Don’t mention the war

Because the World Cup is in Germany, yesterday the Guardian decided to theme a whole section of the newspaper around the subject of “our peculiar relationship with Deutschland”.

It’s certainly true that the British have a generally negative idea of Germany. But these days I don’t think it’s particularly deeply felt or deeply held. And the common suggestion that it’s all about the war is, I think, only marginally true. All those films with humourless Nazi commandants certainly can’t help, but I don’t think many people really equate modern Germany with the Nazis. The humourless stereotype is almost worse for their image than the actual war.

The real problem for Germany’s image in the UK is that there’s nothing positive to balance against the bad stuff. We have plenty of negative stereotypes of the French, but we like their food, fashion, films, and their actresses. We are often anti-American, but we enjoy their music, movies, and novels. Germany has absolutely nothing that has captured the British imagination. You’d think the blondes, beer and fast cars would give the country a certain laddish appeal, but somehow even they don’t manage to make Germany seem any more fun.

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve got it completely backwards, and the existing prejudice is the reason the British never find anything to like about Germany.

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