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How the Germans and the French view each other

This year France and Germany are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty. To mark the occasion, a Franco-German Year with a wide range of events will be held in both countries. But what do the Germans and the French actually think about each other today? A study commissioned by the German Embassy in Paris has revealed the answer: even in the year they celebrate their “golden wedding anniversary”, the Germans and the French hold each other in very high esteem.

The study reveals that 85% of the French think positively or very positively of Germany while 87% of the Germans think the same of France. Both the French and the Germans regard the high priority given to Franco-German relations as good for their respective country (over 80% in each case). Even fifty years after the Élysée Treaty was signed, almost all those interviewed consider it a success.

This is a sentiment shared by the younger generation aged 18 to 24, whose data were evaluated separately. On the whole, however, the young French participants hold a slightly more sceptical view of Germany than their older compatriots.

Beer and baguette – typical associations

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower
© PC

When asked what they associated with their respective neighbour, many gave answers that are not especially surprising. Popular responses among the French include Federal Chancellor Merkel (29%), beer, cars, but also historical events such as National Socialism, war, the fall of the Wall and reunification. Furthermore, the French believe a typical German to be stern, serious and hard-working. The capital Berlin seems to play a special role as a trendy city, particularly amongst young French people (37%).

This also applies to Paris, which 56% of the Germans come up with when asked what first springs to mind when they think of France. Apart from that, French cuisine dominates with baguette, croissants and wine, among others. They also have various tourist sights in mind when they think of France, such as the Eiffel Tower (37%) and the French regions. Other typical characteristics of France according to the Germans are the high quality of life and the rich cultural heritage. In addition, they view the French as very sociable people.

Impact of the European debt crisis?

Most of the participants said that the current European crises had not changed the opinions they had of each other. However, the different impacts of the economic problems in each country is reflected in the study. Almost two-thirds of the French think that France should follow Germany’s example more in economic and social spheres. When asked the same question about France, only 29% of the Germans were of this opinion. The French feel that Germany has been able to maintain its position as an industrial powerhouse despite the crisis (91%) and still plays a leading role in Europe (86%).

Personal experiences

Besides official political contacts, there are close personal ties between the people of the two countries. 63% of the French have already visited Germany, while as many as 73% of the Germans have been to France. 40% of those interviewed have travelled several times to the other country. Around two in ten French people and three in ten Germans speak their neighbour’s language. Although more than one-third of the people interviewed said that they had studied the respective language at school, not very many of them are fluent. Young people, in particular, seem to think learning English is enough.

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Last updated 16.01.2013