Lederhosen and bratwurst, penalties, cars and trains that you can set the clock for when they arrive. This is how the British view Germany, it’s practically a law of nature. Sometimes, after the third pint in the pub, they become more honest and critical. "Well, German football isn't that far away anymore," they say, looking meaningfully at you over the edge of the glass. Every now and then our humor bypass comes up or the diesel scandal or Gerhard Schröder and the Germans' dependence on Russian gas. But in general the British show Germany respect, even if somewhat reluctantly, that's the impression you get when you live on the island as a German for a few years.
Admittedly, for a short time, seven years ago things were different. In the hot weeks before the EU referendum in June 2016, people in Middlesborough or Burnley or Clacton-on-Sea seriously said things to the camera like: "I'm voting Brexit because Mrs Merkel wants to abolish the Queen" or: "The EU will “controlled from Berlin anyway”.
But now the British no longer have the Queen, but the Germans had no part in that, and they now have Charles III. a king who is very well-disposed towards all Germans and likes to stay with his relatives on the mainland.
The German embassy in London thought now was a good time to find out how the British felt about the Germans three years after their official exit from the EU. She commissioned a representative survey. This brought to light, if not really surprising, something encouraging: We are better than we believe. At least from the British perspective.
For many Brits, Germany is still the sixth most important partner country, after the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and its immediate neighbor France. Almost half of Brits rate Britain's relationship with Germany as "very good" or "somewhat good" even after Brexit, with "somewhat" far outweighing the situation. Around seven out of ten Brits have a positive image of Germany, but only a third of them are interested in what is currently happening in Germany. Maybe that's a good thing, otherwise they would have known long ago that our trains are now less punctual than their own.
The majority of Brits admire our standard of living (67 percent), consider Germany to be a politically stable country (53 percent) and a relatively equal society (58 percent). According to the British, we are still the leading economic power in Europe, but many have apparently missed the turning point: only a fifth of those surveyed consider Germany to be particularly strong militarily.
Baby boomers, who predominantly voted for leaving the EU, are less interested in what is happening in Germany than Millennials and Generation those who gave them the Brexit soup.
After all, three quarters of all those surveyed would like to see closer cooperation in the economy, in the areas of research and innovation and in the fight against climate change. And more than half would even like to see closer cooperation with the EU Customs Union. When it comes to culture and sport, however, cooperation as it currently is is enough for them. Love probably ends with football.
Probably no Brit today would write a book called “Why Germany is doing it better” as John Kampfner did three years ago. But Germany's image, at least in the kingdom, is far less damaged than feared.
Incidentally, the majority of British women surveyed answered the questions with “I don’t know.” This in turn visibly surprised the German ambassador Miguel Berger when presenting the results. The women present, on the other hand, gave each other meaningful looks, knowing that women admit when they don't know something. Men, whether British or German, never. That too is a law of nature.