Germans have a reputation for being depressing. For being downers, complainers, bitchers and moaners. “Worst-case-scenario” thinkers and “the-sky-is-always-falling” killjoys. And this overall “depressing” stereotype is often further described using adjectives like pessimistic, negative, sad, gloomy, cold, unfriendly and even downright rude.
Now, I’m an American expat from Portland, Oregon, and I’ve been living in Germany since 2012. I have met a lot of depressing Germans. Like, a shitload. Hell, my own German wife slips into downer mode from time to time — and what’s more — even she thinks Germans are depressing.
I’m not sure how this stereotype got started, but like most stereotypes, there seems to be a teeny, tiny, kernel of truth to it. Maybe it has something to do with the long, gray winters and overall lack of sunshine in this part of Europe. Maybe it comes from drinking too much beer and eating too much pig meat. Or maybe — and this is just a guess here — it has something to do with the stigma and inherited guilt from that one big huge war I keep hearing so much about. You know, the one with the stumpy little black-haired freak screaming a bunch of crazy shit into a microphone? And then pissing off, like, pretty much every single country in the world? You must know what I’m talking about here, because Hollywood literally cannot stop making movies about it. (I’m pretty sure a new one is hitting theaters this summer.)
Anyway, to say Germans are all a bunch of sad sacks and negative nellies is a massive sweeping generalization. It would be like saying the French are all prissy little bitches wearing fruity berets and twirling their mustaches all day long while acting like total cocks to tourists who mispronounce the word “croissant.” Or like saying British people are all a bunch tea-sipping, snaggletoothed dandies with a taste for fried fish wrapped in filthy newspaper and an inexplicable reverence for some jobless bitch in a crown. And, of course, it would also be like saying we Americans are all a bunch of loud, obnoxious, pickup-driving fuckwits with an overabundance of confidence and a smashed tangerine dipped in crazy-sauce for a president. (Okay, that last one is true.)
The problem with sweeping generalizations is the simple fact that there are exceptions to every rule. I’ve personally met a bunch of genuinely positive, optimistic German people. (Like 1 out of 10, but still; exceptions, dammit.) Take, for example, our very good German friends: Princess Plight and the Senseless Wonder. Princess Plight — although wonderful and I love her to pieces — is quite literally incapable of happiness. She cannot feel joy. Not even for a second. Hanging out with her is exactly as much fun as a public execution. Even when she attains something good in her life, like a new puppy, dream car, or job promotion or something, she still thinks something horrible is waiting for her just around the next corner. The point is, she can never let her guard down, and that is exactly why her every waking minute is spent beneath the shadow of a big, dark, German cloud of depression.
Now, her husband — the Senseless Wonder — is the polar opposite; he is happy, joyful and looking forward to each and every day with a shit-eating grin on his face and that kind of profoundly naive optimism in his heart typically reserved for schoolchildren and people who play the lottery. Hanging out with him is like tripping balls on leprechaun pubes and unicorn piss. Again, I love this guy to pieces, but he really is a big, dumb, ray of light in a country whose citizens are otherwise known for being dark and depressed. He is the exception to the rule.
So, whenever we meet up with these two friends of ours, I let my wife get her spirit crushed by the wife, while I go off and have a blast in Crazyville with the husband. It all works out great! Of course, there are times when my wife will later complain to me about how depressing the occasion was, but all I can do is tell her the truth: “That woman will never be happy. She can’t be. That’s why I hang out with her husband!”
And right about then is when my wife will frown, strike her fist in frustration and exclaim:
you always get the raisins!”*
*Translated loosely from German, “Du pickst dir immer die Rosinen heraus!” meaning, quite literally, “You always pick the raisins out!” — but stems from the old German saying, “Die besten Rosinen heraus picken,” meaning, “to pick the best raisins,” or, more figuratively, “to get the best pick.”**
**…and fuckin’ A right I do! Life is way too short to waste on sad sacks and joyless poo flingers.