October 9, 2013

Stereotypes and surprising products made in Germany

Most people have "Vorurteile" = preconceptions about many things, including foreign countries. A "Vorurteil" is an opinion formed before enough information is available to form it correctly, and as a consequence, it tends to be based on stereotypes and clichés.


What do you think are the most common German stereotypes? 


In my opinion: beer, cars and sausages. Or at least, these are the ones I had when I first visited Germany ten years ago. 

However, Germany is much more than its clichés. And this exactly what this blog entry is about: surprising products made in Germany. We use these products, we buy these products, we know the brands... but where are they from? they are German made and we don't know. 

But before I get into that, let's also review the classic trilogy of beer-car-sausage "Vorurteil" and some surprising facts around them. In the end, they are the top three most popular products made in Germany, aren't they?

1) DAS BIER


Germany is the fifth largest producer of beer in the world (95 million hectoliters in 2012) after China, USA, Brazil and Russia. It's also the third world largest consumer (over 110 liters per capita) after the Czech Republic and Ireland.

Besides Germany is home of the most popular beer Festival: the Oktoberfest. Other countries have tried to copy it: the Oktoberfest in Las Vegas; in Norway or in Syracuse, however none has achieved the same success as the authentic one in Munich, which in 2013 registered 6,4 million visitors and 6,7 million Maß=liters of beer (article: more liters of beer than people (in German)).

With this curriculum, nobody can deny that Germany is a beer country.



Screen shot from the official site of the Oktoberfest 2013

2) DAS AUTO


My former German teacher used to joke about his car passion. He joked that he spent more time cleaning his car than bathing his own kids!  I'm sure his stories weren't true but he had a point: cars are a big deal here. Above all if they are German made. 
German carmakers enjoy a very good reputation worldwide: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are the 11th and 12th most valuable brands. But they are also popular at home as the car thefts statistics show: 18 000 cars were stolen in 2012 in Germany and the thieves' favorites were German made: BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz. (More info in German)

3) DIE WURST


Weißwurst, Bratwurst, Jagdwurst, Mettwurst,Blutwurst, Leberwurst...You name it. I'm really not a meat person, which doesn't mean that I don't eat meat, which I do, it just means that I'm not as carnivore as the Germans are. 

The meat consumption in Germany is astonishing and probably the reason that led to the stereotype: in average a standard household in Germany eats 36 kilos of meat (292€) per year and almost 50% are sausages.

Aside from the quantity and the variety, die Wurst is important here. All over the country there are museums, clubs, competitions and traditions around it. Do you want some crazy examples?
And after the "usual suspects" as common stereotypes, let's get started with:



What are the most surprising products made in Germany?


1) PAPER SIZE


Envelops, office paper, printers, notebooks, filling cabinets... they are all made in Germany (at least their size has been established in Germany).


The DIN is the acronym for "Deutsches Institut für Normung", which is the German national institution for standardization (=ISO). The DIN created the DIN standard that specifies the paper size (DIN A3, DIN A4, DIN A5, etc.) that is used all over the world, with the exception of US and Canada. 

Screen shot from DIN 

2) FANTA


Yes, my friends, the second largest brand of the Coca Cola Group originated in Germany in the early 40's. And this is not a rumor, the official site tells the story:

During the World War II: Germany suffered from shortage of resources, including the ingredients used in the Coca Cola formula. The German factory however made the most of those difficult times and managed to create a new soft drink, made of the available ingredients during war. Once the drink was formulated, the factory organized a contest and invited the employees to look for a name for the new drink. And they found one: the new drink was "fantastisch" and "fantasievoll" (adjectives in German that mean fantastic and imaginative) and so the new drink was called Fanta.

3) NIVEA


Many of us grew up with this round blue tin of creme. It's a classic of the skin care. However very few of us knew that it's a German brand. Beiersdorf is Nivea's parent company, which was funded in the 19th century in a chemistry shop in Hamburg. 
These days they still have their HQs in Hamburg.




4) THE ASPIRIN


In 1887 Felix Hoffmann was working for Bayer as he was researching for a pain reliever that could free his father from his arthritis pain. His work focused in the use of the acetylsalicylic acid as a pain reliever. He succeeded. In 1899 Bayern applied for a patent at the Berlin office to register Aspirin as a trademark.



5) PUMA and ADIDAS


Here's a very surprising fact: both Adidas and Puma are German and both were founded by two brothers in a small Bavarian town called Herzogenaurach. 

Apparently both brothers: Rudolf and Adolf "Adi" Dassler started to produce sport shoes in their mother's laundry after returning from World War I. The brothers reached a breakthrough when a US athlete won four gold medals in the 1936's Olympics wearing the brother's shoes. However what happened afterwards is not clear, aside from the fact that both brothers went separate ways, and so Puma and Adidas were born.




6) THE PREGNANCY TEST


In 1928 two German gynecologists:  Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondek created the first reliable pregnancy test in the history.


7) HARIBO and MERCI

Do you know HARIBO and its gummy and jelly bears? Of course you do! His founder Hans Riegel created the company in 1920 in Bonn, the former German capital. 




MERCI are one of my favorite chocolates in the world, and although they have a French name, they are German made. Merci belongs to Storcka German company founded in 1903 that may be familiar to you because they also own the brand Werther's Original.




8) MP3


The mp3 started as a project led by a professor and a group of students at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. 

The Fraunhofer is Europe's largest application-oriented research organization. Its HQ are in Munich and the Institute takes its name from Joseph von Fraunhofer, a successful Munich researcher, inventor and entrepreneur of the 18th-century.

You listen to most music tracks today thanks to the team effort of the FraunhoferIIS group back in 1991 that developed the first mp3. 


9) Other examples of surprising brands made in Germany:

  • your pencils during elementary school: they were likely made in Bavaria: Faber-Castell
  • your office suit, probably the most expensive one you own is Hugo Boss and is German!
  • your super cute dress from Escada... is also German! and more, it's Bavarian, Escada's HQ are in Munich



Unfortunately I ran out of time and space for this month. I'm sure you are thinking of at least two other surprising brands or products made in Germany that are not in my list... am I right? Let me know which ones you're thinking.

Related entries:

Sales in Munich
Sweets and chocolates from Germany
Germany knows good food