It’s funny to see stories like this in the Observer today, claiming that England football fans are realising that the Germans are similar to them… There will be no fan segregation at the England v Germany game in South Africa today and the fans are enjoying the warm up together.
Why is it we are surprised that there are shared cultural references between England and Germany? The Saxons settled in England long before the Nazi party of the 20th century came to prominence. And this is possibly the main issue. Nazi Germany is one of the most commonly taught historic eras in English schools. It’s about war. It’s got some villains. The teachers have a lot of materials to draw on. But it also means that children get turfed out of school with an impression of Germany still shaped by their history classes.
So the jokes about German bombers continue – until some of the fans actually meet Germans and realise that their own English culture,religion, moral values, and love of beer is Anglo-Saxon.
The Germany world cup four years ago gave a reason for a lot of English people to visit Germany – a lot of people who might think nothing of visiting Spain, but would never have considered Germany as a nice enough place to visit. And I’m sure there were a lot of surprised people who enjoyed the hospitality of the locals.
I don’t know how the German tourist office can improve their image – I have seen ads featuring Michael Ballack – but I think if they really want to change this lingering nod to history by the English then they need to lobby for a change to the GCSE curriculum.