Those Germans

I spent a few days in Germany recently. Now Germans don’t tend to get good press. Boring, efficient, with clunky humour and a fondness for bad music – so the stereotype goes. My one German joke is: “Where would you be without a sense of humour?” Answer “Germany”. Ho Ho.

I should declare I’m married to a particularly nice German so I may be biased, but I’ve come to the conclusion that those Germans can teach us more than a few things about how to live. Here’re a few:

SUNDAY is a day off. Shops close Saturday afternoons and Stuttgart [where I was] is full of families and friends having kaffee und kuchen or strolling in the park.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT is world class and makes life incredibly civilised. You really can live without a car whereas you can’t in ungreen Ireland.

LEISURE FACILITIES like Das Leuze where we went swimming as a family are part of the fabric of society and brilliantly designed and run. Everyone buys into the ethos. People all shower before swimming, the pools are spotless and unpolluted with the horrible levels of chlorine that are found in our usually grotty Irish public pools.

– No one does CHRISTMAS better. Weinachtsmarkt, Bratwurst and Gluwein. Prima!

– Germans also treat people like GROWN UPS. Here’s a common sight – a photo of a local selling some fruit outside his house with an honour system for passers-by to drop money in a box. I can’t imagine this working in Ireland!

Another is the lack of ticket barriers on U and S Bahns. There is a social contract that means people buy tickets otherwise the system would not work. Often hotels don’t even ask for a credit card on booking in. Goods bought over the internet are sent and then billed for.

– One of the best kept secrets about Germany is the FOOD. When did you last see a German restaurant outside Germany? They seem to keep it to themselves. We had a world-class meal with family in a fantastic WeinStube called the Moiakäfer in Fellbach for a price you’d only dream about in Ireland.

The PEOPLE. In my experience, contrary to stereotype, the Germans I know are friendly, full of fun, know what irony is and have a self depreciating sense of humour.

– There is a ‘COMMUNITAS’ or sense of identity that values things like quality, social responsibility and care for others. My mother in law is in a nursing home provided by the state. It is staffed by a fantastic team, it is beautifully designed, it gives everything from full autonomy or full care, it provides all sorts of cultural and social activities … The contrast to the way we treat the elderly is almost too painful to dwell on.

DESIGN: everywhere you look, from trains to homes to architecture to cars to airports to furniture there is a value put on quality design. Again what a contrast with Ireland’s scandalously bad planning and poorly built noisy and hard to heat homes. I wrote most of this post reclining on a comfy seat in Frankfurt airport. Here you check in, go through passport control, bring in food and drink, browse duty free, relax in ample seating and THEN go through security at your own gate shortly before your flight. Simple genius! Why can’t all major airports do the same?

The ECONOMY: Germany has been hit by the crunch but nothing like Ireland. Compared to our inept political class, corrupt bust banks, NAMA, profiteering developers and mad levels of personal debt, German prudence looks pretty good!

– and of course the CARS: just down the road was the Mercedes factory at Unterturkheim. They know how to engineer an automobile.

Now maybe all this gushing is hopelessly naive compared to what it’s really like to live there …

Any Germans who read this blog got anything to say?


7 thoughts on “Those Germans

  1. Patrick, thanks for putting in a good word for us Germans! 🙂 I greatly enjoyed reading your thoughts on german culture! I think one of the things I always took for granted growing up in Germany was, how our houses are build (and yes, heated!). When I first moved to Ireland I was shocked and always cold. Yes it is different to live there – people are on time, not so laid back, strive for perfectionism in all they do and I think sometimes forget that we are human beings and not robots.

  2. Welcome David and Geraldine, thanks for your comments. We do seem to be playing ‘catch up’ with other European cultures (not just the Germans) in terms of civil public culture. I guess Ireland is a tiny country that for most of the 20th century was totally broke, then felt rich by borrowing billions and now is broke again!
    On the other hand I’ve met a lot of Germans who love Ireland exactly because it so unlike Germany in terms of rigid expectations and rules. As a follow up I’m thinking about a post on all the good things about Irish culture …. 🙂

  3. The houses in Ireland are indeed shoddy and drafty and also the rents are too high. My first room in Ireland cost me more than my apartment in Holland, at one point the plaster work came down off the ceiling because of the damp. Heating a home in Ireland is ridiculous expensive and the showers are awful.

    Nonetheless I was impressed with the speed Ireland made in the good years. Irish people have a decent work rate are smart and friendly. Too bad the crash hit the country hard. Irish people have to learn to become more competitive when producing and buying stuff. Every one in Dublin just takes a taxi whenever they don’t feel like walking, eat junk food in the street. Its much better to just save a bit more and spend it wisely. Do up your house, have a night in with food and wine and friends instead of spending all your cash in a glitchy place downtown.

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