Last summer, I was asked to write a foreword for Sven Rudloff's book on British life and culture. That book, Viva Britannia, follows on from the hit podcast of the same name. Imagine it as the mirror image of This Week in Germany, where Germans learn about Britain in the German language.
Here's the English version of my foreword in full, on the long-running relationship between Germany and the United Kingdom:
Germans are lucky. Germany is among the most affluent, well-educated and happiest countries in the world. But, as the popularity of Viva Britannia shows, Germans yearn to reach out from their borders to explore a culture with similar values and ideals.
As a British citizen, I find the German obsession with Britain curious but flattering. I believe that we have much more in common than many other of our European neighbours and perhaps more than you may at first realise.
We share a considerable amount of our heritage: the common Germanic roots of our languages, the cross-pollination of royal dynasties, strong trade bonds through the Hanseatic League’s outposts in England, and even culture, including Handel bestowing his talent upon London’s aristocrats or David Bowie recording rock masterpieces in Berlin.
Even today, Germany and Britain are top trading partners; a quarter of a million of us Brits and the same amount of you Germans have swapped countries on a permanent or semi-permanent basis; and the interest of the Brits in Oktoberfest or Germans in Yorkshire pudding is higher than it has ever been!
It is vital, in a world which has often sought to divide, where those with the narrowest of minds have the loudest voices, that we recognise the commonality between our two countries and the good we can do when we work together. Work together, that is, to look past the lazy stereotypes or clichéd depictions and take full pleasure in the warm friendship between our two nations.
With Sven, your trusty narrator through the complex maze that is the British culture and psyche, you are most certainly in good hands.
I first came across Viva Britannia in late 2013 and I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of understanding Sven has. Of course, I had no reason to doubt him, but I have constantly been confronted by the myths about Britain as Germans understand them.
Do British people have no cuisine? Do you only drink tea? Is your beer always warm? Do you live in London or Scotland? Does it always rain there? Do you love the Queen?
So, my friends, step out of your black taxi, liberate yourself of your umbrella, and prepare to learn about Britain’s luminaries of culture such as William Shakespeare and Douglas Adams, become enchanted in the English language and our history of time, dive into Cornwall and stroll through London – or even experience Edinburgh’s grisly ghost stories. Viva Britannia is there to cut through the typical but lazy visions of dull weather with even duller food to bring you the truth about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
But of course you, dear reader, are already well aware of the beauty and diversity of the United Kingdom. Or, if not, you will be soon!
If you'd like to read this in German, want to understand Britain through a German's eyes or simply fancy getting to know the UK better, you can order Sven's book on Amazon or directly from the publisher.