BerlinReunification did not come without its fair share of tensions between people in East and West Germany, as exemplified by this term. Besserwessi – a pun on Besserwisser (know-it-all) and Wessi (slang for someone from what was West Germany) - was used to describe a particular kind of West German who held a paternalistic and patronising outlook towards those from the former east and their ways – and wasn’t afraid of showing it in conversation. Think of it as West-splaining.
Those fed up of others making themselves superior used the term to lampoon them. Its use became so prevalent that it was made the 1991 word of the year by the Association for the German Language (GfdS), and was put forward for inclusion on a list of the 20th century’s 100 most significant words in 1999.
Wessis had their own term to hit back with, sometimes speaking of Jammerossis – “whining easterners”. The clicheéd terms are not as commonly heard today as they were around the time of reunification, but the tensions behind them still linger – a 2015 study marking 25 years of reunification found a third of east Germans surveyed still thought of their western countrymen as arrogant and egoistic, while in the former west, stereotypes of easterners as demanding but never satisfied were still prevalent. Germany might have come a long way in 30 years, but full reunification still has some way to go.