Inselaffen: Why are the British so xenophobic?

05.12.2010

Our British columnist Daniel Winter deals this week with the xenophobia of the British people.

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British Flag. Photo: Martin Bernetti / dapd.

Our language is the most widely-spread in the world. Our culture, political system, industry and scientific innovations have altered the course of human history. A quite small island with one of the world’s biggest economies, we feel comfortable amongst the real players in world politics. And we used to own three-quarters of the world, you know. British pride isn’t vocal, but it’s there, and it’s strong.

Maybe it’s an unnecessary question, but why are the British so arrogant?

I love my country. But, at times, not so much the people. Or the press. So it’s quite refreshing when you come to Germany to find they take an active interest in the world around them, and are perhaps less narrow-minded than their British cousins (though the Germans aren’t xenophobic, there is still a little casual racism: Negerküsse, anyone?).

So how does this national arrogance manifest itself? Whilst it’s true that every country has its jocular stereotypes for other countries, Britain outdoes itself in the field of making light of the Germans. And, you guessed it, it’s either „Nazis or frozen-faced engineers“ (as Matthias Matussek put it in his bitter but fantastic article). It’s the British press that captures this mood, which was shockingly evident during the last World Cup, where The Sun felt necessary to quip about the German team preparing for ‚Germ warfare‚, or with headlines such as ‚Das Boot is on the other foot‚, a reference to the war film Das Boot.

If only it were simple football rivalry; this bizarre ignorance runs deep through British society. German comedian and ‚Comedy Ambassador‘ Henning Wehn captures this effectively in his roundup of British newspapers in a video titled ‚The War This Week‚. Whilst German newspapers and magazines also lap up a good story about Nazis and the Second World War, British sensationalism is taken to the extreme with a weekly barrage of whatever WWII stories it can find. It’s embarrassing, and beyond jocular.

Perhaps its a relic of our class system and the need to be better than someone else, though this seems to be the sociological scapegoat of choice for any analysis of the British collective psyche. Perhaps it’s our language, and the lack of contact with anyone else in their own foreign tongue, and therefore a lack of cultural awareness.

Why learn German, or French or Spanish for that matter, when they’ll come to us speaking our own language anyway?

Perhaps it’s the superfluous focus on Nazis and ‚the War‘ afforded by the British education curriculum.

Those propagating such jokes and airing their dislike for Germans would probably criticise me for being a killjoy. But the jokes are lazy and old, the dislike is misguided and anachronistic. If it were funny (and the Germans make jokes about Nazis all the time), it would make sense – but the ‚All Germans Are Nazis‘ stereotype is just nonsensical.

Britian: Wouldn’t it be better to understand the world, see new culture and experience other populations as they really are, rather than just lament about the collapse of your megalomaniacal ex-empire? Can’t you see the hideous irony of taunting the Germans for the Nazi era, whilst being proud of said British Empire? Are you so stupid and indifferent that you feel the need to sit on your pedestal and look down on others, ignoring your own failings? Get your head out of the sand. Despite the benefits of looking on others as friends and not enemies, I have a feeling these people are too arrogant to care.

Yes, I do still love my country and I’m more than happy to extol the virtues of my homeland. But we’re not ready to be proud of ourselves. Not just yet.