Whatever movie, show, or advertisement, Germans are stereotypically portrayed as pale, blonde, and blue-eyed people with rosy cheeks.
Also, Germans are often shown as usually overweight with either beer, sausages, or chocolate in their hand wearing traditional attire like leather pants or the dirndl.
But to be honest, that’s not how typical Germans look or dress like. As a German myself, let me explain everything about these stereotypes.
Shades of blue, green, and gray in eye color as well as hair colors like blonde are widespread throughout Germany. Nonetheless, darker tones like brown or black are also commonly seen among Germans.
The majority of Germans are tall and have broad shoulders. Their faces are usually “edgy” featuring a strong jawline, long nose, wide or semi-hooded eyes along with blonde, dark blonde, and brown hair.
But this is only the beginning of the story.
Germany’s population nowadays is much more different than what it is portrayed like around the world. German people are much like a rainbow.
Find out what this rainbow is all about with this article and I will tell you what Germans really look like.
What are some typical German features?
Europe is very rich in diversity and Germany being located in the heart of Europe, is no exception.
So, to say that one country has one particular set of traits wouldn’t be quite right. Yet, some physical features are more common than others.
German people tend to have the following facial features:
- Rectangular face
- Fuller faces around the bottom half of the face area
- Fair skin and sometimes lightly tanned skin
- Wide forehead
- Small cheeks
- More prominent and higher cheekbones
- Down-turned eyes
- Square and full jaw
- Straight and larger nose
- Pointed chin
- Thinner lips
You can spot some of these features in many Germans like the world-famous German supermodel Heidi Klum, 80s era singer Thomas Anders, actress Diane Kruger, physicist Albert Einstein, former German chancellor Angela Merkel, or composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Click to check my other articles on Germany. I also linked them all at the end of this article.
In terms of German physical traits, the most common ones are the following:
- Usually tall
- Broad shoulders
- Well-built and stocky body
- Sometimes a fuller chest
- Shades of blond and brown hair
- Blue, gray, and hazel eye color
- Larger bone structure overall
Keep in mind that from a genetic standpoint, Germany is not a homogenous country.
Germany has a huge genetic landscape with regional differences due to extensive migration and a high level of genetic mixing throughout the centuries.
German looks have a deep history of migration, colonization, world wars, and many more. That’s why it is difficult to tell distinct German features.
Overall, Germany greatly varies in physical features just like any other country.
Whether your physical characteristics fit into a specific standard or not, you can still be your own ethnicity regardless of your looks.
What are the most common eye and hair colors in Germany?
Germany is home to an abundant range of miscellaneous eye and hair colors.
In Germany, you can see pretty much every hair and eye color.
However, the most common eye color found in Germany is blue closely followed by intermediate eye colors like different shades of green, gray, and hazel.
According to a research in 2019, 39.6% of Germany’s population is blue-eyed, 33.2% is intermediate, and the remainder of 27.2% is brown-eyed.
When it comes to the most widespread hair color, 68.4% of Germans carry a blond mane while 31.4% are brunettes and a small fraction of 0.2% have red hair.
Although blonde is the most common hair color found in Germany, shades of darker blond are the most prevailing.
Looking at the statistics of eye colors in Germany, there is not much of a big difference. So would it be right to portray every German as blue-eyed?
Also, even though blonde-haired Germans are the majority, 31.4% of German brunettes still make up a significant amount of Germany’s population.
So should the “typical German” always be portrayed as a blonde?
What do you think?
The colorful diversity of German people – Dealing with stereotypes
When it comes to depicting Germans, whether in movies, advertisements, shows, or books, it always seems to be one aesthetic: blonde, blue eyes, big belly, red cheeks, and either carrying a beer, sausages, pretzel, or chocolate bar in the hand while wearing the “Tracht” (German traditional wear).
Here are my answers to the common questions about the German People.
Are all Germans blonde and blue-eyed?
Despite the fact that blonde hair and blue eyes are very commonly seen, German looks are of a much broader spectrum than typically shown.
Being half German from my mother’s side, I can give you an example of the diversity of looks among ethnic Germans themselves.
My mother may be a blonde now, but in actuality, she is a dark brunette with green eyes. On the other hand, her siblings have light brown hair with blue eyes.
If I look back at my German grandparents, my “Oma” (grandmother in German) was a brunette with green eyes, and my “Opa” (grandfather in German) was black-haired and blue-eyed.
Keeping the majority of blonde hair and blue eyes aside, there are plenty of ethnic Germans with brown, black hair, darker colored eyes, and even lightly tanned skin.
Do Germans typically wear the Tracht?
Furthermore, the typical dress of Germans isn’t the “Tracht” (German traditional wear consisting of the dirndl for women and Lederhosen with a feather hat for men).
On a day-to-day basis, Germans wear normal western clothes.
This traditional outfit is more common in South Germany, Bavaria where people wear it on official occasions like weddings, festivals (like the Oktoberfest), Church visits, etc..
Click to Read: 30 German Fashion Brands That You Can Shop Online
The German population of today
Germany is a country of multiculturality and German aesthetics are changing faster than ever.
A great example is the German National Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund) which is much like a rainbow. It features many young Germans with roots from different nations, yet all together, they are the face of Germany.
The country has been much like a melting pot for the most part of its history. Factors like migration, immigration, colonization, and world wars strongly contributed to the change of German looks.
Since the 19th century, immigration in Germany has been booming.
People from all parts of the world migrated to Germany, settled down with their families, and became a part of the nation.
A lot of my German friends were born and grew up there, yet many have to some extent foreign roots like Russian, Polish, French, Italian, and many more.
This again further contributes to what German people look like.
Who is considered German?
As I mentioned earlier, Germany has a rich and deep history of different ethnicities coming together from near and far ultimately influencing the German DNA.
That’s why it’s hard to track down specific traits that make one German.
What exactly makes you a German? Your birthplace? Your parents? Your looks? A passport?
Well, of course, these aspects are important, but I believe it’s more about what’s in your heart. It’s about how you integrate yourself into German life.
My siblings and I grew up with the same language, food, culture, songs, and values as any other German child. Yet, we have a German mother and a Pakistani father. Does that make us less German?
I remember a very old friend of mine who came to Germany during 3rd grade. She was Lithuanian and didn’t know a single word in German or the culture itself.
Over the years, her written and spoken German became so good, no one could even tell she is not German.
Whether born in Germany or not, having German parents or not, Germany only needs to be in your heart. That’s all that matters.
Origin of German People
German ancestry is far more complex than you might think.
The ancestors of Germans are the Germanic people who settled in Central Europe and Scandinavia in 500 B.C.
These Germanic tribes are believed to be originating from a combination of people from the Baltic Sea Coast. Initially inhabiting the Northern area of Europe, the Germanic tribes expanded further southwards.
After a series of great migrations, Germanic tribes advanced into the Central and Southern parts of present-time Germany by about 100 B.C.
During that time, Germanic tribes could be divided into 3 major groups:
- the northern Germanic people inhabiting the southern region of present-day Scandinavia;
- the eastern Germanic people living along the Oder and Vistula rivers; and
- the western Germanic people living in the south of Jutland and the region between the Elbe and the North Sea, Rhine, and Main rivers.
It was not until the early Middle Ages when a distinct German ethnicity started to emerge, especially from the Franks, Frisians, Thuringii, Alemanni, Saxons, and Baiuvarii.
Check out my article Languages Similar to German to learn mutually intelligible languages with German.
The period from the second through the sixth century was a time of change and destruction for eastern and western Germanic tribes. They left their native lands and settled in newly obtained territories.
This chapter of Germanic history included the defeat of the Roman Empire which was occupying territories on the eastern bank of the Rhine river.
Ultimately, the Germanic people regained a significant amount of habitable area which helped them to further expand.
Germanic kingdoms formed, yet they existed for a quite short duration, especially those in other parts of Europe like Italy or Spain. However, the kingdom established by the Franks and Anglo-Saxons remained.
The victory over the Roman ruled region Gaul in Western Europe during the fifth century became a milestone for Europe’s history. It was the Franks who established the most powerful Christian kingdom of early western Europe dominating present-day Belgium, northern France, and western Germany.
Germanic people are ancestrally connected to numerous nations of today’s Europe and have a major influence on the genetic features of modern-day Germans.
How do you tell if someone is German?
I think it’s quite hard to tell if someone is German by only looking at them, especially in between other European nationalities. Germans, French, British, and many other surrounding nationalities, they all are pretty similar in appearance.
But you can spot a German by his day-to-day habits, behavior, and his accent when speaking English.
- Germans have a distinct accent in English
I, as a German, am familiar with how Germans speak and pronounce English words. Therefore, I’m able to spot a German while speaking in English right away. And 95% of the time, I’m right.
Germans have this kind of thick accent along with the typical German “melody”.
Furthermore, to be able to sound proper in German, you have to open your mouth much more as compared to American English where only a little mouth movement is required.
German people use this “open-mouth technique” too while speaking in English.
Also, Germans seem to have this habit of pronouncing the “th” sound like a “z”. So instead of saying “The movie was nice”, a German would probably say “Ze movie was nice”.
I also noticed that some Germans tend to pronounce the “v” sound in English like a mixture between “f” and “w”.
- Efficiency & Discipline is a German’s middle name
German people are efficient, disciplined, and hardworking. They finish their work in time or even ahead of time. They are well-organized, plan things, and stick to that plan. It’s like efficiency is in a German’s genes.
- Germans and late? Impossible.
Let me tell you, Germans are serious about their time. Wherever they need to be, they are always punctual or even early. Showing up late is a big no-no in Germany and is considered bad-mannered.
- No German wardrobe is complete without Jack Wolfskin.
If you try to spot a German, just look out for those wearing a Jack Wolfskin item. Be it a jacket, shoes, or backpack, nearly every German owns at least one Jack Wolfskin item.
Even my father, who spent more than 30 years in Germany and is actually Pakistani, got Germanized and owns a couple of Jack Wolfskin hats and fleece jackets.
- Germans are obsessed with fizzy water.
If you spot someone abroad buying lots of carbonated mineral water or he is already carrying it with himself, that person is most probably German.
Germans absolutely love mineral water, especially carbonated mineral water. They adore its taste, its tingle on the tongue and favor it for its health benefits.
Whether it is plain or infused with fruity flavors like “Apfelschorle” (apple juice mixed with carbonated water), German people will welcome it with open arms.
If you want to know more about this unique German habit, read this article about “What water do they drink in Germany?”
Why do German people stare?
People stare everywhere regardless of the country, but Germans don’t necessarily stare in a bad way.
I am German and I don’t stare, nor do I know any friend or relative that stares.
Still, if you find yourself in Germany and someone actually does stare at you, there’s probably an issue either with how you look or with the person itself.
I’m pretty sure staring at someone is considered rude nearly everywhere around the world. In Germany, it is thought about as bad-mannered.
I remember my mother telling me as a kid not to stare or point a finger at someone. It’s a natural phenomenon.
Fixing your gaze at someone either intimidates and makes that person uncomfortable or even starts a fight.
Therefore, I’m certain that staring has nothing to do with someone being German or not. Rather it has to do with your upbringing.
However, one thing among Germans is that they keep non-stop eye contact during a conversation.
To some people, it may give the impression of being stared at, especially to foreigners. But as a local, I can tell you that in Germany it is considered impolite not to look at someone while he or she is talking.
So, the next time you’re talking to German people and they keep looking at you, remember that they are just trying to be polite and closely listening to what you’re saying.
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This article is
written by Asma Schleicher and edited by Efe Genit. Asma is a creative writer with German and Pakistani roots. She is an analytical writer with a degree in business administration.
She mostly writes about cultural, travel, and fashion-related topics reflecting her real-life experiences. You can also check Asma’s profile on Upwork.