Photo: Kzenon/Shutterstock

6 Portraits of German Travelers

by Juliana Bilowich Dec 5, 2014

The secret is out: German citizens are allotted an unparalleled amount of paid vacation. You can spot them in Gran Canaria’s more-German-than-Spanish supermarkets, buying dense bread, or hiking Split’s too-sunny coast, slathering sunscreen onto white legs. But let’s take a look beyond the Birkenstock sandals and obsessive recycling.

1. The Planner

Enter Magda: plans every aspect of her vacation in Istanbul, including transportation maps, city walking tours, restaurants reviews, and lodging. Pencils in some ‘free-time activities’ for Tuesday afternoon, explaining why spontaneity is better when planned. Overwhelmed by deviations to the plan or the inherent uncertainty of the local lifestyle. Aghast at the lack of bus timetables. Can have fun only in the form of structured achievement. Most likely to ask: “Isn’t there an app for the transit system?” or “What do you mean you don’t know when the bus will arrive?” Approach this German with a complete lack of agenda and watch chaos ensue.

2. The ‘Gadgeteer’

Enter Manfred: brings a portable espresso machine and milk frother to eastern Italy’s waterfalls. Hikes with a solar-powered, self-generating Wi-Fi hotspot and a 21-function wristwatch. Tours the Lamborghini factory and discusses fringe technical concepts on end regardless of idyllic mountain town surroundings. Most likely to offer you a multitool at the perfect moment. Approach this German with an appreciation for a heartwarmingly nerdy — and utterly emotionless — passion.

3. The Old-Timers

Enter Heinz and Dagmar: book their annual retirement-life getaway to Ibiza expecting a reenactment of their restorative Mediterranean holiday of the 1980s, a time when West Germans were doing well, and the Spanish islands hadn’t yet been discovered by thousands of college students now partying there every spring break. Quietly shocked at the display of tasteless youthful fun, they persevere through the drugs and debauchery in awkward discomfort. Most likely to listen to the 8 o’clock news with the volume cranked up all the way. Approach this opa and oma during obligatory state-holiday visits and be prepared to look through endless old photo albums and warm up to daily adult naptime.

4. The Preconceived Experiencer

Enter Christoph: landing at O’Hare with his father, Christoph embarks on his post-bachelor, fatherly bonding eastern-US road trip merely to confirm his pre-formed conceptions of ‘America.’ Missing the rugged beauty of the American West whilst trapped on the interstate, these Germans instead tour the Motel 6s and drive-through windows of the Midwest. Upon their return, they dryly conclude what everyone already expected: Americans are overweight, blissfully ignorant, and entirely too friendly. Most likely to falsely affirm that all German women own dirndls. Approach with a wide berth or headphones in.

5. The Perfectionist

Enter Leopold: expects everything to live up to flawless standards, including at crumbling youth hostels, haunted dive bars, and Albuquerque’s rowdy party street. This German is deeply shaken by discrepancies within the system and dismisses New Mexico’s ‘land of manaña’ sense of time to matter-of-factly interrogate the information-desk attendant for the precise schedule of the Breaking Bad tour. Soothed by a fine cigar, Leopold easily lapses into lengthy conversations about how best to pack a suitcase. Most likely to respond defensively to a harmless question. Approach with decent foreign beers and a mockingly severe demeanor.

6. The Taste-Tester

Enter Ann-Katrin: crosses the Strait of Gibraltar to try on another life without relinquishing her own. Wearing a khaki sunhat, this German arrives at the Port of Tangier for a well-prepared, three-week trek. Inhabits the role of the carefree traveler but just can’t shake the feeling that her sensible lifestyle is missing. As the ‘voyeur’ of adventuring, Ann-Katrin may get dusty but never dirty, just as she might taste the Moroccan couscous while privately hankering for the rye and dinkel of her home. Most likely to pack a sandwich (or five). Approach with caution: the Taste-Test Traveler might soon make you miss home.

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