By Professor Paul Bishop, William Jacks Chair in Modern Languages, School of Modern Languages, University of Glasgow

SOMETIMES it seems there’s a perception that Germany is somehow ... well, boring. Apparently news stories about Germany, even in the Herald, get far fewer views than average ones. But why should Germany be such a journalistic turn-off for readers?

In his 2010 book The German Genius, Peter Watson suggested that for many in the UK (and in the US), Germany remains an unknown country. If seen, it is usually through the historical prism of 1939 to 1945, but more often it is simply not seen at all. Prejudice or xenophobia is of course a problem, but ignorance is even harder to tackle. I think he is on to something.

In 2014 Newsweek covered its title page, “Spot a problem. Analyse it. Solve it. Welcome to the German Century”, while in 2015 Time magazine named Angela Merkel “Chancellor of the Free World’. In the meantime, the migration crisis has changed all that. Yet as Mrs Merkel’s power wanes, this makes Germany all the more interesting as a country. Although its economy is still booming, pessimism about the future is widespread. As their regular evening TV talk shows demonstrate, the dismantling of the post-1945 consensus fills the Germans with dismay and uncertainty. And who can blame them?

Wherever one stands on Brexit, leaving the EU means that Germany is going to become more important to the UK and to Scotland, not less. Yet fewer and fewer people are learning German. (Which is odd, since, contrary to the widespread myth, it’s a relatively easy language to learn.)

Last year Simon Jenkins caused something of a stir when he suggested that there’s little point learning languages at school. The recent fiasco over the translations (or mistranslations) of the Government’s Brexit White Paper surely indicates that such complacency is misplaced. But his more serious point was rather different. Germany is Europe’s most important country, he acknowledged, so we should “teach its history, revel in its culture, analyse the strength of its economy”– and visit its cities and countryside. On this point he’s surely right: actually discovering the country provides people with a context to learning a language, so learning the language isn’t an abstract game, but a route into deeper understanding.

And the Germans’ love of using English shouldn’t distract from real differences in outlook and approach. A common perception is that Germans are all very efficient and rational, whereas a glance in a German bookshop will reveal a fascination with crystals and angels; homeopathy, surprisingly, abounds. To put this in a more positive way: the Germans are open to a more reflective approach to life.

The success of its economy might give us pause for thought, too. Although the economy is booming, public spending has been cut in quest of the so-called “black 0”, reducing the country’s deficit. Neighbouring countries complain, because it means that Germany is producing more than it consumes. And this is a bad thing? The case of Germany prompts some fundamental questions about modern economics and globalisation.

In short, Germany is in many ways quite unlike its stereotypical image. The best way to experience this for oneself is obviously to go, and given flight connections from Scottish airports, this isn’t hard. Hotels are plentiful and relatively inexpensive; a trip to Berlin is a bargain compared with London. And one might also discover that in some ways it’s a misnomer to talk about the Germans. Just as Glasgow and Edinburgh has a distinct feel or vibe, so Berlin is different from Munich, which is different from Hamburg.

So there are many reasons to sit up and take notice of Germany. Forget the myths, it’s cool.