First Published in The Independent, June 29th 2006


‘Allo ‘Allo, where are the stereotypes?


The World Cup is the biggest party in the Fatherland since the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. What makes the World Cup even better than overthrowing communism is its international character. As far as I remember, there were neither Mexicans with massive sombreros nor African witch doctors celebrating in the streets of Berlin last time round.

Then again, there aren’t any now, either. Unlike at previous tournaments, all quarter-finalists bar Ukraine are European or South American heavyweights with an impressive track record of footballing success. Thank God for that.

I’m sure we all enjoyed Trinidad & Tobago earning a draw against Sweden, Senegal beating France at World Cup 2002 or Northern Ireland winning against England last September. But the minnows must not outstay their welcome. Nobody wants to have random countries such as South Korea or Turkey in semi-finals ever again.

I therefore ask Ukraine to see the bigger picture and leave next Tuesday’s semi-final to the two great European football nations – Italy and Germany. I know for a fact that the Argentines have a plane to Buenos Aires waiting to take-off immediately after their quarter-final defeat against Germany.

Without trying to pander to you Britische I must admit that I was very pleased to see the back of the Australian team. Those annoyingly positive Antipodeans are hard to like even for a neutral. Having a Dutch manager didn’t endear them to me either.

The World Cup is my first extended trip back to Germany since moving to the UK. I must admit that I am surprised about the good-natured, humorous, friendly character of my countrymen.

Having lived in the UK for the past four years, I am so used to the British stereotypes about Germans that I had expected to find locals wearing Lederhosen, goose-stepping up and down Hauptstrasse, eating huge amount of bratwurst whilst singing David Hasselhoff’s latest songs. This is ludicrous of course: we prefer the Hoff’s old material.

So it took me a few days to rediscover Germany as a country blessed with natural beauty and populated by pleasant people; not the grotesque version of popular British folklore.

This message seems to hit home with travelling England contingent. All the supporters I spoke to were impressed by German hospitality. Not that it’s too difficult to provide better service, food, and transport than what they get at home.

But old habits die hard, and I’m sure that once British telly and the tabloids realise that you might be about to drop the German stereotypes they’ll bombard Britain with ever more reruns of ‘Allo ‘Allo! and Dad’s Army and war movies full of fake Germans shouting “Jawohl Herr General”. Let’s hope so or I might have to write a new stand-up routine.

Posted by Henning Wehn on Thursday, June 29th, 2006.
Filed Under: Writing



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