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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Professor debunks German stereotypes

Professor Emerita Renate Schulz gave a lecture entitled “”What is your German (Culture Quotient)?”” to UA students on Tuesday as part of a lecture series put on by the Deutscher Studenten Club.

Schulz began by highlighting the importance of inter-cultural competence in the 21st century.

“”The problem is of course, with culture, there’s always the danger of stereotyping and why we can’t do totally away with stereotyping,”” Schulz said. “”I think we are predestined to try to generalize what we experience into some category.””

Schulz recently conducted a survey for U.S. teachers who teach German language, literature and cultural studies courses at the high school and college levels. She wanted to explore teacher satisfaction and familiarity with standards of teaching foreign language and “”what cultural practices provide insights into world the world view of German-speaking countries.””

Schulz received 788 responses to her survey, a 31 percent response rate.

“”There is generally no consensus about German cultural practices, products and perspectives that should be taught,”” Schulz said. “”Most of the responses, the majority, were single responses … (teachers’) understanding of culture is very diverse, particularly as it should be taught.””

In her lecture, she discussed three of the questions asked on the survey with students, who provided their own insights.

The three questions asked teachers to compare cultural products, practices and perspectives that they use to teach the differences and similarities of German and U.S. culture.

Students’ ideas of typical German stereotypes largely included beer, a younger drinking age, cars, sauerkraut, bratwurst and lederhosen.

“”Culture changes constantly … there’s always the danger to overgeneralize,”” Schulz said.

The most frequently mentioned cultural practices on her survey were language-related or involved public holidays, festivals and traditions, manners, etiquette and social behavior.

“”Germans are direct and straightforward,”” Schulz said. “”If you say something that is nonsense the American will say ‘I see your point there, generally speaking there are some people who say so as well, however,’ and the German would say, ‘What nonsense are you saying here?'””

Schulz added that in Germany, Sundays are a day off from everything. German consumers support local markets, shops and restaurants and look for quality in the items they buy. They would be much less accepting of ideas such as genetically-altered foods.

“”In American subculture we tend to have much more faith in science and chemistry and physics than many, many people do in Germany who would rather go for natural foods and natural medications,”” Schulz said.

According to Schulz, the population density in Germany is 30 or 40 times what it is in the U.S.

“”You have a country about the size of Oregon with 80 million people,”” she said. “”That influences attitudes and laws, for instance … in most inhabited areas it is illegal to use your lawn mower on Sunday, because of noise pollution.””

Schulz also discussed the presence of sexuality and nudity in mainstream German society.

“”There is absolutely nothing unusual in portraying full nudity, male and female,”” she said.

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