How to be German? Top 5 steps!

Step 5 Klugscheissen.

As a marketer, I was always told: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. In Germany, it’s the opposite: Never let a story get in the way of truth. For Germans, truth is sacred and prayed to from the altar of fact.

Therefore, it’s also very important to correct other people when they say something incorrect, no matter how small and utterly inconsequential it might be. They are wrong. You are aware of this. It’s your duty to inform them. This, the Germans call klugscheissen (smart shitting, literally translated). German being whip-smart fact-lovers are world champions at the Klugscheiss.

If someone were to say, ‘Yeah, we were just in China at the end of October, we spent a week in Hong Kong and then in Shanghai’ they’d be immediately interrupted by their partner, who would correct them by saying ‘It wasn’t October, we flew out on November 1st at 10.37 am. From Tegel. You bought a bagel in departures, remember? With cream cheese’.

‘Okay, November 1st. Fine. My bad’.

Then someone else wanting to join the Klugscheiss party would add, ‘Actually, Hong-Kong is not a part of China like Shanghai. It’s a Special Administrative Region, which affords it certain legislative freedoms’.

‘Okay, we were in Shanghai and Hong-Kong, which is a special Administrative Region of China, affording it certain legislative privileges, for two weeks from the 1st November’.

‘Thirteen days! We were only there for thirteen days. Not two weeks’.

‘Hmmpfh. I give up’.

There are various tactics for dealing with being repeatedly klugscheissed: You can just stop saying anything ever and cite a fear of incorrectness as the reason for your vow of silence; or you can create a T-shirt that says, ‘It really doesn’t matter though, does it?’, which you can point at every time it happens; or you can accept that you can’t beat them and so should just join them, experiencing the great joy that can be found in not very delicately informing people of their minor factual incorrectness.


The text is an excerpt of the Adam Feltscher’s “How to be German book“. Published in VOX blog by a kind permission of the author and the publisher.

How to be German? Top 5 steps!

Step 4 Hate Schlager, know every word.

If you’ve ever seen the 1999 movie Idle Hands, you’ll know there’s a rare condition called Alien Hand Syndrome, in which a person’s hand develops a will of its own, actively working against the wishes of its owner. Germans suffer from a lesser known but equally debilitating condition, similar to Alien Hand Syndrome, only affecting their entire body. It’s called Schlageritis.

You’ll be sitting with them in a beer garden somewhere. It’ll reach that time in the party when someone will put on some Schlager. You’ll see the symptoms of Schlageritis grip your German comrades immediately. First, they’ll make a combination of grunting, moaning, complaining noises before telling you how much they hate Schlager, and how it’s the musical equivalent of having your intelligence repeatedly insulted for three minutes, except over an artificial drum beat. Ignore them. This is an attempt to distance themselves from their Schlageritis. It’s denial. Next, you’ll notice they start moving their hands a little. Almost against their will. Then they’ll try to keep talking normally, but accidentally one or two of the lyrics will slip out of their mouths. Every German automatically knows every word to every Schlager song. It’s inherited knowledge, passed down in their genes, like tribes of the rainforest who know instinctively which plants you can eat and which will make you into lumpy, dead human soup.

They’ll try to fight back against their developing symptoms. To get control of their hands they might sit on them, before talking loudly about some new insurance they’ve found. Or they’ll try to distract themselves by making a joke. Maybe they’ll suggest someone should invent Schlager insurance, which pays out compensation every time anyone is forced to hear a Schlager song. By now they’ll be squirming uncomfortably in their seats, as their bodies are trying to force them up and out dancing, singing, prosting strangers.

It’s a this point that they have only two options left. They can remind you once more how much they hate Schlager and then force you to leave with them. Or they can give in to Schlageritis and just relax into a party. Usually they pick to leave. If they pick the second option they do it sneakily, by trying to disguise their enjoyment as being ironic.

Schlager music is so bad I’ll mock it by pretending it’s good. Look at my big fake grin! Aren’t I having fun? Lalalalalala, I’ve ne Zwiebel auf dem Kopf, I’m a Döner, hey!

Do not be fooled, Ausländer, they’re loving it. you must too.


The text is an excerpt of the Adam Feltscher’s “How to be German book“. Published in VOX blog by a kind permission of the author and the publisher.