We have all come across them at some point and have a useful function: all the Max and Erika Mustermanns in this world, who are also known by wildcard names. But what is behind the fictional people and what are their international siblings called?
Because Max Mustermann is not only widespread in German-speaking countries.
The known stranger
Max Mustermann is undisputedly one of the most famous names of fictional people in German-speaking countries. He is a daily guest on forms, ID cards and in authorities and otherwise he makes our everyday life a lot easier when we are once again not familiar with the bureaucratic chaos. Since 1978 the placeholder name has stood for German-speaking citizens and is increasingly displacing terms such as Joe Bloggs, Markus Possible and Hans and Grete. The latter were particularly widespread in Germany, as Johannes and Margarethe were among the most common birth names at that time.
But who is Max Mustermann really? In short: he is us and we are him. This fictional person has the benefit of representing us on all forms, applications and ID cards and helping us to understand how these are structured. In contrast, the average person is an average person who pays taxes well and likes to talk about the weather. But while this is intended to address a mass of people close to the citizen, Max Mustermann focuses on one single individual.
This is Erika Mustermann
But since Max Mustermann is a male name and fortunately the world is also developing in some areas, there is also the female version: Erika Mustermann. Nobody really knows why her last name is not “Musterfrau”. According to rumors, however, she is the wife of Max Mustermann. That he takes the name of his wife and is now called “Max Musterfrau”? That would be “too much of a good thing” again.
Erika Mustermann (sometimes she is actually also called Erika Musterfrau), achieved great fame in 1982. Because she was the fictional face on the first electronic identity card in Germany. And while Max Mustermann lives on Musterstrasse in Musterstadt, Erika Mustermann sometimes comes from Berlin, then again from Munich and now and then from Cologne.
Fun fact: Erika Mustermann can often be found on IDs such as ID cards or passports. Max Mustermann, on the other hand, rarely appears on official sample documents, but does appear on customer, credit and debit cards. Fun fact number two: In 2007, the model of a children’s passport was published for the first time, in which the Munich-born Leon Mustermann appears.
The international Mustermann family
The linguistic phenomenon of placeholders is also represented internationally. So Max and Erika Mustermann have numerous relatives and culturally different namesakes.
- USA: Jane and Joe Doe from Anytown (i.e. somewhere)
- United Kingdom: Jane and Joe Public
- Ireland: Síle und Seán Citizen
- Italy: Maria and Mario Rossi or Pinco Pallino
- France: Madame and Monsieur Untel or Jean Dupont
- Spain: Fulano and Fulanita de Tal (anyone)
- Norway: Ola and Kari Nordmann (literally translated this means Ola and Karin Norwegian)
- Denmark: Morten Menigmand (Morten “simple man”)
- Iceland: Jón Jónsson and Jóna Jónsdóttir
- Netherlands: Jan Modaal (i.e. Jan average)
- Poland: Jan Kowalski
- Israel: Israel Israeli (man) or Israela Israeli (woman)
Max Mustermann: He really exists!
In addition to all the fictional people, there is actually a real John Doe who does not live in Sample Street or in Sample City, but with his parents in Lower Saxony. The 17-year-old has no problem with his extraordinarily common name, like him Picture on sunday tells: “I’m the only one whose real name is Max Mustermann. I like the name, never wanted to be called anything else.“His parents are called Jessica Mustermann and Thomas Krogmann and they didn’t baptize their son like this because they wanted to pay him back for an indescribably long and painful birth, but because they simply like the name.
But the real Max Mustermann doesn’t always have it that easy. Because a teacher dragged the teenager to the school principal because she didn’t believe him that this was actually his name. And there was also an unpleasant experience on Instagram; because the network blocked his account because they thought it was a fake. Meanwhile, Max is already a little celebrity and can look forward to 13,000 followers in addition to the blue Instagram tick.