Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s European Champions League final at Wembley, no-one will be able to deny that the Germans have finally mounted a second successful invasion of the UK.
It will be the largest influx since the 5th-century Adventus Saxonum (arrival of the Saxons).
About 50,000 fans from the two giant clubs – Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund – have travelled to London with tickets to the match, and a further 100,000 are estimated to have come from Germany with little prospect of getting inside Wembley. Added to the 275,000 Germans who live in the UK, it is going to be quite a party tonight. Willkommen.
Among the things the hosts could learn? How to boost your economy and halve unemployment, for starters.
Although it is the Germans’ turn to sniff at our choice of sausages – the newspaper Bild has armoured readers with a warning over the hot dogs at Wembley, which as well as being “unbelievably expensive” are “full of fat” – the fans should find a far friendlier reception than they might have expected even just a few years ago.
In a survey of how European nations view one another published earlier this month, although the British named Germans as the “least compassionate” country, we did concede that they were the “most trustworthy” people on the continent.
Professor Heinz Wolff, a bio-engineer best known for appearing on The Great Egg Race, and a British citizen, said that while stereotypes about German efficiency still persist, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “It’s thought of as a centre of economic and industrial competence,” he said. “You only need look at the number of Audis and Mercedes. It’s viewed as a country that produces quality goods.”
Professor Wolff, who fled Germany in 1939, said that today’s younger generations project an image of a more cheerful, confident nation because they are liberated from the baggage of a certain historical event.
“By and large, the people who perpetrated the crimes are dead now,” he said, adding by way of reassurance: “So you don’t have to be afraid any more of sitting next to someone who pushed people into a gas chamber.”
Last year a man was thrown out of a Peterborough pub for talking in German, but the capital is now packed with German-themed bars and restaurants: the better known include Stein’s in Richmond, which stocks Bavarian dishes and ales, and the Octoberfest bar in Fulham.
For Florian Frey, the 33-year-old behind the successful Herman Ze German eatery in central London, more recent events have helped construct a new image for Germany. He cites the 2006 World Cup as an example, when “everyone was celebrating – the English fans with the Germans and the Italians.”
Mr Frey, who will be supporting Munich, added: “People have learned that Germans have got a little bit of humour, and we’ve got some German football players in the Premier League who are doing quite well.”
He promised he’d “never put a beach towel down by the pool in the morning”, but admitted it was “quite charming to play with those clichés”. The name of his restaurant, of course, is a jocular reference to German pronounciation.
If you pick up a newspaper in Berlin, says Professor Wolff, “five to ten per cent of the words are in English”. He said Germans don’t have the same “great pride” in their language as the French, which helps them to integrate better. In fact, in the Pew Research Center poll, both Germany and Britian labelled the French as their “most arrogant” European neighbour – yet another thing in common.
The acclaimed historian Peter Watson said that Britain still allows memories of the Second World War to “swamp” the relationship between the two countries. “Germany has got over losing the War [better than] we have got over winning the War.”
Deutsch in the UK: German expats
Professor Martin Roth
The director of the Victoria and Albert Museum since 2011, Professor Roth was formerly Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections. He said there had been a “definite” change in British attitudes towards Germany over the past 30 years. He challenged the idea that Germans have superior organisational skills, saying you’re just as likely to see “chaotic airport infrastructure” and tardy trains over there.
The Polish-born Arsenal striker had a storming World Cup in 2006, scoring three goals in a campaign that ended in a German third-place finish. Three years later, though, he was fined €5,000 for slapping national-team captain Michael Ballack in the face.
Wehn, who is currently playing a sold-out UK tour, proves Germans can do comedy. The 39-year-old has said: “I regularly get heckled with evergreens, such as ‘5-1’ and ‘two World Wars and one World Cup’. They’re only funny the first 8,000 times you hear them.”
Queen Elizabeth II
Our very own Queen is a descendant of Queen Victoria, who was of course married to German Prince Albert.