European Jokes

Europe doesn’t grow because of the treaties. It grows from the heart of the citizens, or is doomed to failure”.

Konrad Adenauer.

But who are we poking fun at? Indeed, Belgian jokes are very popular in France, Luxemburg and Netherlands such as jokes on Swedes are very common in Norway, Denmark and Finland.  In the Baltic countries, people tend to laugh at Estonians, whereas in Balkan states, they do jokes on Bosnians. This list is the first attempt ever made to compile the national targets of jokes in each European country. Europe is full of this “jokelore”. Don’t worry, most of the researchers like Davies and Leon Rappoport have argued that ethnic jokes do not propagate ethnic stereotypes, but are often a way of positive interaction between communities. Jokes on neighbors, according to Anthony Giddens, provide the security of being and the maintenance of a “known” and “controllable” identity. So just enjoy!

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Spain

On Portuguese and Galician – “Portugal is the only country in the world where a man’s mistress is uglier than his wife

After a long period of struggle for political power in Iberia and overseas, Spain and Portugal tend to enjoy nowadays a friendlier relationship. But the cultural differences between both countries remain and are subject to jokes from both sides. Portuguese people often appear melancholic and introverted, what contrasts with the Castilian categorical extroversion. Most of the Jokes in Spain are thus dealing with Portuguese and Galician. Spanish people love to make fun of Portuguese, joking especially on their physical appearance and their backward habits.

Portugal

On Spaniards – “- How do you recognize a Spaniard in a library?” “- He is the only one to look after a world map of Madrid

The jokes of Spanish people about Portuguese couldn’t remain unanswered. There is in Portugal a prolonged feeling towards the peninsular neighbor considered as an upstart and uppity “big brother.” Quite a few Portuguese have the satisfaction knowing that there are almost as many speakers of Portuguese as Spanish. But when it is about jokes, Portuguese people don’t mince their words and depict Spaniards as proud, arrogant and disdainful.

France

On Belgians – “Two Belgians are driving a truck and arrive at a bridge with a warning sign: maximum height 4 meters. They get off and measure their truck. It’s 6 meters high. “What shall we do?” asks the one. “I don’t see any police” says the other one “so let’s drive on”

The French always depict the Belgians as stupid people with strange accent and outdated words. The current version of “belgian joke” appeared in France after the Second World War, and has remained quite popular. One may find its origin at the time when Belgians came in great numbers in the North of France to work in factories and were assimilated as “strikebreaker” by local workers. It could be much older, as we find the French poet Charles Baudelaire writing in 1864: “All the Belgians, without exception, have empty cranium”.

Luxembourg

On Belgians – “Helicopter crashes in a Belgian cemetery. The rescue teams have already found 100 dead people.”

As their French neighbors, people of Luxemburg tend to make some jokes about Belgians.

Beligum

On French – “-Why do we say ‘going to the toilets’ in France and ‘going to the toilet’ in Belgium ?”“- Because in France, you have to visit many of them before finding one clean enough”.

Belgians soon started to answer back to their French neighbors, depicting them as rude and arrogant, and with a superiority complex. The “arrogant Frenchman” stereotype was also fed by Charles De Gaulle, who both during World War II and later as President (1958-1969) expressed a very non-cooperative and independent view on world politics. Belgians sometimes make jokes such as the one above about the supposed lack of hygiene of French people.

On Dutch“- Why do the Dutch people love the Belgian-jokes so much?”
“- They are cheap”.

Belgian jokes about the Dutch generally refer to the Dutch stinginess. The Belgians can further amuse themselves laughing about each Dutch person owning a cheese slicer and a bicycle, two tools that also exist in Belgium but are far less common here than they are in The Netherlands.

United-Kingdom

On Ireland“Then there was the cross-eyed Irish teacher who resigned because he had no control over his pupils.”

The Irish joke has sinister origins. The Irish joke originates in the simian portrayal of Irish people in English comic magazines of the mid-late 19th century – depicting the Irish as stupid apes given to agrarian and alcohol-fuelled violence against their benevolent and tolerant English masters. The Irish joke seems nevertheless to have survived the era of political correctness and has become nowadays much a kind of teasing between neighbors.

Ireland

On English – “- What does an Englishman do for thrills?” “- Eats an After Eight mint at 7:30”.

Irish jokes have recently been reclaimed by the Irish themselves and reversed to ridicule the Englishmen and their jokes. There is sometimes a debate to discuss whether Irish jokes made by Englishmen were racist or not. But the shift in humor between both countries seems to have changed in nature.

Norway

On Swedes – “Ole (Norwegian) and Sven (Swedish) went on a fishing trip to Canada and come back with only three fish. Ole says, “The way I figger it, Sven, each of them fish cost us $400 !”. “Well, at dat price it’s a good ting we didn’t catch any more of em than we did,” says Sven. 

Since Sweden is the dominant state in the Nordic area, Norwegian national identity had to be constructed in contrast to them, and so as their jokes. Norwegians tend to depict Swedes as the ‘impolite’ big brother that always thinks he knows best. Two characters Ole, the Norwegian, and Sven, the Swede, often embody this Norwegian-Swedish war-joke.

Sweden

On Norwegians – “-How do you say ‘genius’ in Norway?” “- A tourist

Swedes often make fun of Norwegians, much more than of Danes and Finns. They are told to be rich because of their oil and gas, but the jokes usually features Norwegians as rustic dumb and rural guys who go mountain climbing to take care of their hangovers.

On Danes – “- Why do Danish people never play hide and seek?” “- Because nobody wants to look for them

Sweden was in the past just a part of the Danish Kingdom. For historical reasons, Swedes still bears the Danes a grudge. Danes tend to be depicted as untrustworthy and imbued with the spirit of dolce far’ niente, a beer-drinking, happy-go-lucky, vaguely unhygienic and profoundly disorganised people.

On Finns – “The difference between a Finnish wedding and a Finnish funeral is that at a funeral there’s one person not having vodka.”

In Swedish jokes, Finns people are depicted as alcoholic, provincial and backward people. But for historical reasons, Swedes would rather make jokes about Norwegians than Finns.

Finland

On Swedes“- What is the difference between Swedes and Finns?” “-The Swedes have nice neighbors!”

Finns mainly make fun of Swedes, their direct neighbors. They depict them as not very bright guys with no sense of humor. Surprisingly, Finnish people tend also to make fun of themselves and their alcoholic habits.

Denmark

On Swedes – “Keep Denmark clean – show a Swede to the ferry.”

Since there was a historical fight for hegemony between Denmark and Sweden, Danish people tend to depreciate their northern neighbors in their jokes. The joke above may be a reference to the Swedish habits of coming to Denmark to buy alcohol and get drunk in the ferries on their way back to Sweden.

On other Scandinavians – “Two men were sitting on a bench in a park. The first was drunk, and the other was also Finn.

Danes tend also to make some jokes about other Scandinavians, but less than about Swedes.

Iceland

On Danes – “Hey, I’m Danish

Icelanders bear a tremendous grudge against Danes, from whom they get independence only in 1944. Icelandic humor can be very dark and sometimes misinterpreted by foreigners. Most of the time, Islanders make jokes about the Danish language, such as in the stand-up comedy of Jón Gnarr, who was elected mayor of Reykjavík.

Netherlands

On Belgians – “- Why wasn’t Jesus born in Belgium?” “-God couldn’t find three wise men in Belgium”.

Dutch humor has changed over the centuries. In the 16th century, the Dutch were renowned for their humor throughout Europe, and a large number of travel journals have notes on the happy and celebratory nature of the Dutch. But with the decline of the country over centuries, Dutch lost their sense of humor. During the Second World War, Americans soldiers were even instructed not to tell jokes to the Dutch as “they wouldn’t appreciate it” ! Dutch have nowadays a dark ironic and sarcastic humor which is often quite bold.

Germany

On Poles – “ – What do you call it when 2 whites are pushing a car?” “-White Power” “-What do you call it when 2 blacks are pushing a car?” “- Black Power” “- What do you call it when 2 Poles are pushing a car?” “- Grand theft auto

Some of the earliest Polish jokes, also called Polack jokes, in reference to an ethnic slur, might have been told originally before World War II in disputed border-regions such as Silesia, wrote Christie Davies in The Mirth of Nations suggesting that “Polish jokes” did not originate in Nazi Germany, but a lot earlier, as an outgrowth of regional jokes rooted in “social class differences reaching back to the nineteenth century”. In the US, polish jokes are very popular. In German jokes, Poles are depicted as lazy and unemployed people who distinguished themselves in the art of stealing.

On Dutch – “-Why did Ikea stop opening stores in the Netherlands?”  “- They couldn’t afford the free pencils anymore”.

Germans make a lot of fun about the Dutch and people living in East Frisia, a German region closed to Netherlands. They depict the Dutch either as marijuana smokers, skinflint or slow drivers on motorways (typically with a caravan attached to their car). Germans particularly laugh at the Dutch accent.

Poland

On Germany“- What is the name of this German who always hides my glasses?” “-Alzheimer, grandpa!”

A bit like in Ireland against England, Poles fought back in response to German jokes by inventing their own jokes. With the long historical struggle they had with their neighbor, and the sources for jokes they could find in Nazi regime, Polish people went to make jokes on Germans, depicting them as authoritarians, not good-looking and bad lovers.

Switzerland

On Austrians – “Why is the Austrian flag ‘red-white-red’?” “- So that they can’t raise it upside-down”.  

For linguistic reasons, Swiss-Germans frequently make fun of Austrians, depicting them as dumb, provincial and foolish.

On Belgians – “Did you know the Belgian Ministry of Transport has introduced a new sign?
It reads “End of Roundabout”.

Swiss living in the French-speaking area tend to vehicle the same jokes as French people about Belgians. It is interesting to notice that Swiss-French depict Belgians just as Swiss-Germans depict Austrians.

Italy

On Italians –  “- What do you call an Italian with his hands in his pocket?” “- A mute”

Italians don’t seem to have a peculiar national target for their jokes. They do have some jokes about French, German and English, but not to the same way as other countries have with their neighbors. On the other hand, Italians have a lot of jokes about themselves, their Moms, their FIAT and their policemen. Click on the link to see the now famous joke about an Italian who went to Malta. It’s worthwhile.

Austria

On Germans – “The Prime Ministers of Germany and Austria met to exchange notes. “How are things in Germany?” asked the Prime Minister of Austria. The German sighed, “Well, in Germany the situation is serious,” he said, “but not hopeless.” “In Austria the situation is hopeless,” the Austrian Prime Minister replied, “but not serious.””

The Austrians have lots of jokes that emphasize how disorderly and happy-go-lucky they are compared to their Teutonic neighbors.

Czech Republic

On Slovakians – “The Slovak language has been invented by Stur has he was drunk and tried to translate Russian to Czech”

When Slovak and Czech people tell jokes, they actually tend to laugh at each other, but most of the cases, they tell the same jokes exactly. The jokes often insist on the few differences between their languages, since they have sometimes misunderstandings due to linguistic differences. The fact they both tell these jokes proves that they have the same humor and they understand perfectly the expressions used.

Slovakia

On Czech – “A Slovak man, a Polskie man and a Czech man buy German cars. The Slovak man buys a Mercedes-Benz, The Polskie man buys a BMW. And the Czech man buys a Trabant”.

Slovaks have many jokes about Czech people mainly dealing with backwardness, robberies and sexual deviance. Some jokes imply that Czech people are ignorant to the scientific and technological advances of other countries. Others imply that Czechs are heavy drinkers who choose to drink before they think in life or death situations.

Lithuania

On Estonians – “-Why is that in Estonia young mothers change their children’s nappy only once a day?” “-Because there is a note written on the packet: up to 4 kg.”

Lithuanians often make jokes about Estonians telling about how stupid and slow they are. Most of the jokes actually insist on the excessive slowness of Estonians. A scholar, Arvo Krikmann, even published a paper in which he analyzed the frequency of the supposed Estonian slowness in Baltic jokes.

Latvia

On Estonians – “In the film “Matrix” the stand-in of the main character Neo was Estonian.”

The jokes on Estonian slowness are also to be found in Latvia. Actually, in contemporary Russian slang, the mocking name for Estonians is “stick-in-the-mud”. French people do the same kind of jokes about Swiss.

On Latvians –  “-Why are Latvians the best in the world ?” “-Because our living standard is twice as bad than that of Estonians, but we laugh about them twice as loud.”

In the 21st century, a revival of self-referential and self-deprecating humour can be seen in the web-based joke circulation titled “Why are Latvians the best in the world?“.

Estonia

On Finns – “- How do you know that you’re talking to an extrovert Finn?” “- When conversing with you, he’s looking at your feet instead of his own”

Estonians have a genre of Finnish jokes, featuring Finns who are either slow, stupid or alcoholic. Finland is both economically more prosperous than Estonia and to the North of Estonia, so few jokes are about Finns told to be rich.

Hungary

On Scotsmen – “Nowadays the Scots do not play bagpipes to frighten their enemies, they do it to annoy their neighbours.”

Who would have thought about it?  Hungarian people tend to make jokes on Scotsmen. It is hard to find any reason for that. Is it because of Saint Margaret, Queen of Scotland who actually grew up in Hungary? The question is still open but the jokes remain.

Ukraine

On Moldavians – “A father and child are in a museum discussing the theory of evolution when the child asks if Moldovians evolved from apes. The father reminds the child that apes evolved from Moldovians.”

In Ukraine, jokes about Moldavians are quite frequent. All of these jokes point to the backwardness of Moldavians. An alternative is to depict them as bad-mannered.

On (new) Russians – “Two New Russians: “- Look, I bought a tie for 3 thousand bucks!” “- Idiot, I saw the same tie for 5 thousand bucks round the corner!

The traditionally mixed Russo-Ukrainian called Novorossiya (New Russia) is in part in modern Russia and another in Ukraine. It concentrates many jokes, as people living there are told to be wealthy, mainly because of the victory of capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union and the new economical habits it promotes.

Romania

On Hungarians – “- How do you get a Hungarian out of the bath tub?” “-Throw in a bar of soap”.

Hungarians are seen as proud, but naive. The stereotypical Hungarian is called Ianoş and usually is accompanied by a Romanian named Ion.

On Albanians – “- How can you stop an Albanian tank?” “- You shoot the soldier that is pushing it”.

In Romania, Albanians are depicted as very technologically impaired.

On Scotsmen – “McManus donates a lot of money to charity but likes to remain anonymous. He even forgets to sign his name on the cheques.”

Scotsmen are presented as stingy, mean, dumb and feisty kilt-wearing skulks, who act against common sense just to save a small amount of money. Jokes about Scots are quite mean and depict them as people never failing to act against common sense just to save a few pennies in the short run

On Romanians“-What is small, dark, and knocking at the door?” “- The future

And last but not least, Romanians tend to have some very funny self-deprecating jokes on their poor conditions.

Moldova

On Ukrainians – “In USA, “C” means cold, “H” hot. In Western Europe, red means hot & blue means cold. In Ukraine, blue is “voda” and red is “nema”

Moldavians don’t really appreciate their Ukrainian neighbors, they sometimes consider as Russians. Their jokes consequently revolve around alcohol, bender and hangover.

On Romanians – “What’s big, black, noisy, makes a lot of smoke and cuts carrots in five?” “-The Romanian machine for cutting carrots in four”.

Without surprise, Moldavians tend to make jokes about Romanians. Something quite interesting happened in 2003, as the first ever Moldavian-Romanian dictionary was published, under the direction of the Moldavian Government who ignored that Moldavians actually speak the same language as in Romania. 96% of the words in this dictionary were the same. Jokes about this Romanian-Romanian dictionary became very popular from then on.

Slovenia

On Bosnians“A Slovene, a Bosnian and a Montenegrin run a 100-meter race. The Slovene wins. Why? The Montenegrin gave up, and the Bosnian lost his way.”

Many jokes in former Yugoslavia revolve around Bosnian, depicted as unintelligent, slow and sometimes lazy. In addition to being portrayed as stupid, Bosnians come out as sexually promiscuous, omnisexual, and alcoholic

Serbia

On Bosnians – “Mujo, haven’t you heard, the male gorilla in the Sarajevo Zoo is seriously ill and the female gorilla is going crazy without sex. They are now looking for somebody to replace the male gorilla and they are willing to pay up to 5,000 marks!” says Suljo. Mujo responds, “Oh yes, I heard, but where will I find 5,000 marks?”

Bosnians are the usual laughingstock. As Muslims, they concentrate a lot of jokes often using ethnical namesMujo stands for Mustafa or Muhamed; Suljo for Sulejman; and Fata, usually Mujo’s wife, for Fatima. In addition to being portrayed as stupid, Bosnians come out as sexually promiscuous, omnisexual, and alcoholic:

On Montenegrins – “Why did the Montengrin become so lazy? Because the Bosnian once said to him: “Let me explain…”

In popular Serbian jokes and stories, Montenegrins are seen as lazy and pushy.

On Albanians“An Albanian goes in a shopping area to sell some clothes he had stolen previously, but another thief robs him. When he returns home his wife asks him: – “So, did you earn anything?” – “No,” – replies the thief, “this time I sold at cost price!””

Serbians tend to a lesser extent to have some jokes about Albanians.

Croatia

On Bosnians““I think, therefore I am,” says a Bosnian and disappears without a trace.”

In former Yugoslavia, Bosnians, depicted as raw and stupid, may be the eastern equivalent to the western Belgian.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

On Germans“A Bosnian interviews for a job in Germany. “Where are you from?” asks the employer. “From Bosnia!” “Oh, I know,” says the German, “you Bosnians are known to be lazy.” “Oh no, sir,” responds the Bosnian, “those are the Montenegrins. We Bosnians are stupid!”

Perhaps following historical and diasporic experiences, Bosnians often differentiate themselves from Europeans, especially Germans. The Bosnian-German joking relationship, if any such thing can be said to exist, is less related to inferiority/superiority than to a struggle for respect and the recognition that values between communities differ.

On Bosnians – “Fata is taken by intensive care in city hospital. Mujo is waiting for doctor in front of main entrance. Doctor came out and talked to Mujo: – “Your Fata is not looking good” – “Doctor, I know that, but she is good cooker, she is good with our children and that is the reason why she is my wife”

The identity of Bosnians has been written and re-written through jokes by Bosnians themselves.

Bulgaria

On Macedonians“- What do you call a Bulgarian trying to understand Macedonian history/matters?” – A person without a chance”.

The Bulgarians may argue about the existence of the Macedonian people, even in their jokes – one of the versions of “the shortest Bulgarian joke” is exactly the “Macedonian people”. The paradox is that exactly the Bulgarian jokes, which laugh at the Macedonians are anthropological proof that the Macedonians and the Bulgarians are two different cultural worlds. There’s an example of this Bulgarian paradox “All people come from the monkeys, only the Macedonians – from the Bulgarians”.

On Bulgarians – “Why don’t people from Gabrovo buy refrigerators?” “- Because they can’t be sure the light goes off when the door’s closed”.

The city of Gabrovo in Bulgaria is well-known for the unique sense of humor possessed by its citizens. Local humour revolves around the alleged stinginess of its citizens and a rivalry with the neighbouring city of Sevlievo. The city even hosts a House of Humour and Satire.

Albania

On Greeks – “- What do you call a greek with 300 hundred wifes?” “- A Shepherd”

Albanians still bear a grudge against Greeks, mostly for historical territories issues. The border between Greece and Albania was set up by the great European powers through the Treaty of Florence (1913) following the Balkan wars. It was immediately challenged by a nationalist movement of the Greek minority in “Northern Epirus” or “southern Albania.” The border has been confirmed, with a slight modification for Albania following the Treaty of Rapallo in 1920. Nowadays around 1 million Greeks live in Albania.

Macedonia

On Greeks – “A Greek and Italian were arguing over who had the superior culture. The Greek says, “We have the Parthenon.” Arching his eyebrows, the Italian replies, “We have the Coliseum.” The Greek retorts, “We Greeks gave birth to advanced mathematics”. The Italian, nodding agreement, says, “But we built the Roman Empire.”And so on and so on until the Greek comes up with what he thinks will end the discussion. With a flourish of finality he says, “We invented sex!”The Italian replies, “That is true, but it was the Italians who introduced it to women.””

Macedonians have also a lot of jokes about Greeks, frequently depicted them as sexually deviant.

Greece

On Albanians – “- What’s the fastest thing in Kosovo?” “- An Albanian with your TV” “- And what’s the second fastest thing in Kosovo?” “- His cousin with your VCR”.

As a respond to Albanian and Macedonian jokes about Greeks, jokes in Greece are most of the time directed towards Albanians. Many jokes deal with burglary and outlaw, just as in the following funny gag: “How does an Albanian recipe for cooking start?” “- We steal 2 eggs…”

Turkey

On Greeks“A Greek and a Turki were sitting at a party. Someone told a turkish Joke and the Greek guy got offended. The Greek guy walked up to the Turki and asked him, “Don’t you get offended when you hear these Turki jokes.” The Turki replied, “for you they are jokes for us they are memories.”

Because of the historical rivalry between Turks and Greeks, many jokes involving both nationalities were appearing over the last century. The problematic issue of Cyprus influences the relation between both countries and remains subject to tension and controversy.

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