German code

For many years now, me and a couple of friends have had a saying about code, measuring the quality of it, whether it’s excellent or mediocre.

It’s quite simple, actually: if it’s really good, it’s labeled as German Code. What the term refers to is code written as clean as humanly possible, perfectly indented and so easy to read everything in it is extremely evident. Semantic value and perfect performance, all in harmony.

To me, when code, mine or someone else’s, is referred to as German Code, it is with pride I look upon it and appreciate a craft done to perfection; a developer feeling self-respect in what they deliver and a strive for perfection.

German standards

I think this goes back to the industrial quality of Germany: they have car brands like Mercedes and BMW, kitchen and laundry machines from Miele etc. When it comes to quality products, they just simply seem to stem from Germany.

Do you have a saying about good code (or poor code for that matter; except WTF, of course… πŸ™‚ )?


  • Mark Perkins says:

    Ha ha ha excellent – my girlfriend is German and she will love this!

    Up until now i didn't have a phrase to describe nice, clean code… but I do now. Thank you Robert!

  • Stephen Hill says:

    Perhaps crappy code could be described as Italian code?

    (No offence to the Italians)

  • Mattias says:

    Yep, spagetti coding is a term I've heard about.

    A marketing manager I worked with a couple of years ago mentioned that we needed to create "Turkey safe" (the country Turkey) online marketing campaigns. By doing something "Turkey safe" it should be able to be viewed in Netscape 1.x browser without Javascript and Flash plugins so it could be accessible by a goat herder in the mountain region of Turkey, connected to Internet with 2400 baud modem powered by solar cells. Almost like design by a persona.

  • Sebastian says:

    "German Code = Good Code" sounds really strange from a german perspective. There are a punch-bag full of reasons to call poorly written code "german".

    What about Swiss Code (from simplistic swiss (graphic) design)?

    Or, to leave the nationalistic area: Zen Code, Flowing Code, …

  • German code = qooxdoo πŸ™‚ (ok, mostly German)

    Robert, that made my day. Thanks.

  • Siegfried says:

    I am German πŸ™‚

    Well, that "made in Germany" = quality, this is quite old and today nearly obsolete. It came from the US governement after the world war 2. They said that all products made in germany had to have a brand "made in Germany". This was meant to brand products of minor quality (the evil war-looser). But since german handcrafting was indeed something of quality this branding changed. Since these days "made in Germany" is something of quality. And those sayings keep on even if reality is now different. Or at least in large parts different. German handcrafting is still something of quality today. But industrial products are as good or bad as all worldwide. Well, mostly πŸ™‚

    I never heard this association with coding, but it sounds funny.

  • Jrf says:

    I've never heard good code being called 'German code' before, though I have heard it being called 'girl code' before as in 'Code like a Cosmo Girl':

    I somehow think it's quite fitting πŸ˜‰

    (and yes, I'm a women/girl)

  • Jens Meiert says:

    You're kidding, Robert, right? Or, better, to what kind of code do you exactly refer to? πŸ˜‰ I feel that there is barely anything less appropriate than (even indirectly) comparing German web designers and developers to the old masters or, say, current industrial design leads in Germany (of which some are not German anyway).

    To put it another way, we all know that on average, 99.99 % of all web documents can not be considered "best practice" (even when measuring factors like formatting and indentation …), and Germany would certainly not excel with its 99.999 %. No matter how that sounds, it's the inconvenient truth I fear, based on unbiased idealism, and wrapped in a charming way to encourage people to try (even) harder (including this person, sure). πŸ™‚

    So I even though I know what you mean, I think that this is a compliment, some “rougeâ€Β that's not deserved and rather counter-productive (hell, entire Web Germany would love to use code that forces you to download a 16 TB Germany CSS “frameworkâ€Β when you somehow cross virtual borders). But … I've got less concerns when you'd say “Scandinavian codeâ€Β which looks more appropriate already πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    I'm German, too.

    And I think there are a lot of good German things (like there are a lot of good other things from other countries).

    I also know that there are developers in Germany who are able to write really good code. And I know many sites I did and I'm ashamed πŸ˜‰

  • Chris says:

    PS:Two German things that are unbeatable (in my opinion):

    Beer and bread.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for your feedback!

    To be honest, I know virtually nothing about the general skill level of German Developers, it's jut a saying coming from the German things which definitely are of good quality.

    Perhaps we should call it Scandinavian Code if you consider that to be quality! πŸ™‚


    I like the Turkey-safe concept! πŸ™‚


    Thanks for the background story!


    "Code like a Cosmo Girl" sounds great!


    The German beer is great; don't really know about the bread, though.

  • Siegfried says:

    German bread is indeed excellent. And the enormous variety is another quality aspect. But to be honest, this variety of bread, and the quality, is mostly an aspect of south Germany. So if any day you come to south Germany just go into any bakery and try some. It's really good. I know of nothing comparable anywhere in the world.

    I think, best bread is in Baden-Württemberg, the southwest region of Germany.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    If i come down there, let's make sure to meet over a piece of bread, ok? πŸ™‚

  • Chris says:

    Siegfried, I'm from Hesse (south) and have to object about BaWü > Hesse πŸ˜‰

  • Goulven says:

    I remember feeding poor code through an automatic translator because comments and variable names were in german…

    "German code" doesn't ring the same bell to me since then! πŸ˜‰

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Ha ha, I understand that! πŸ™‚

  • Siegfried says:

    @Robert: Just drop me a note πŸ™‚

    @Chris: Ich ebenfalls: Reichelsheim/Odenwald. Aber aufgewachsen an der Schweizer Grenze πŸ™‚

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