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"Nobody is perfect, but we are working on it."
Manfred von Richthofen, THE Red Baron
"Ich? Deutsche Präzision. Sie? Windmühle." [1]
Von Kaiser, Punch Out

Germans come in a wide variety of stereotypes. Brutal barbarians from the north, cold blooded Knights Templar, corrupt aristocrats, Those Wacky Nazis, and many more. But at the end of the day, there are only three German stereotypes: Scientists/Doctors, Soldiers and Engineers. And no matter of which variety a German character is, he will almost always be very good at what he's doing.

Note that Germans never lose their nerves and know no remorse. They do their job, and they do it well. Emotions are not necessary. It's almost like a national badasstitute of some kind.

You won't find any German Mooks outside of World War II. If there are any Germans in the Big Bad's employment, only the position of The Dragon is good enough for them. And if a work of fiction has a famous and important foreign scientist, expect him to be German as well, though this has become less frequent in newer works.

Interestingly, before their country was unified under the Wilhelmine Empire, Germans were portrayed very differently in fiction: either comic, lackadaisical, or pedantic, but not especially efficient. Since Bismarck, that depiction has shifted over to Austrians and (to a lesser extent) the Dutch, partly because of the influence of Vrijstaat Amsterdam.

Designed and manufactured by German engineers and companies, German technologies, especially machines and vehicles, are included in this trope: if the manufacturer's name ends with "AG" or "GmbH", you can be damn sure it's going to be at least portrayed as really, really awesome.

Compare with Asian and Nerdy. Contrast with Germanic Depressives.

Note that this trope is only about actual Germans, not the descendants of German emigrants like German Americans.

Examples of Germanic Efficiency include:


Advertising

  • Commercials for German-made cars, especially BMW and Volkswagen, love to show us white lab-coated German engineers stoically watching their cars driven over gleaming steel ball-bearings in a controlled lab environment. And flinging inferior cars with a trebuchet.
    • Just look at Audi's marketing slogan "Vorsprung durch Technik", which translates to "lead through technology", or French car company Citroen claiming their new car was "unmistakably German" to convince potential buyers that it was well engineered and efficient, or the Volkswagen marketing slogan "Das Auto", which translates as "The Car", as in "we are the only ones that make cars, everybody else are just a bunch of hacks." For more German singularity, BMW has "The Ultimate Driving Machine," Porsche has "Porsche. There is no substitute," Mercedes-Benz has "The Best Or Nothing," and Opel's slogan is "Wir leben Autos [We live cars]."
  • Toyota put out a commercial where a bunch of German scientists (presumably working for a German car company) kidnapped a poor Toyota put it through its paces and wondered how something so good could be done outside of Germany.
  • Vince Offer's famous Shamwow commercial: "It's made by the Germans, you know the Germans always make good stuff."


Anime & Manga

  • Though their nationalities are never actually mentioned, General Uranus and his Number Two Colonel Hades in Appleseed perfectly personify this trope.
    • A major Badass herself, Deunan Knute is part German, of course.
  • Germany in Axis Powers Hetalia.
    • Prussia counts as well, when he bothers.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has Asuka who is German and excels at pretty much everything that doesn't involve emotional intelligence.
  • Belka, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Imperial Germany IN SPACE! from the Lyrical Nanoha franchise, went on record waging war against the rest of the universe and actually dominating the fight for a thousand years in the backstory (even after their homeplanet was lost), and most of their long since abandoned weaponry is still operational. In a possible subversion, though, the fluff suggests that they didn't invent their advanced tech themselves but inherited it from the even more advanced Neglectful Precursors.


Film

  • James Bond villains seem to have a special fondness for German henchmen and bodyguards, especially Blofeld.
    • Subverted by Stamper, who fails to kill James Bond, much to Big Bad Carver's fury:

 Carver: So much for German efficiency!

  • Hans Gruber and most of his men in Die Hard are German, helping to both make them appear to be foreign terrorists as well as explaining what a tight operation they're running. Die Hard with a Vengeance returns to the trope with Simon Gruber and his crew of badass, German thugs.
  • The Swiss bobsled team in Cool Runnings - their discipline is what Derice wants to emulate.
  • The German drinking team in Beerfest is shown to be maximizing their efficiency by drinking while working out to some Neue Deutsche Härte music. The American team is much more laid-back.
  • Ice Station Zebra
  • In No Man's Land, which deals with the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia, a UN officer tells another "We're being sent a German bomb disposal expert. Ours are busy. He should arrive at 1530. It is 1530." [German guy arrives] "Pünktlichkeit."


Literature

  • This is referenced in the 1632 Series, where the seventeenth-century Germans are surprised to find that the twenty-first-century Americans think Germans are stereotypically efficient and cold-blooded - it being quite the opposite of the seventeenth-century "folksy, fun-loving, perpetually quarreling" German stereotype.
  • Subverted in the WWII novels by Sven Hassel, where the the battle scenes portray the Germans as very efficient troops, but presents various officers as incompetent and the stubbornness to fight on as inefficient. Though there are several officers that are presented as competent and efficient, ranging from Lieutenant to even several Generals, they normally are the Butt Monkeys.
  • Heinz Guderian in his Memoirs of a Soldier often criticized high-ranking officers who, despite their loss in WWI, were unable to see that motorized warfare was much more efficient in many circumstances and were focused on then obsolete tactics and equipment. Of course, he might have exaggerated that to emphasize his own importance but his sentiments are supported by other documents. It is also worth noting that this conservatism stemmed partially from the perfectionism and fear that reaching previous levels of efficiency with new weapons and tactics may require a very long time.
  • "Scratch a German and you find precision, thought Bond."--Moonraker


Live Action TV

  • Inverted in Hogan's Heroes, where every single German is completely incompetent.
    • Every single recurring German. Many of the one-off villains were actually threatening, but were usually handled by the end of the episode.
  • When James May of Top Gear took the Bugatti Veyron up to its top speed on a German test track, he mocked both this and his own obsessive-compulsive tendencies:

 James: But even when you've sorted the venue, you can't just jump in the car and go. This is Germany: there are procedures to go through. I like procedures.

  • Inverted by Better Off Ted. The German clients are intimidated by Veridian Dynamics because they seem to be "ruthlessly efficient and bent on world domination".
    • Or played straight to emphasize the extent of the VD ruthlessness.


Music

  • If you've ever wondered what Germanic efficiency sounds like, just listen to Kraftwerk.
    • Or Rammstein for that matter, are there any other heavy metal bands as efficient? Any more imposing scene shows? German efficiency!
  • Krautrock. Alles gesagt!
  • Anything done with synthesizers and which is not synthpop, such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Einstürzende Neubauten etc.


Tabletop Games

  • In Feng Shui, characters who use guns made by Heckler and Koch (such as the P7 and any member of the MP5 family) or drive German-made vehicles such as the BMW 328i Convertible will often wax poetic about "fine German craftsmanship."
  • Played straight and subverted at the same time in BattleTech. House Steiner has strong Germanic influences, but for the longest time their military officers are construed largely as General Failures, and by extension their line troops are not viewed in any better light. However, they are highly respected as merchants and are both well known and often targeted by rival realms for their technological knowledge and large scale construction ability.


Video Games

  • In the mostly (and rightfully) forgotten space simulation Starlancer, the German-made Wolverine heavy fighter is the last starfighter that you can unlock, and probably the best ship in the entire game.
    • In the sequel, Freelancer, Rheinland's military fighters are the most powerful of the four empires. They still fall very short of the Edge World ships though.
  • In Chrono Cross, the character Luccia is a brilliant, efficient, and morally ambiguous scientist with a very distinct German accent.
  • Averted in Champions Online. The Mad Scientist side character Dr. Von Schulz is a pathetic coward (or maybe just a realist) who considers the whole plan failed as soon as The Hero enters his lab... for which he's quickly killed off by the Nemesis.
    • Played straight, however, by Doctor Ohm, a minor German Villain who stoically continues his work (hacking a computer in search of Death Ray blueprints) while The Hero is beating up his Mooks and Mechanical Monster only a few feet away from him.
  • Belka, the Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Germany featured in Ace Combat 5 The Unsung War and Ace Combat Zero the Belkan War, easily has (had) the most advanced technology in Strangereal, and their entire airforce is comprised of aces.


Web Comics


Western Animation

  • A recurring gag in the Kim Possible episode "Ron the Man" is the contrast between the ineptitude of Dr. Drakken's henchmen and the Prussian efficiency of Professor Dementor's. Of course, neither of them wins out in the end, anyway.
  • On The Simpsons, Homer is kidnapped in a conspiracy and replaced by a man who looked similar, but spoke in broken English with an obvious German accent. He manages to distract Marge from questioning him by offering to take her out to dinner and then having "efficient German sex." (We never find out if they went through with it, though.)
    • In an earlier episode, the power plant was bought out by a German company who lived this trope through and through; Lisa even told Homer that the reason Germany is an economic power is because of this trope. Interestingly, the Germans who actually came to run the plant were portrayed as being very friendly and approachable, and most of the employees far preferred them to Mr. Burns.


Other

  • Almost every modern action film and video game will have lots of German-made cars and guns which are usually portrayed as being the best available. Works set in World War II will also have German tanks.
    • Practically everything made by Heckler & Koch.
      • The MP5 submachine gun.
        • Replaced by the mp7, the next generation of SMG.
      • The PSG-1 sniper rifle.
      • The G36 assault rifle.
    • The Mauser C96 "broomhandle".
    • There's a reason things are called "the Mercedes of X". BMWs and Porsches also have a very high reputation.


Real Life

  • The Romans recruited free Germanic peoples both from inside their empire as well as from beyond their borders into their military, and some made quite the career out of it. (Although they also did that in the other provinces.)
  • When Japan decided to become a modern and industrialized country, they first contracted French advisors and engineers, but quickly switched over to German experts after the Franco-Prussian War.
  • The same is true of law: many developing nations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in Asia, adopted German civil law codes as the basis of their legal systems.
  • Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron. Probably the most famous fighter pilot of all time.
  • Erwin Rommel, the Trope Namer of the Magnificent Bastard.
  • When rocket engineer Wernher von Braun was captured by the Allies in World War II, he was taken straight to the US to work on their rocket program. Prompting jokes that the Saturn V is a great ride because "Duh, German engineering!"
  • German Counter-Terror unit GSG 9 is usually considered to be one of the world's best.
    • This is not so surprising considering the circumstances of their founding (the Munich Olympic Massacre in 1972) and the political climate in the 1970s Germany, with the Red Army Faction rampant and killing people left and right. But mostly right.
      • Which actually subverts this trope, because the impetus for the group creation was the incompetence of the regular police.
        • Which was understandable, since the police was not trained as a counter-terrorist unit.
      • Making it all the more tragically ironic, a major cause of the Munich massacre was a deliberate effort by the German hosts to underemphasize security at the games and keep the atmosphere friendly and open, you know, to not remind people of the last Olympic games held in the country.
  • Albert Einstein arguably subverted it. While a very clever German, he was, well, Albert Einstein.
  • Michael Schumacher, statistically the greatest Formula One driver the sport has ever seen. So efficient, he tunes his car's settings as he drives. He is also (possibly) The Stig. Which explains a lot.
    • Which if true makes the scene where he 'secretly' swops places during Top Gear's Germany vs. Britain competition even funnier.
      • He was unveiled as the Stig on the show, but when they started using the white Stig Schumacher still had a racing carreer. If he has taken up the helmet he probably wasn't the only driver to do so.
    • Now there's Sebastian Vettel who looks set to break Schumacher's Formula One records.
  • The German football team. Only missed two World Cups they couldn't enter (one due to the Depression, other due to not having a national federation). Out of the 17 they qualified, twelve semifinals, seven finals, and three titles (and only once didn't reach the quarterfinals, due to falling in round 1).
    • It's telling that nobody ever says that Germany is "an excellent team." They say that group with the Germans is "a difficult group."
    • "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."
    • The women's team too. Two World Cup victories in a row and did not concede a single goal in 2007[2]. Tied with USA in overall World Cup victories. The lowest FIFA ranking they ever dropped to? Third.
    • In fact, Germany is the only country to have won both the men and women's World Cups.
    • It's important to note that German football, stereotypically, is usually contrasted to Latino football: no pretty tricks of star players, only mechanical precision and relentlessness.
  • Heckler & Koch GmbH makes many of the Cool Guns known to audiences today: the MP5, the G36, the USP, the XM8, etc. Practically all of their products were designed with solid engineering and construction in mind.
    • Before H&K, there was Mauser, whose legendary bolt-action design is probably one of the most widely used designs in bolt-action rifles today. Their C96 "Broomhandle" pistol is also highly regarded as one of the first practical semi-automatics, well-made and capable of firing a far more powerful cartridge than most other pistols at the time.
    • It is a bit more complicated. German firearms are often renowned not for their ballistic efficiency (not that they are bad in that aspect) but for their ergonomics and manufacturing costs.
  • During WW 2, engineers working in aeronautic branch of the military (especially the armament designers) often joked that their superiors constantly want them to break the laws of physics, so some of their inventions might be slightly flawed.
  • Rheinmetall AG.
    • To clarify; the Rheinmetall 120 mm gun is used on all Leopard II, Abrams, Type-90 and the K 1 A 1 of S. korea. It is also being considered for the (excellent) British Challenger. This makes it one of the most common tank guns in the world, possibly the most common.
    • And then before Rheinmetall, there was Krupp. During its heyday, the company was the backbone of German heavy industry, renowned for the quality of its steel products. That quality then in turn translated to everything else from artillery for the military to shipbuilding (also mainly for the military). The company still exists now as part of ThyssenKrupp, one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the world.
    • BASF (Baden Aniline and Soda Factory) the biggest chemical Company in the world. And owners of the biggest single industrial complex of the world.
  • The Germans also prefer efficiency in speech, according to the BBC. They have no word for "small talk", and some of them even perceive it as being quite close to lying.
    • The closest word to "small talk" in German language is the rarely-used "Schwatz", which comes from "Geschwätz", meaning pointless or nonsensical talk.
    • The modern German term for "small talk" is in fact the anglicism "Small Talk".
    • There would also be "quatschen" (which comes from "Quatsch" or "nonsense" in english again) or "plaudern", "schwafeln" or more but theese are even more negatively connoted.
    • In the same vein, the concept of "white lie" is not well known in Germany. Lying in any way is seen as an insult, because you either don't care enough to give an honest answer, think someone has to be shielded from the truth like a child, or believe they're not intelligent enough to notice they're being lied to. Also, they wouldn't have asked if they didn't want a honest truth, right? (German directness, again.)
      • The closest translation German has for "white lie" is "Notlüge" ("emergency/distress lie"). As you can tell, this word doesn't exactly imply all too casual usage.
  • Older Than Print: Blossfechten, Germany's brand of basic swordsmanship. It was and is highly efficient to the point that other European kingdoms, empires and territories ended up adopting and adapting it. For even greater detail, see European Swordsmanship.
  • Dieter Rams, product designer at Braun, is famous for his austere minimalist designs that influenced later Apple products.
  • Dirk Nowitzki became a very curious case in the NBA in regards to this. His style of basketball is very different from the standard seen in America - he never showboats, he does not risk fouls, he does not make flashy moves - but he can score practically anywhere within range of the basket. And draw a foul in the process. He also rarely misses free throws.
  • The cultural difference shows up in the branding of the Ritter Sport chocolates. In the US: "The handy chocolate square." In Germany: "Quadratisch. Praktisch. Gut."[3]
  • Staedtler is an office product company that, among other things, produces high-end fineline pens and engineering pencils. Their main selling point is ergonomic and (naturally) efficient design.
  • Much of the characteristics described in the intro probably stem from Germany going up against much of the rest of the world twice in the first half of the 20th century and, while not winning, giving a hard fight. The moral and endurance of the German army of those two wars is considered by many historians almost miraculous. Especially in WWII, though not very nice, the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine did hold out long beyond hope of even a draw was gone.
  • An engineering example: Karl von Terzaghi. If you can build your house (or skyscraper) on soil today, it's largely thanks to him. None of his work has been significantly improved upon since the 1920s. Before him, there had been no major improvements in predicting how soils behave under heavy loading since the Romans.
  • Current European economic policies, which consist mostly in austerity, are strongly advocated by Chancellor Angela Merkel as the best solution, but she is heavily criticized for it troughout Europe, in Greece and France in particular (it led to government changes in both countries).
  • This trope is surprisingly averted with Adolf Hitler himself. Despite the Nazis emphasizing efficiency and control, if the documentary The Nazis: A Warning from History is of any indication, Hitler often slacked off and slept in, often having a very bad management schedule in his private life. He was even known to get very drunk as well.

Notes

  1. "Me? German Precision. You? Windmill."
  2. Then they got knocked down at home by Japan 4 years later...
  3. "Square. Practical. Good."
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