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.

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