Make Me a German

Make Me a German

2013, Society  -   42 Comments
Ratings: 7.92/10 from 155 users.

Aren't you just bored with hearing German accomplishment stories? They're the best at football (soccer), they're the first to go on a holiday and while Britain undergoes possible unemployment rise and a huge debt, just look how well the Germans are doing. Their employment is at highest levels and Germany is a meritorious exporter. What's even more surprising, the Germans make more money than Brits and work less. So how do they do all this?

Justin Rowlatt, a journalist, and Bee Rowlatt, a writer, are on an assignment to uncover the mystery of the German success. They're taking their kids with them and they're going to live in Germany for a while. Yes, there'll be beer and sausages, but this is no time off. They're going to work, live, and play... just like typical, common Germans, because their aim is to become German!

First off, they need somewhere to live. They've moved to Nuremberg, in the heart of Bavaria. It's famous for its gingerbread, sausages, and Nazi history. They've rented a flat from Mrs. Holler. Brits may be haunted with acquiring property, but Germans aren't. More than half of them rent, compared to just a third of the Brits.

Germans seem happy to rent and they rent for a really long time. People would stay for several decades in a rented real estate. Germans also don't get into huge debts. In Britain, the average family owes £53,000, including mortgages. In Germany, the average family owes under £30,000.

Justin and Bee did quite a lot of analysis on how ordinary German lives. The typical German is called Muller, the nation's most frequent surname, and lives in a 1970's apartment block... Sabina is the most used female name. Thomas Muller is the most common male name. Germans certainly get up very early, 20 minutes prior than the average Brit. With two preschool children the typical German wife would not go to work.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 years ago

Although I think the idea of the documentary is a nice one, you have to keep in mind that there are average-persons or stereotypes created in the mind of the viewer. In every country there are a lot of different realities found. I think the individual characteristics or life situation shape a person stronger than the socialisation or cultural imprints in his country. For example you can have more in common with a good friend in UK or India than your own neighbor in Germany. In comparison to India rather not concerning the habits, but your attitude to life for example.
Also i think it is naive to think that because of the succesful export economy e.g. the whole country benefits from that.

7 years ago

Well - one problem about trying to aspire to be a "typical" anything based on statistics is that you don't get truth, because you tell a single story and take that as a representative for a whole society.
Take that kindergarden - it is not typical in any way, I think it's rather extraordinary.
Another problem: Bavaria is not Germany. It's very traditional (or you could say - backwards) in it's views about women and their role in society. That get-together of house-moms said really a lot about it: women are actually discouraged to work (tax- division in marriage, that favors the bigger income and the fact, that there still not enough full time kindergardens, that would allow mothers to work full time) but that's not the "normal" German experience. There is a big difference in the emphasis on economical independence for women between East and West German females.
Another problem I see: there is no mention of the fact, that there are millions of working poor all over Germany (with the possible exception of Bavaria). I don't know about Faber Castell, but a lot of that "Mittelstand"enterprises are working with leasing firms that pay their workers much less than was shown on the film.
It also would have been interesting to see the family work and live by what they make for about six month - because the money, they actually get when all taxes and social insurances are paid, would probably have them struggling economically.
Another thing: if you want to see, how migrants live (and are lived with) in Germany Bavaria is not the first place that comes to mind. How about Berlin or "the Ruhrpott"?
And these "average" 4 hours daily for cleaning and washing clothes - who does this in Germany? Certainly not any woman I know - there all too busy with work, children or even fun! If they get in 4 hours a week, thats much! Did you check, how that statistics that guided you where made and who made them to what purpose? That would be really interesting. Because honestly - how much can you clean an already clean apartment?
As it is the film does paint a pretty picture that could hardly be further from Sabine and Thomas Müllers reality.

7 years ago

"The typical German gets up at 6:23, which is 20 minutes earlier than the average Brit"

Its really serving all possible German cliches. So lets approach that in a "germanic" way:

Germany is around 7 degrees east of Britain, so they should get up half an hour earlier to get up at the "same time of the day" according to the rotation of the earth.

==> they get up 10 minutes later than the Brits :-D

7 years ago

I wish this were available on DVD.

8 years ago

It will be interesting to see what Germany is going to look like after the massive invasion of the Muslims. All of Europe will be changed forever.

9 years ago

I loved this, funny and interesting!

9 years ago

I've heard it said before, that comparing a very homogenous (undiverse) culture, with a multi-national culture is not sensible, and doesn't work.

All in all, I get the feeling that a mixed culture is more open and flexible And even though it is less stable and more troublesome, it is worth it.

Kurt Gerster
9 years ago

Funny to see this. I'm German. And it's roughly the truth. But i think it is not possible to understand a culture by trying to copy the average citizen. What is the average citizen of the UK or the US like? We say "Dienst ist Dienst und Schnaps ist Schnaps", could be translated as "work is work and leisure is leisure". This might be the keynote of the society.

9 years ago

Brits don't get it: the most influestial knowledge and social education is the one children get from their family, spending time with your mother and father. there is no money in the educational system that can pay for that education and values. The whole society benefits from it. itæs like: instead of having a reppresive para-militar state and correctionals, teach the children to be honest and socially-responsible. Thats the key for success in any long-term proyection. Focusing on having educated and responsible people thus preventing all social diseases, than spending money to cure social disease (being greed the social disease that plagues USA, UK and most of western societies)

Lemon Popsickle
9 years ago

not available too tutonics in uk, why ,we are of german stock?even hitler told his generals that?

Dee Dee
9 years ago

Very serious group of people. Loved their discipline but not sure could cope with all that seriousness..... they seem to lack a sense of humour.

Dee Dee
9 years ago

Children start school at 6?? Wow. In the Caribbean we start at age 3!

Mama Leese
9 years ago

I really enjoyed this film. It had me laughing at the amount of housework needed to be done, and the amount of pork products needed to be consumed! Too bad it was so short.

9 years ago

Having lived in Bavaria myself, in Augsburg, I can sympathize with them. While I loved my time there, and have nothing but respect and admiration for the German folk, I know that I am not cut out to be German, despite being of partial German descent.

However, I miss the friends I had there, the wonderful food, the excellent wine, and the prodigious beer selection. I also miss the German habit of working hard, and playing just as hard.

Kansas Devil
9 years ago

Pencils. Not exactly a high technology industry. This documentary seemed to be taking an easier route to understanding a certain German culture. I was hoping for a deeper investigation using a more complex situation.
But based on this documentary, the corporation I work for would fail miserably in Germany if they tried the same work policies as in the US. Business experimentation and employee abuse would probably cause WW3.

9 years ago

If the Brits have such a problem adjusting to German culture and society, just imagine how hard it must be for Americans. The most difficult thing appears to be German love of "Ordnumg." I always thought that was simply a stereotype, but apparently not.

I moved to Austria at age 23 and spent the first year in a state of culture shock -- and the German-speaking Austrians are anything but lovers of Ordnung. They -- the Viennese at least -- run more towards Schlampigkeit (sloppiness, or easy-goingness). Never did fully get the hang of things Austrian, and I have to go back every once in a while because I can never finish with it.

I wonder if this couple will ever have to go back and give it another try.

9 years ago

I heard a rich German say in a video that he didn't want to be a rich man living in a poor country. In the US, that's precisely what the rich want. They'd rather keep all that money the Germans provide to their middle-class and just make up some rationalizations for why it's OK for them to buy another yacht while the 99% suffer. The greed disease doesn't seem nearly as bad in Germany.

9 years ago

Good doc. One thing though: I think there are very big differences between different parts of Germany. Bavarian cultures is more conservative than for example northern Germany. Actually, Germany is probably a little like Great Britain - there are probably also big differences between the Scottish culture and, say, the London culture.

Joe Mellon
9 years ago

In the very last scene they clink (or klink!) their
Weißbier glasses at the top and not the base... oh dear... :-)

9 years ago

We won the war but lost the peace.

9 years ago

I found this film reminiscent of the old Social Studies & Home Economic films of the 60's & 70's. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation. It was actually mildly entertaining & interesting to me in that I have not yet had the opportunity to travel to Germany.

While providing a glimpse at Germany for people such as myself who have never been, I am certain this is fodder for all sorts of critiques as were the films of old. I'm sure there are countless people who know better, laughing at the "realities" of life in Germany portrayed in this doc. Just as I would find humour & criticisms with a film made to depict average, contemporary life in Canada or the USA, two countries in which I have lived.

Fabien L'Amour
9 years ago

Interesting experiment though having a BBC camera following them all the time probably influenced the behavior of the participants quite a bit. I am sure the same experiment conducted with hidden cameras would reflect a very different reality with a much more genuine portrait of the German society.

9 years ago

this is 'positive racism' & i can assure that this is based on statistical number jongleurism.....i'm an irish-manc with a german mother & had the fate of being born here (germany) which i'm not too proud of for multiple reasons.finding full-employment here has deteriated over here due to the changing of laws in employment regulations in course with the currency politics (euro).it's common now to have a second job here or social benefits to make the rounds where as 15 years ago that would've been unheard of & laughed costs have been cut for schools & at the same time the university costs have been raised.germany ranks low in general knowledge in comparrison to other EU countries as a side-effect.this documentary is mis-leading & gives a 'good' picture which is undeserved!

9 years ago

I thought this was REALLY interesting because it made me realize that the sterotypes that we have of Germans are actually correct ! They really are very conservative, very controlled, very orderly and operate totally in sync with each other - just like a machine ! I am not saying this is a bad thing, we can all learn from each other - this life style to me is totally stifling, but it certainly works wonderfully - could I learn to adopt this way of life ?.
I moved to Pennsylvania recently and now I understand my feelings about the German-based society here - I am from the UK and really do not feel in-sync with my new neighbors at all - I will need to consider my options, do I want to (can I ?) live within this small-town fixed-concept society or relocate back to a freer, wilder, maybe more 'alive' New Jersey where I was a few months ago ?
I DO have the option to go back, just mulling it over until I decide !!

9 years ago

Great documentary!. Must watch!. Basically the Germans have a fantastic export model, they actually make things, and those things are typically of good quality as well. They have good health care, and a pretty decent quality of life, more importantly there model is sustainable and its not built on debt like the UK or USA.

9 years ago

Excellent very refreshing - I'll watch it again -

9 years ago

They're the best at football (soccer) - aren't Brazilians the best?