Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looking for German Germans

You know what one expects from Germans. Precise people, very careful to detail, everybody arriving on time... Let's call it the Prussian German stereotype, because that is its historical root (as Germans tell me). Well, it turns out that:
  • Here this is not so true. Offices are often not so efficient, people cross the road (by foot) without craving for a green light first (no cars is often enough), and so on. Danish people were more in love with green lights, but sometimes it looked like they needed help to cross with a red light. "Help" like seeing me crossing first (I'm not so sure, but I've seen it happening enough times to remember it). I've even been cheated, at least in part, by a mobile cards shop owner here. And when I went complaining, he was almost making fun of me, just because I expected what he told me to be true!
  • Possibly, who told this was just looking at German Swisses. They are Prussian still nowadays. And IMHO that's why they don't like immigrants. When you sell newspapers by giving the material possibility to take the newspaper, pay it, or do both things, if you want (of course it's illegal to do otherwise, but the machine doesn't prevent you from doing that), you don't want foreign people to come and maybe steal something. But Swiss people are also famous for having invented just chocolate and cuckoo clocks, so there must be something wrong there, and I have an educated guess. But more about this later.
  • For sure, Germany has a North/South difference like the one in Italy. And for the place I live... it depends. The only sure thing is that Bavaria/Bavaria, with its Oktoberfest, is in Southern Germany, and this helps explain why it's so different from the Prussian German stereotype. But some people would call also this Land as Southern Germany.
But I know "real German" Germans, they're just not here. They're actually the reason why I stopped hating stereotypes, while still recognizing that they are as misleading as any average. Once again, mathematics(the concept of average) is too simple to describe reality well (OK, an average has some value, but as a De Crescenzo character says, if your body is half in a freezer and half in an oven, you're statistically great). The difference here is that even people who hate maths tend to simplify too much the reality of life.
Another difference is that culture stereotypes are always limited by their very nature of judgement by a culture about another. And anthropology shows us that that becomes plain wrong, as soon as judgements are involved. More about this (hopefully) later.

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