What Europeans think of each other

This is a basic backgrounder for Americans, primarily, who might think Europeans do nothing all day but bitch about Americans. Don’t get me wrong—they do love bitching about Americans. But they also like bitching about each other, as well. Bordering countries, especially, have complex caricatures of each other, even when an outsider might think they’re more or less the same. The following is based on my numerous interactions with Europeans, having lived there for 4 years. Here’s a run down:

The French — Disliked by some Spanish (particularly the Catalonians), for being arrogant. One woman from Barcelona told me, “Come on, who really likes the French? Nobody!” The Swiss don’t like the fact that they have contempt for authority and are lazy. The Brits, of course, have the most mixed feelings about the French, though. One half the country hates them, the other half loves them. Those that hate the French tend to like the Americans, and vice versa. In the UK, they’re considered stinky, rude (they never line/queue up like decent people), and a bit yellow, based on their tendency to not fend off invaders like the Nazis.The French, in turn, dislike the British, look down on Belgians for being stupid, and don’t have much to say, in my experience, about Spaniards or Germans (oddly).

The Italians — Most of the stereotypes are positive, but mostly because of the food. Northern Europeans consider them lazy and flaky, and maybe incapable of managing anything right (mostly because of the 50+ governments they’ve had since WW2). One Dutch professor I had dismissed another Italian one, saying, “All the Italians care about are pasta and mamma.”Italians, in turn, don’t have strong feelings about other Europeans, but within Italy, the north-south divide is pretty strong. Northern Italians continuously complain that Southerners are lazy and unproductive, while Southerners complain that Northerners are devoid of culture or joie de vivre.

The Germans — Germans are considered industrious but uptight and humorless, by just about all the other Europeans. They know WW2 is a sore spot for them, so other Europeans will often mercilessly tease them about it. As much as Germany is considered an economic powerhouse, the vast majority of Europeans don’t really want to learn German or study there (or send their kids there to study). The food is considered uninspired, too, and only Berlin has some cachet among younger Europeans for its vibrant underground club scene. The most anti-German sentiments are among the Dutch and Danish, who just hate them from invading their countries too often. When German ask for directions in Holland, they’re usually given directions to the shortest way out of the country, or told “Give us back our bikes!”, a reference to the fact that Germans confiscated Dutch bicycles during WW2.Danes hate it when you pronounce their capital as “ko-pen-HAH-gen”, because this is the German pronunciation. Either pronounce it the English way (with “HAY” instead), or the Danish way, which is literally impossible to put down here.Germans tend to like their Western neighbors far more than they are liked by them, but they look down on their Eastern neighbors, particularly Poles. They, oddly, have some mixed respect for the Czechs, who have resisted German aggression.

The Scandinavians — Widely respected by most other Europeans, because of their high standard of living …and blond hair and blue eyes. However, within Scandinavia there are some persistent stereotypes. The Norwegians, Danes and Finns all think the Swedes are stupid and uptight. Norwegians are considered racist. Danes are considered more blunt than the others, maybe a bit more cranky, and the Finns are oddly introverted, even by Scandinavian standards. Except for the Danes really disliking Germans, and Finns really disliking Russians, they don’t really have anything against other Europeans.

The Belgians — Considered idiots by both the Dutch and the French. Belgians, in turn, consider the Dutch to be a bunch of cranky assholes, and French stuck-up.

The Dutch — The Dutch, like the Scandinavians, have an enviable economy and social order that’s admired by southern European countries. However, they do have a reputation of being self-righteous “know-it-alls” and very similar to their German cousins in terms of their rigidity. But they do not like any comparisons to Germans, and if you remind them that the Dutch national anthem makes a reference to the Dutch being “van Duitse bloed” (from German blood), you might quickly get the silent treatment. The Dutch are also disliked for being the biggest misers in Europe, and because of this they incur the wrath of the tourist industry wherever they travel. The Dutch have been known to stock up on water before they take their campers down to the south of France.The Dutch, in turn, kind of look down on just about everyone. Yes, there’s a bit of a reason for the “know-it-all” smart-ass reputation they have.

The Swiss — Considered extremely rigid, even by the Germans. Blunt to the point of being rude, the Swiss probably have the least likely reputation for being characterized as “friendly” or “warm”. Note that there is a big cultural divide between French-speaking Swiss, and the German-speaking Swiss. The former are almost exactly like the French, except having a blander cuisine and more respect for authority, the latter being more like the Germans except even more stiff, rigid and cranky. However, everyone knows Switzerland “works” so the fact that foreigners comprise 20% of the population (mostly from EU member states) should make this clear.Note that the German-speaking Swiss also speak their own variant of German, which sounds very strange if you’ve only been exposed to standard “hoch-Deutsch”.

The Spaniards — Honestly, very little antagonism against the Spanish or by the Spanish. No one really seems to dislike them, and they don’t seem to really dislike anyone else. (Yes, some Spaniards near the border to France don’t like the French very much) Not entirely sure why. However, God forbid you speak Spanish with a Latin American accent — there is still a lot of snobbery among Spaniards towards Latin Americans. Spaniards consider themselves white and European, and would be deeply insulted if you suggested they were Latin American of any kind.

The Greeks — Only nominally considered European by other Europeans, but the Greeks fiercely identify as European. Naturally, this is a huge irritant to Greeks.

The Poles — Not much seems to register about Poland and the Poles except that they’re quiet. They are a relatively big country (40 million people) so the supposed scare of being overrun by Eastern Europeans when a bunch of Eastern European countries joined the EU in 2005 focused in on the Poles. The Germans really don’t like Poles, and among Germany’s 9 neighbors, are disliked the most. Poland is considered a country of car thieves by the Germans. Really, the relationship between Germany and Poland is similar to that of the United States and Mexico, and often for many of the same reasons (differences in income, history of war, different languages, etc.).Poles really shore up their hatred for their eastern & southern neighbors, primarily Russia and Ukraine, although they don’t like Czechs, Slovaks or Lithuanians either. Oddly, they don’t really mind the Germans, and probably still fear them a bit — you never, ever hear jokes about Germans in Poland.

The Czechs — Considered a relatively bright spot of Eastern Europe by Western Europeans, but I think primarily because Prague is such a gorgeous city and a popular tourist destination. Czechs are a bit like Germans, though — a bit rude, blunt, and cold. Poles don’t have much good to say about them.

The Austrians — Considered a mix of the best & worst aspects of Germany and the Balkans, Austrians are considered laid-back but very nationalistic and racist. They’re said to be the birthplace of Hitler, but never came around to being fully apologetic about the Holocaust (unlike Germany). Neutral feelings from most ofWestern Europe, negative feelings from Germans (who consider them backwards, and not always the representing the best image of German-speaking people) and admired by Eastern Europeans (a throwback to the Hapsburgs).

The British – About half of the British would be really angry at being called European, so that should provide an apt starting point. The main beef with the Brits is that they’re considered the lapdog of the U.S., and are anti-European because the U.S. tells them to be so. They are considered polite, but maybe a bit two-faced (hence “Janus Britain”) and snobby. The Scots and Welsh are tolerated and liked, inasmuch as that no one really knows too much about them outside the UK, but the English are those that bear the brunt of negative sentiments among other Europeans. After all, London is in England.
The English also have a poor reputation in tourist traps, such as Amsterdam and Ibiza, for being loud-mouthed, obnoxious drunks.
The English, in turn, really seem to hate everyone. This is because it’s pretty hard to find an Englishman that has even, at best, neutral opinions about other Europeans (or Americans, or other nationalities). Europe is full of English expats, and the longer they live abroad, the more they seem to hate their host country. And yet they never seem to want to move home.

The Irish — A very small country, despite its exaggerated importance in Americans’ minds (just over 4.6 million in the Republic of Ireland) but considered polite and humble. They nominally dislike the English, but I have yet to meet an Irishman who really loathes the English. The sentiments towards the Irish and by the Irish seem to be positive, overall.
I personally don’t know much about how the Portuguese, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, and others are perceived, or how they perceive others, but if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below.

I’ll leave you with this poster I saw in an Italian office years ago, that helps sum it up in some ways:

In Heaven…

  • the mechanics are German
  • the chefs are French
  • the police are British
  • the lovers are Italian
  • and everything is organized by the Swiss.

In Hell…

  • the mechanics are French
  • the police are German
  • the chefs are British
  • the lovers are Swiss
  • and everything is organized by the Italians.

Update: Here’s my follow-up after this post got an avalanche of traffic and comments.

Another update: Here’s a related post on what Americans think about Europeans.

And another: 20 ways to slice up Europe.

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  1. I lived in UK for the past 2 years and I met loads of different people from different cultures.
    I would say that English people are very polite almost so much that it can’t be true. That’s why i would tend to think that are a bit hyppocritical. The only english friends I have are black for a reason.
    Asa french I would say I feel closer to spanish or italians even if we are a bit more quiet and italians think we are boring and posh. Another thing is about the english way of life and culture. As I spoke with italians and spanish people we think that english people
    don’t know how to live and eat. It seems like they take a bit from everywhere around the world but somehow they can’t do it properly they have to adapt everything in their way and the result is usually bad.
    Also, despite the fact that they welcome a lot of people in london it seems that you are not considered english unless you are white and your family has been living here for 4generations. They make it look like everyone is colourfull and happy as they would represents the minorities with a perfect percentile in tv or commercials but a part of the country woud think “this is london and it isn’t england. But i still saw a very multicultural youth most of the time. I’m sorry for this dark vision because I some nice british persons but it is what I saw.
    As a french I don’t understand why my country create such a love/hate opinion aroound the world although I’m flattered. I think we are curious people who love to learn about other cultures even though we have our part of arrogant people and we tend to not repect any rule while travelling abroad. To be honest I never heard much stereotypes about other countries while in France and Ithink I made my own opinion. Moreover, although I’m proud of my culture I see myself as a multiculural person, I feel European and I love to take habits from other european countries when I love them (maybe that’s why we stole half of the Louvres from italy and greece).

    Comment by tamere — August 26, 2016 @ 6:10 am

  2. I’m Italian, I just wanted to show what Italians think of:
    Britain: snobby, horrible food, don’t wash themselves, have bad teeth, unfriendly, cold people, very organised, polite, kind, once they start drinking they start laughing very hard and everything I said before becomes bullshit P.S. I love Britain I wanna move there in the future
    France: sooooo snobby, they think they are the greatest country, they have the best food, the most beautiful monuments and the best wine, but maybe just people from Paris ’cause this summer I went to Rouen and the people were so kind and polite and modest and friendly!
    Netherlands: smoking pot all the time, maryuana, very organised
    Russia: very tough guys you don’t wanna mess with them
    Germany: robots, don’t have feelings, they are machines, they never get tired, they work all the time, organised, polite, tough, they aren’t open minded everything has to be in a certain way, cold people, the opposite of Italians
    Italy: best food, we hate our country, always complain about the politicians and the fact that nothing works here, laid-back, too loud, we laugh all the time, very friendly and convinced that ours is the most beutiful country in the world (this is people from the south, northern people are more like germans exept that their country rules and ours is poor and sucks)
    Spain: similar to Italy but much better

    Comment by Laura — August 27, 2016 @ 7:54 am

  3. oh and by the way it’s not 7:54 am, in Italy it’s 16:54 pm 🙂

    Comment by Laura — August 27, 2016 @ 7:56 am

  4. Italians. Lazy lying arrogant. Uneducated. Loud. We always remember Costa Concordia, and stereotype Italian captain who killed so many. And no pasta or Colosseum would justify it.

    Comment by Ben — August 27, 2016 @ 10:28 pm

  5. Don’t put the English all in one boat; there’s a massive distinction between Southern English, Northern English and London. London is like a separate country to the rest of England as is the South and definitely the North. Unlike Londoners and some Southerners we don’t act like snobs or think we’re better than everyone else. We admire people who have humility which is why we tend to not get along with Londoners or Southerners in general. They think their opinion is better than everyone else’s. The Northern English are binge drinkers so we’re not saints either and I would prefer to see more open mindedness to learn foreign languages and see our people be more respectful to foreigners. But, we at least make the effort to try and speak your language which is more than I can say for some of the snobby, ignorant people in the South who’s arrogance makes our blood boil!

    Comment by Yorkshire — August 28, 2016 @ 8:09 pm

  6. Thanks for bundling Swedes and all other Scandinavians together. That makes sense… (key for the British: NOT!).

    I take it as a compliment that many other European (and other) super-powers often “just happen to” belittle a group of countries that all of them punches above their weight and probably wins most “contests” when what-ever-is-measured is measured “per capita”…

    But we know you are secretly impressed by us (despite of our sometimes seeming lack of humbleness), and as populous nations, just couldn’t show it openly – because that would just to obviously highlight that you should all really be so much better than you are… (considering economy of scale, size of gene pool, historic looting from colonies etc. etc.) Also, we’d probably become to obnoxious if you did, which would make us lower our guard and make us perform worse – so thanks for helping us staying grounded 🙂

    But we still love you all and wouldn’t want you to change too much.

    Peace and love to our European brothers and sisters 🙂

    Comment by Harald — August 29, 2016 @ 3:15 am

  7. This article is completely wrong about the Dutch anthem. The Dutch anthem says: van duytsche bloed. This duyts or Diets are versions of the same word that actually mean Dutch.

    This has nothing to do with the Germans.

    Our anthem also says: I have honored the long of Spain.
    This is a snarky comment as we have revolted against them and killed their asses.

    Comment by Jan Hendrik — August 31, 2016 @ 12:12 am

  8. Lol auto correct turned “king of Spain” to long of Spain. Anywayyyyy

    Comment by Jan Hendrik — August 31, 2016 @ 12:54 am

  9. Wrong info about Poland – there are a lot of jokes about 2 guys (1 Pole, 1 German, 1 Russian). Germans disliked because their stiffness, lack of sense of humour and heart, Russians – it is such saying that they need tyran as a ruler of their country but as a people we like Russians as slavs. We like much Hungarians (long lasting marriage), Slovacs (similarities), Czechs (but we think they don’t like us for Zaolzie and 1968) & Spaniards (as everybody), we feel solidarity with Ukrainians (conflict with BIG Russia, but don’t like their natioanlistic revival base on UPA), Lituanians are ok (common history) & Belarus is whole other story because of ?ukaszenko (wish them the best). Poles apparently don’t like the most their own country and are harsh critics of everything Polish which causes heated discussions with a lot of vodka 😉

    Comment by Pole — August 31, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

  10. @AnnaEELady: I come from Slovakia and have a few years of experience with Romanian employees, some of them as colleagues. I must say that they belong to the best staff: they are well educated, hardworking, polite and friendly. I have also noticed that they value their family and good relationships as well. I always feel sorry when some low life is trash mouthing Romanians and I try to spread a good word when possible. (I respect other East Europeans as well, but have more experience with Romanians.) The image of East Europeans is very distorted and media are helping it a great deal. It is true that a lot of low lifes from the bottom of the East European society, avoided by normal people, are migrating to western societes for better benefits but all camers are immediately on them and they are presented as the typical Pole, Romanian, Slovak etc. etc. I was horrified when a Roma person openly saying he is in the UK to get higher child and housing benefits or another lying drunk on a street were presented as typical Slovaks in british media. That sells the best and insane hate is growing. Where are the articles on how valued and wanted for example Slovak or Czech nurses are? (I am about to begin nursing at University so it is a closes topic for me) I open a job portal and UK, Germany, Austria etc. are begging for them as well as for doctors of course. Then Romanians I know as IT specialists. Isn’t this hipocrisy from the western countries?

    Comment by Forest — September 2, 2016 @ 8:43 am

  11. Rather outdated nonsensical stereotypes. As ist the case with every stereotype you can find them confirmed … whenever you look for them or not at all. The reality is, they are true and completely false at the same time. I have friends all over Europe as well as the USA and visit these countries most frequently. I can always find such stereotypes confirmed, but more often than not, completely wrong. TO judge individuals based on a stereotype is anyways nonsense altogether – and by no means helpful, even if one should come across a stereotype.

    DailyCandor: Well, duh.

    Comment by WOLF — September 4, 2016 @ 10:28 pm

  12. It’s not all true about polish people and who they hate. first thing is that we dont all hate germans I’am actully polish and i’ve been living in germany for 3 years now i finished my study work and through about staying the to learn more so after a year I through why not stay there for longer. I have great friends who are german, it is not true that we hate germans maybe be there are some people that disagree with this beacuse of the WW2 but i don’t have that opinion we have to move on from it. There are maybe some polish people who hate germans but I don’t 🙂

    Comment by alici — September 9, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

  13. We dont hate russians in Finland. Most of us respects the current relationships state with Russia, it is not ww2 any more. More to be frank part of us thinks Swedes are too soft and gets their feelings hurt too easily about everything. Just constant bitching about everything. Here in finland we have our own problems, and we dont want your absurd immigrant policy here.
    Get a grip!

    Comment by Finnish man — September 10, 2016 @ 6:06 pm

  14. I do apologise if this is not exactly European, more of an internal conflict between the Northern and Southern English, but us English Midlanders don’t want to keep hearing your shit, between the North and the South English.
    At the end of the day us Midlanders are far better than you Northern and Southern pansies, the North for example “Oh but the powerhouse of Great Britain.” The Industrial Revolution started in the English Midlands i.e Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Stoke-On-Trent, Coventry.
    Then we get to our Southern Brothers, just whingers really. But us Midlanders hear one side from the left ear, then orientate ourselves around, and hear it from the other ear. I propose that us English Midlanders, build a wall around ourselves and let the North and South English do battle, but around the wall of the English Midlands(that I’m going to build).
    Joking apart, I LOVE my English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh and other European Brothers and Sisters forever. GOD BLESS, AMEN.

    Comment by The Englishman — September 19, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

  15. The poster that you saw in the Italian office is from Hetalia. ( ?° ?? ?°)

    Comment by ;) — September 20, 2016 @ 11:31 am

  16. I just read the part about Scandinavia, and it’s so full of bull that I won’t bother with the rest. Firstly, Finland is not a part of Scandinavia. Never have been.

    “Except for the Danes really disliking Germans, and Finns really disliking Russians, they don’t really have anything against other Europeans.” You’ve got to be shitting me? Norwegians think French people are arrogant twats who get offended if you don’t speak French and they refuse to speak English, even though they fucking know how.

    A lot of Poles are car thieves, illegal workers and smugglers. But we love them for the smuggling of course. The eastern European people do the exact same shit. Fun people to drink with though, Just a shame so many of those who come here are criminals. I generally like Polish people, Lithuanians etc.

    The Greek are lazy cunts who just want other European countries to carry them.

    The British are arrogant, loud and incredibly ignorant. The whole “politeness” thing seems more like passive aggression or just plain fakeness.

    The Spaniards need to learn English. Especially in the south. Didn’t have a problem around Alicante, but near Gibraltar nobody knows a fucking word. They just speak Spanish until you leave.

    I don’t think we have a problem with Italians, but I noticed while I was in Milano when I was 14 that they are quite short. I was almost a head taller than most grown men. I guess they are quite religious though, and that’s never a good thing. For anyone that has a problem with that statement, just look at the fucking statistics. More religion=more poverty.

    The Swiss are neutral fucking cowards that make quality products.

    Germans are robots that do an excellent job, whatever that job may be.

    Danes are allright, but talk completely incomprehensibly even though our written language is extremely similar. Almost like British vs American English. That’s because they have a potato in their throat.

    The Swedes are either waiters or work in retail stores where they act like complete assholes. Basically like elementary school bullies. And a lot of them are completely incompetent and lack the brain capacity to even try to solve a problem. You have to tell them what to do.

    Comment by Norwegian — September 28, 2016 @ 9:49 pm

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