Physical characteristics of German people include light complexions, above average heights, square jaws, and sharp facial features.
The stereotypical character traits most associated with German people include their efficiency, punctuality, desire for order, using very few words, and having no sense of humor.
Of course, modern Germany is multicultural and dynamic. Stereotypes increasingly fail to fit, and there are people of all different appearances. So, below are stereotypes only.
Physical Characteristics of German People
1. Light Complexion
Almost half of the German population has blue eyes, and a majority of German people have blond hair, depending on whether you consider a very large part of the spectrum dark blond or light brown.
Whichever definitions you prefer, German people are known for having lighter hair than the average person and even the average European.
Germans will also tend to have lighter skin that is pink toned rather than olive toned. This means that they can be more prone to burning in the sun when they go on vacation to tropical or subtropical locations, which has in turn led to the stereotype of German people always carrying sunscreen with them in these locations and using it liberally.
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Although the height of German people can also be a bit of a stereotype insofar as many people assume it exceeds 6 feet on average, which it does not, Germany is still home to one of the tallest average populations in the world.
The average German man stands at about 5 foot 11 inches while the average German woman stands at over 5 foot 5 inches. By European standards, this would put German people at just above average in height, but on a global scale, Germans are some of the tallest people on the planet.
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3. Teutonic Profile
The facial profile that has been associated with German people has been spoken about for centuries, experiencing an especially strong revival in the Victorian era.
These features include a large but straight nose, a pointed chin but otherwise relatively flat profile, and lips that do not protrude much from the face.
Although German faces come in a broad variety of profiles, as is normal in a country with such a large population, this profile is more prominent among German people than most other populations of the world.
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4. Square Jaw
The distinctive physical characteristics of German people’s faces are not just limited to the profile. They can be seen from the front as well, and from the front, one of the most striking characteristics is the square jaw.
A square jaw is one that is about as wide as the rest of the skull, or at least appears to be that way when it is fully fleshed out. The rearmost part of a square jaw will also be relatively low, giving the jawbone an almost horizontal appearance when viewed from the side.
5. Prominent Cheekbones
German people will also tend to have faces with more prominent cheekbones that are higher up on the face.
This feature can be seen in profile, a little bit better from the front, but most clearly from a 45 degree angle.
The prominent cheekbones, along with the other facial features listed, contribute to the overall perception of German people as having faces that are very sharp, fine, or angular.
Stereotypical Character Traits of German People
1. German People Are Extremely Efficient
German products are famed for the quality of their construction and how enduring they are. Many people consider this to be both a result and a reflection of the efficiency of German people.
Whether it is about building a machine that operates in the best way possible, doing a task to completion in the shortest time possible, or cooking a meal with the least amount of mess possible, one of the most enduring stereotypes about German people is that they will always prioritize efficiency in all things.
2. German People Are Orderly
Germany is a country with rather low rates of crime and antisocial behavior.
This very solid order on a national level is often used to suggest that the German people themselves have a very strict love of order on a personal level.
The stereotype of Germans as excessively orderly often extends to more humorous perceptions.
For example, German people are stereotyped as following the rules with no wiggle room whatsoever, regimenting every last part of their daily routines, and not deviating from any plan that has been put into action, no matter how much they may secretly want to.
3. Germans Are Always Punctual
One very specific adherence to order that has been individually stereotyped in German people is their incredible punctuality.
Not only will a German person never be late, as the stereotype goes, but they will not tolerate any tardiness from others either.
This may tie into the other stereotype about efficiency as multiple parties being late to a job will often mean that anyone who is on time will have to wait for those that are tardy, making the task use up a lot of dead time and therefore being less efficient on the whole.
4. Germans Are Very Laconic
Other variations of this stereotype are that Germans are rude, direct, unromantic, or uninterested in idle conversation.
All of these stereotypes have in common a perception of German people as exchanging very few words and getting straight to the point when speaking.
Although there are many kernels of truth to German people not speaking much, perceptions of rudeness and other negative attributes likely exist due to the difference between these styles of communication, especially compared to cultures with very flowery ways of speaking.
5. Germans Have No Sense of Humor
One of the most recent stereotypes about German people is that they have no sense of humor.
It is not clear where this stereotype began, but most mentions of it appear to be from the 21st century.
It is most likely that it evolved out of the previous stereotype of Germans as being very direct and only talking with purpose, leaving little room for jokes and jovial small talk.
Although German people are incredibly diverse, there are a number of distinctive physical characteristics as well as stereotypical character traits that have culturally come to be associated with German people. Whether this is fair or not, it exists in the cultural zeitgeist.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.