bad in the latter case.