Different kinds of patriotism

Americans and Germans have different definitions of patriotism. Germans are still skeptical and critical about their Germanness. Many refer to themselves more as Europeans than as Germans.

Americans are also critical of their country, of their government, and are quite aware of their problems. But it is one thing when Americans debate among themselves (within the family, so to speak) and quite another thing when an outsider does it. Americans have a personal relationship with their country. Criticism of America is criticism of Americans.

Even though it cannot be said that German people are not proud to be German, overt displays of patriotism are mostly limited to soccer events. In fact, it was until recently that overt displays of national patriotism were still frowned upon in the aftermath of World War II. Bringing a German flag to any rally in Germany is also still equated by many with nationalism.

As the Federal Republic’s third president, Gustav Heinemann so aptly put it in the 1970s: “I do not love any nation. I love my wife.” While American salute their flag at the beginning of every sporting event within the country, Germans do so only to distinguish themselves from opponents of another nationality.