This year Germany won "best nation" by a poll which measures peoples' perceptions of countries around the world. The U.S. had the top spot for five years in a row, but America has been swept aside by the Germans.
That fact probably makes Germans uneasy. They're far more comfortable with the idea that the world still hates them. Have you ever seen Germans at a soccer game? They can't even cheer for their own country without feeling guilty.
And for the last 20+ years Der Speigel has been writing articles that claim Germans are 'learning to like themselves again.' If anything, that's just evidence that Germans still aren't able to. Poll after poll has also shown that most Germans consider themselves "European" before German. But if that were true Germany would have opened its labor market to Poland as soon as the latter joined the EU. It didn't. Germans would have had no problem bailing out their fellow Europeans in 2010. Most were against doing so. Germans say they view themselves as Europeans first. Yet they behave in a very different way.
That's always been the problem with Germans, hasn't it? How can a man ever learn to like himself if he isn't honest about what he is?
"Don't cheer so loud, OK? We fear what we might do if we get too passionate about our country..."
Germany is the strongest country in Europe and an economical superpower, yet it refuses to project that power in the world. Even when doing so is in Germany's national interest. Why? Because of World War II.
Germans have a unique culture with a brilliant history and they know it! Yet they try to pass themselves off as 'just European' and 'the same as everyone else.' And then they wonder why foreigners can't integrate into Germany. Kinda hard to integrate into a culture that the host can't even talk openly about. Because of World War II, of course!
Germany insists that it is an open, democratic country. Yet, it has overt political censorship laws that rival North Korea. Germany today actively censors and persecutes minorities... because in the past it actively censored and persecuted minorities. Because of World War II.
Germany's entire national consciousness is about World War II. Yet World War II is the very reason why the mere mention of 'national consciousness' makes most Germans uneasy... On account of World War II.
Germans are a living paradox. A high-context culture where up is down and yes is no. World War II is the centerpiece of the German mindset and the key to understanding that paradox. Yet, Germans themselves will try and shoo you away from that understanding at every turn. They've "moved on" and "only wish you would too." It's only fitting that the key to 'getting' Germany is exactly what Germans hate to talk about most.
And of course, they haven't "moved on." The paradoxical world that Germany resides in today is evidence enough of that.
But the next time you see a German, try telling them that Germany is now the most well-liked, highly-regarded country in the world. Nothing makes Germans more uneasy than a foreigner telling them that Germans are exceptional and the best in the world. That's OK, though. Do it anyway. Germans need to hear it.