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What do Germans think of the French?

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What do Germans think of the French?
Photo: DPA
16:53 CEST+02:00
Germany and France will battle for a place in the semi-finals of the football World Cup in Brazil on Friday. The Local looks to Germans past and present to find out what they make of their neighbours across the Rhine.

At the annual German-French Festival, taking place in Berlin's Reinickendorf district, one part of France dominated the view of Germans who The Local spoke to on Wednesday.

"When I think of France, I think of Paris," said Peter Wegert, 43, who was enjoying a cold beverage while waiting for his family.

Student Gamze Yildiz, 19, who was meeting with friends to attend the fair, agreed: "Paris. And fashion," she told The Local.

Martin Schumann, 46, and his daughter Maria, 11, also thought of the French capital. In addition, said Martin, he remembered his family's visit to Disneyland Paris last year.

Only Ute Heringhausen, a woman in her mid-50s who was at the festival with a friend, had different associations: "Culture and good food," she said without missing a beat.

The association of France with the good life has also made it into the German language. “Leben wie Gott in Frankreich” (Living like God in France), is sometimes used by German-speakers to described a life of luxury.

‘Amusing clowns’

But German writers and philosophers have traditionally been less kind to the French.

One of Germany’s leading 19th Century philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer wrote: “One should not forget that the French will always remain French - lazy, frivolous, superficial."

Schopenhauer clearly had little time for the country. He also once said: “The world has apes. Europe has the French.”

SEE ALSO: Why Germany is better than France

Meanwhile, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, associated the French language with the faults of its people. “The French language is a most excellent language for caveats, half-truths, lies. It is a perfidious language,” he wrote.

And one of the most famous German military leaders found humour in the country's ineptitude. “The French are amusing clowns,” Prussia’s king Frederick the Great wrote. “One is pleased to have enemies about which one can laugh.”

Berlin-based 20th century writer Kurt Tucholsky, meanwhile, summed up the differences between the French and German character in one line. “One must understand the Germans to love them, one must love the French to understand them,” he wrote. 

SEE ALSO: What do Germans really think of Americans?

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