What I Know About North Germans

Let’s open with this: to a real north German, north Germany is essentially Schleswig-Holstein (der echte Norden) and, at a pinch, Hansestadt Hamburg. The Schleswig-Holsteiners say Meck-Pomm is east Germany, and anything south of Hamburg is south Germany. End of. Niedersachseners may be surprised to find they are, in actual fact, not from the north of the country. Sorry.


Let’s get another thing out of the way; the reputation of the North Germans precedes them and it isn’t pretty. Unemotional, unfriendly, cold as the wind that whistles in off the North Sea and freezes the tears on your face. Well, I have to say … lies. I have lived in three different Bundesländer in Germany, and the friendliest, the cheeriest, the most open to foreigners, I have always found in the north.  Hell, I even married a northener.

This coolness is a front, and/or they have literally been frozen by the wind and need some time to thaw out. But when they do thaw out – and they will – they’re truly lovely people with questionable taste in food.

North Germans favour brevity when it comes to conversation and interactions on the street. This isn’t to say they won’t slip a wry grin or a twinkly eye in, but the crisper and less time consuming an exchange is, the better. Hence they tend to use one word for forty different things; ‘jo’. Learn it. Use it. It is the key to the northerners’ heart.

That isn’t to say the northerners don’t love a good Schnacken. Favoured locations for a good chat are bakeries, or during  a brisk stroll by some frigid body of water.

North Germans seem to holiday almost exclusively in Denmark. It is quite extraordinary.

While there, they love nothing more than a good Wattwanderung.

Normal Germans worship the wurst and northerners do too … but they worship the mighty Fischbrötchen more.

Normal Germans enjoy Fleischsalat and northerners do too … but they up the ante with Nordseekrabbensalat and it is exactly what you think it is; tiny, rubbery little shrimp-like things swimming in a creamy sauce.

North Germans have a very dry sense of humour. Sometimes so dry, it can crack the skin on your face and you are not sure whether to laugh or whimper.

North Germans put sugar on their Grünkohl.

They are weirdly unphased by really, really, really terrible weather. In fact, there is no drizzle, no sideways rain, no downpour they won’t slip on some boots, throw on a raincoat and go out for a bracing stroll in. The term ‘schietwetter‘ is uttered almost joyfully as horizontal rain drills into their faces.

They love water and absolutely any and every kind of sport one can partake of in and around and under and on water. Arschkalt water is also totally okay, as is a Steife Brise. As winter slowly recedes, some real hardcore NGs can even be found sliding into the Kieler Förde for a dip. You can almost hear their gruff, internal thoughts, ‘it’s good for the soul!’ as their skin slowly turns blue.

North Germans really, really like boats.

Really, they like any person-carrying vessel that moves with the wind and partake of any or all sports along this theme.

Generally speaking, the German spoken up here is lovely and easy to understand (Oberpfälzers, I am looking at you pointedly as I type …) but on many occasions, and quite without warning, an NG might lapse into this bizarre dialect that you swear might be Old English with a sprinkle of Dutch.  This is called Plattdeutsch or Plattdootsch and the variety spoken up in this parts is unbelievably cute.

North Germans are simultaneously both very proud of their region and also rather self-deprecating (Hamburgers, I almost need not say, are excepted from the self deprecation. Big time.). The two most common phrases I seem to hear are the borderline smug ‘live where others holiday’ and the outright baffled ‘why on earth would an Australian move to Kiel?’

If you want self deprecation taken to a whole new level, perhaps more in the direction of Negative Nancy, read the comments on the Kieler Nachrichten Facebook page. Those people need a sunny holiday.

Perhaps it is a symptom of coastal towns, perhaps it is the huge cruise ships that bring in thousands of tourists every summer, perhaps it is par for the course with port cities, but there is an openness to the northerners that has come to define the way I see them. An openness and an interest in others.

Along with watersports, NGs seem to be very keen on horses.

This region also seems to have produced most of Germany’s most recent tennis stars.

Things you won’t find up north:  Dirndls, Lederhosen, Christkind, Karnival, Weißwurst, Grüß Gott, a great deal of Catholicism, mountains. So, pretty much everything you associate with Germany.


Rest assured this is a work in progress. I’m not leaving this part of the world any time soon …

10 thoughts on “What I Know About North Germans

  1. Liz, this article of yours describes ME …. to the core …. its absolutely me and my habits are still the same, down to the sugar on the Gruenkohl and the Fischbroetchen … swam today with a stiff brise, high tide and no fear …. and this after 48 years in Cape Town, South Africa …

  2. Love this Liv…just read to my mom who is from Kiel and she has lived in the States about 50 years now. Gave her a nice smile to recognize herself and her upbringing. Looking forward to your next installment!

  3. Yeah, you’re talking about me 🙂 Born and raised in Schleswig-Holstein, now living in Hamburg. But I kept the self-deprecation deep inside me. And you are right, we are into horses. More than people from other regions of this country (i. o. w., south Germany), I would say.

  4. Dear Liv,

    lower saxony is called northern Italy while Mecklenburg-Vorpommern already is Asia. Its very simple 😉

  5. I am from Sylt my daughter says I am a Sea girl loved reading this yes it’s me. I lived in Australia 2 years. 3 years on a cruise ship. Now many years in Florida. I Was in Stanthorpe. And Tasmania last year. I really enjoy everything you post

  6. I’m from Lübeck originally but moved to Australia in 95 (currently in Melbourne). Your description of the Northerners is spot on .

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