Under pressure of the euro crisis, Germans have taken on the traits, ostentatiously and publicly, of an older Germany, with which recent generations of Europeans are unfamiliar—an aphoristic, proudly provincial Germany that tends to present everything as common sense or home truth. “You cannot fight debt with debt!” says a provincial finance minister. “Sovereignty ends where solvency ends!” says a national newspaper editor. “You don’t ask the frogs”—the Greeks are the frogs in this one—“if you can dry out their pond.”

Certain Germans are, for the first time in decades, willing to say they know better and to needle those who don’t. The rental car magnate Erich Sixt ran an ad in Greece over the summer: “Dear Greeks! Sixt is accepting drachma again!” The Germans’ newfound confidence is visible to anyone who comes from an English-speaking country drowning in debt. Volker Kauder, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats in the Bundestag, warned Britain on the eve of a November summit that it ought to fall into line behind Franco-German plans because “Europe is speaking German now.” This attitude worries some people. They see it as a step towards nationalism. “Go into a German football stadium sometime,” said a friend of mine who was raised in the West Germany of the 1980s, when patriotism was still taboo. “Suddenly everybody knows the national anthem.”

That is a misplaced worry. But the traditional German deference to American judgment, which received a severe blow during the Iraq war, has been further damaged by the debt crisis. On a train from Munich to Leipzig I ran into an executive who managed to convey a bottomless contempt for both America’s tort lawyers and its designers of derivatives. “In your country,” he said, “where you have to a put a sticker on your microwave saying ‘Don’t put your pet in here!’ how could you make these financial weapons of mass destruction?” Other Germans express impatience with Timothy Geithner’s frequent visits to lecture Germans, and America’s stewardship of its own debts is universally ill viewed. Economist Hans-Werner Sinn believes certain Americans support eurobonds as a way of having someone else pay for the losses of American investment funds. “I think everyone here understands that game.”