German stereotypes – A beer glass full of precision

My days in London may be over soon, as I’m about to move back to Berlin. Time to sum it all up and take a final look at Germany from the outside, or rather at the foreign opinions and representations of Germany. Luckily, I won’t need to go off on some abstract cultural analysis. Instead, I will lure the reader into clicking on “Keep reading…” by saying that this post is about beer. Now you want to click on

Beck’s (formerly a German beer brewery, now owned by the international beer conglomerate Interbrew) has taken two of the most powerful stereotypes about Germany and put them into a single advertising campaign, which you will inevitably confront on London’s streets and underground stations these days. As you see on the image below, the ads display a glass of Beck’s Vier and the tag line “German Precision at 4%.

Quite conveniently for a company selling beer, one of the German stereotypes this ad is referring to is beer. Enough said, really. Beer usually ranges between first and third place on the list of things people immediately remind you of when you ask what’s typical about Germany.

Precise Beer?!

Not so conveniently for a company selling beer, another German stereotype is that we’re precise. Precise, punctual, orderly, addicted to rules and regulations, and so on. How can beer be precise? If anything, drinking beer makes you rather more imprecise and increasingly indifferent to rules and regulations. Or is Beck’s trying to say, “Look, ze Germans are so precise zey can make beer wiz precisely 4.00 per cent alcohol. Ja.”

Not very convincing, when you think about it. If you don’t think about it, however, you may just read and subconsciously process “German Precision”, which your well-conditioned body and brain have come to associate with “Awesome. Must buy this.” That’s how Beck’s may get away with overloading a single ad with two high scoring German stereotypes.

Speaking of German Precision (with upper case P, I just decided, to make it distinguishable from, say, Italian precision). German washing machine and refrigerator companies should look into hiring people from abroad to sell their products. I was more than indifferent towards washing machines and refrigerators until a British colleague went on a 15 minute monologue regarding the unique quality of Bosch, Siemens, and the like. He certainly had more pride in owning their products than any German I have ever met.

2 responses to “German stereotypes – A beer glass full of precision

  1. I would certainly hire you and with all your German preciseness.

  2. I prefer Becks at 4.9%….

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