Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Won't Miss

As I part from Germany in a few days....I pondered upon the things that I won't miss.

Blitz Cameras. These speed trap cameras came to be a thing that I hated. Over fifteen years....I've been blitzed about five times.....but none of the notices ever came to me. So for two or three weeks.....after each one....I had this anxiety of sorts. Watching a news episode one night....I came to realize that the cops now have huge problems in court with their pictures. If two cars are in the total picture.....the judges have been tossing these out because the camera might catch car "A" while they are accusing car "B" of the crime.

Water with gas. If you go to a restaurant, and are extremely typically for your drink....with a bottle of water. The problem is that there is regular water and water with bubbles (with gas). Some restaurants don't have regular you get stuck with water with bubbles. Frankly, it's the foulest stuff you can dream up and I've had a deep dislike of the stuff.

Customer Service. To be honest, this is the last place on Earth that you can expect any kind of friendly help with a problem at a store or business. Over fifteen years and maybe eighty visits to a customer service operation.....barely twenty percent of my visits have been successful. The funny thing is that German hardware stores are usually the only place where a positive end will always occur.

Channel One/Two. Yes, without any doubt....the two state-run TV channels are the most corrupt and incompetent channels that you can imagine. They pay tons of tax money for sports events, which have limited interest across the spectrum. They run anti-US news episodes on a daily basis.

Potato Pancakes. Germans go nuts over them in December and it's a big food item at outdoor stands. Frankly, I don't see the big deal....and the greasy texture just doesn't appeal to me. If you have any stomach problems and toss down two of might as well drink half a glass of Milk of Magnesia.

Staus. These autobahn traffic jams make life miserable. There are locations around Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf that reminds you of Atlanta in rush-hour traffic....but twice as bad. I was heading up to Denmark once....and got into a 7-mile long stau. At some point....I turned off and drove twenty miles around this whole mess and added almost an entire hour onto my trip. Driving to Ramstein once....which barely seven miles from my house....I ran into a total autobahn stoppage of almost forty minutes. Nothing moved.

Parking Garages. The only way that a 500-car parking garage can hold 500 if you shrink the turn radius by 30 percent and make every spot as tiny as possible. The Opera Haus parking lot in K-Town is my worst nightmare. I used to have a pick-up and try to park in there. It just wasn't meant for any vehicle longer than twelve feet.

Anti-American behavior. It's rare that I ever ran into it. Over the past year, I've had a dozen people describe situations in Kaisersluatern, Landstuhl and Ramstein village where they ran into this attitude. Some were embarrassing for my associates. I've had two cases in fifteen years. There's nothing much you can say or do.....they want to let you know their feelings....even though you've never met the guy before in your life. You stand there....listen to their lecture for about 60 seconds, and then start smiling. They hate that for some reason.....I won't even speculate why. The more you smile....the less pleasure they get out of the experience.

The four classes of German society. It took me five years to realize there are four classes of people in Germany. First, there are the Hartz IV the bottom of the economic pile. Some are simply unlucky and deserve a better chance than what they've got. Then you have the middle-class guy whose worked hard....owns a house....goes to Italy once a year for a vacation....drinks beer (not wine).....and doesn't complain or whine about much. Then you have the intellectual crowd who own or operate the state-run TV networks or the political parties or the educational sector. The intellectuals pretend that they really are that smart, but you tend to realize the middle-class guy is typically loaded with common sense and a bit smarter. Finally, you've got the status crowd. The status folks can be fairly down on the economic pole or fairly up....doesn't matter. They have things to show off and make their status known. If you buy a new fancy car....and you've got a status guy next door.....expect him to buy a new car within a month or two....just to get one-up-on-you. The status crowd always ask how much you paid for a new item.

The rules. Frankly, there are about forty thousand rules to living your life in Germany. Don't wash your car on Sundays. Don't mow grass between 1400 and 1600. Walk your dog only in these locations. I could go on and on. I'm surprised the base doesn't have a 4-hour lecture on German rules to keep guys out of trouble as they arrive for the first time. I came to hate the massive list of rules. Some did make sense....the other fifty percent....didn't. I won't miss this kind of atmosphere.


Erik said...

"Anti-American behavior. .....they want to let you know their feelings....even though you've never met the guy before in your life. You stand there....listen to their lecture for about 60 seconds, and then start smiling. They hate that for some reason.....I won't even speculate why. The more you smile....the less pleasure they get out of the experience."

In a similar vein, check out Americans Anonymous

The Forrest Gump Treatment

If a Euro-weenie asks, say, "Why did you Yanks choose war?", you agree with them wholeheartedly, and then you go a step further. Reply as follows:

"It's because we are stupid, myopic, greedy, arrogant, treacherous, war-mongering, and wholeheartedly without a single ounce of love for our fellow man."

Then go "above and beyond the call of duty":

"…And if only we were as wise, as generous, as peace-loving, as respectful, as tolerant, as solidaires, as visionary, as clear-headed (lucides), as you (so obviously) are, then naturally, an era of encompassing and lasting peace would ensue on the entire planet. Why do you ask?"

Ideally, all this should be said entirely innocently, in a matter-of-fact manner, without the slightest hint of irony in the tone of voice or the facial expression. Somewhat like Tom Hanks in the movie Forrest Gump.

ian in hamburg said...

Well, it's good to see someone who bitches so much about how lousy they have it in this country actually has the guts to vote with his feet. Good luck... though I'm sure you'll find plenty to complain about wherever you land.

Thanks for the good laugh about German public television. At least they show what's really happening in your country. Too bad its citizens haven't a clue.

Anonymous said...

And I won't miss this blog. Haven't read that much bull since I left the U.S.

Anonymous said...

And where is the post about what you will miss (asks a German)?

Anonymous said...

I too left Germany (about 18 months ago) after nearly 15 years of living there. I speak German and am a fairly tolerant person and my decision to leave Germany and return to the States was not made lightly. I had become a "local" in many ways. Indeed, my father is German and I've spoken the language since birth and hold dual citizenship.

Eighteen months later I haven't given a second thought to my decision. I'm so glad to have returned to the States that there is little I miss about Germany.

@ian - The media offerings in the USA are so broad and diverse that I too had a laugh but only at your comment. Compared to the miserable quality of reporting in Germany the USA is a news lovers paradise. German media is uniformly biased. There is only ONE side presented to every situation and that is standard across all media outlets.

German news crews in the US during the Bush administration were not allowed to report anything positive from the US. I have family in the business who have admitted this to me.

Turn off the Fox News and see that the US has extremely high level news reporting and analysis compared to Germany.

@Anonymous January 11, 2010 - I admit, I do miss the bread selection in Germany but since I took a baking class before I left I make all my favorites in the US any time I like.

Anonymous said...

Ian is Canadian... That explains everything. Canadians are the people who define themselves by what they are not: American.

Quite a few hate America and Americans. But what they hate is their own dour reflection in a mirror of prejudice meant to solve the vast national identity problems caused by the Francophone population, mass immigration, and their historical treatment of aborigines.

So, fuck you, Ian.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts. Just more reasons to add to my overall boycott of this despicable country, along with all of their inbred, 'Children of Hitler' populace. Germany can rot in hell and from the looks of the sad state of the EU, I might just get my wish of their total collapse.

Anonymous said...

I only lived in Germany for a couple of months. But still, other than Blitz Cameras (which I don't know about), I second you on everything else. Germany is a dull place with possibly quite neurotic people.

Anonymous said...

Very amusing blog entry! I'm German and live in the States and was sort of like 'duuuhh?' when I read some part. Some things are just cultural but others I thought are not much different than the States. The rules for instance, there are at least as many rules here than in Germany. I haven't yet figured out who's the champion :-)

What seriously puzzles me is how on earth someone can live in a country for that long, fail to learn the language but claim to know the country inside out. I've lived in countries where I didn't and where I did speak the language and learnt that you miss an awful lot if you are not able to understand the local lingo. You may think you understand when in fact it's more likely you misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Germany for a total of about 5 years and Austria for one. I can relate to some of those comments. The staus are very irritating. There are too many inconvenient, petty rules. There is a great deal of just below the surface anti-Americanism, but it was rare that anybody confronted me with it in a personal way. Still, it grates on you when it is not well founded. I agree television sucks, except that I did find the documentaries of good quality. I didn't have much problem with parking garages, blitz camaras, pancakes or mineral water. I certainly didn't find Germany dull or neurotic. I found it quite interesting and stimulating. Maybe I was just in more interesting places or maybe it's because I'm a history buff.

I think I came to understand a great deal of the thinking, though some things must always remain a mystery to the foreigner.

Anonymous said...

To Ian in Hamburg:
If you think that german television show you what really is happening in the US (and pretty much anywhere else) then you are a lost case anyway.
BTW just check what you see in german media about what is going on in Venezuela? What you do not see anything??? Case closed.

Anonymous said...

I've been living in Germany for a couple years and agree with some of what you've said. However, the rules you mentioned do come with some benefits, for example, my area is very clean compared with the US. I live in Heidelberg, but most places I've visited are orderly and nice. I drove through Arizona last month and thought the state flower was the plastic bag.

Also, I can speak passable German. I believe that when someone lives in a country, they need to speak the language. Many Germans, rightfully so, have some annoyance at folks who expect them to speak English (even though they are usually quite capable of doing so). I typically attempt to converse in German, and then go to English if they are able. I've rarely had problems.

EURO said...

Americans are Nazis. This far right nation (USA) is a threat to humanity and to the world.

Please God, save us from this menace Third Reich Nazi nation.

Anonymous said...

Und tschuess! Matschbirne.

Anonymous said...

To Ian in Hamburg,

As typical of your ilk, good reporting is only reporting that you already agree with. So if you are reflexively anti-American, then piss-poor knee jerk German anti-Americanism is about all you care to hear. (When was the last time you read an article about the sad state of German Universities in German? Or about the fact that the offspring of immigrants in Germany have the lowest social mobility among all Western Countries?)

To Euro: No, Germans were the Nazis. America, thankfully, helped stop them. You're welcome.

I've lived in Germany for nearly 4 years now, speak German on a C2 level, but I have to agree with most of what the author said. I have found Germans to be the most neurotic population of individuals I have ever encountered. If their daily routine gets altered by one millimeter, you would think it is the end of life as you know it. One of the largest problems I have encountered, being Jewish, is that Germans opinions seem to have changed very little indeed. If you read German press, you can still see that they are obsessed with certain themes that flourished under the Nazis. One example is about how there is a worldwide financial network bent on destroying the German economy. Under the Nazis, this enemy was identified as the "eternal Jew" out to destroy the good Aryan workers of Germany. If you drop the words "Jew" and "Aryan" from this sentence, the vast majority of Germans would still agree. I had a conversation recently where a middle-class, proud "leftist" said that the economic crisis came to Germany only because, and here I am going to quote because it is seared into my little Yiddishe head, "The problem did not come from Germany. It was caused by a worldwide cabal of banking interests, like hedge funds, designed to squeeze money out of the Germans."

Wow, I guess some people still want to party like it is 1939.

ian in hamburg said...

@anonymous who said: Fuck You Ian. At least I have the guts to leave my real name and a link back to my blog.

Speaking of which, this blogger doesn't even have the guts to follow through what he says. He's left the country - or so he claims - yet still shitting all over it.

At least he's still got the attention of Davids Medienkritik, that bastion of lies about German media. Nutjobs the both of them.

Venta said...

Come on, man! :)

You sound so childish.

So you dislike "water with gas" and the "greasy" "potato pancakes",and that's why Germany is bad? :) Ha ha! Jeee! :) Well, at least they do not make you fat, for some reason, as the American Cola and burgers do.

"Customer Service. To be honest, this is the last place on Earth" - Believe me, you haven't seen much, if you really believe that.

And I just wonder what exactly did you do to make somebody whom you "never met" to "lecture" you.

After all you sound like a guy who just did not fit in.

I am not a German, I am Latvian, and here in Latvia we use to have the same problem with Russians who always "know it better" how to behave in our country (where to walk dogs and throw garbage, how to drive, what to build, what to say and what to believe in)and are irritated by the "stupid Latvians" who "for some mysterious reason" dislike them.

Sorry, but you made all those stereotypical jokes about "silly arrogant Americans" a little bit more plausible to me. :)

By the way we also have those Potato Pancakes...

No offense intended. Have a nice day! :)

Anonymous said...

Re: Venta - You do realise that you are guilty of exactly the same kind of silly biases you accuse the author of, don't you? You have distain for those who "know it better" then proceed to demonstrate that you think YOU know better. Hypocrite!

I'm an American yet never drink cola or eat burgers. I'm a vegetarian and run marathons. I have no fat friends or family. I like most things about Germany and German culture (Why else would I be reading this blog?) but agree with several of the authors observations. Customer service is horrible in Germany. The potato pancakes are no better for you than burgers.

It's time to let the simple minded anti-Americanism have a rest. There are serious issues that deserve criticism but the usual silliness about being stupid and fat are not based on fact. The PISA Study shows that Germans are no better educated than Americans and the WHO's statistics on obesity rates show that most of western Europe is nearly identical to the US average. Rates for the UK are even higher than the USA. Go ahead and look that up!

Anthony said...

I'm an American living in Germany. I speak enough German to get by. I like Germany (one caveat - I am a civilian who works for a US Corporation, so I don't pay German taxes or participate in German politics - if I did then perhaps I'd think differently?)

At any rate...on customer service: if you are an American who is accustomed to having a waitress in his face every ten minutes, then Germany will seem to have "horrible" customer service. However, I appreciate the fact that I can order my food and beverages, and then be left alone to enjoy my dining/drinking experience. If I need some attention, I'm not afraid to get up and ask an employee to help me. I've never been treated rudely or inappropriately when I've done this. To the contrary, I've often found that staff members (especially in smaller family establishments) will engage me in conversation, and take care of my needs. A little slow, but not "horrible". It's a cultural difference that must be accepted. We are NOT in the US - when in Rome...

Re. Anonymous concerning anti-semitism: I can't speak to the private thoughts of Germans with regards to the "eternal Jew" thing...however, there really exists something akin to a "worldwide financial network" pulling the strings of world economies. This cannot be denied. For example, the US Federal Reserve Bank is an organization (which is NOT controlled by, or part of, the US Government) and which (essentially) has carte blanche to manipulate the economy as it sees fit. Do some research and see for yourself - this is SCARY. Also, some financial figures (i.e. George Soros) wield incredible power to influence economies and politics. The fact that Europe went to the Euro is a prime example of how bankers can influence politics on a continental scale (much to the dismay of people who appreciate national sovereignty.) Why should a German's fate be linked to the financial fate of the P.I.G.S.? SO...the fact that Germans recognize this is more a factor of folks acknowledging reality, than any alleged anti-semitism.

Anonymous said...

Customer service is indeed subjective. Friendly service is not common in Germany. I lived there more than half my life and once I arrived in the USA I was impressed with the friendly service I got here. In Germany I freqently get the "It's not my job!" or "It simply can't be done!" response for any request out of the ordinary. In the USA, at least in the west, I usually get the impression that the person helping me REALLY wants to help and will seek ways to satisfy my requests.

That said, the training and subject knowledge of many US employees is not as high as in Germany. I get the impression that auto mechanics in the USA are chosen from people who dropped out of high school and I find the employees of almost any big box store almost ignorant of the products and services they sell. In Germany, they may act irritated by your mere presence and grumble about having to do anything extra to help you but you'll at least get a reasonably accurate answer to most questions.

I agree with Anthony about how nice it is to not be bothered with constant questions about 'how I'm doing' while eating in Germany but I've often found myself sitting for a half hour or more to try to get the bill so I can even pay. I'll call that one a draw.

By the way, I really like both countries and consider myself German even though I intend to live in the US permanently. I consider myself fortunate to have both cultures in my personality.

Anonymous said...

@Anthony - I'm a US tax accountant who specializes in expatriate taxation. I do hope you consult a tax advisor about your situation. US citizens and greencard holders are taxed on worldwide income. It doesn't matter whether you work for a US corporation or not. There is a foreign earned income exclusion that allows you to exclude the first $91,400 (2009 tax year) of income from US taxation and a foreign tax credit to help offset US taxes on the remainder of your earned income. You still have to report any outside (passive) income to the IRS and will be taxed as if you were present in the USA. Filing requirements are the same as they are in the USA. If you make enough money to ordinarily require that you file a US return you must also do so if you are overseas even if the foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit mean you end up paying no US tax. There are state specific filing and reporting requirements as well.

As to the conspiracy theories I can only say that there cannot be any concerted effort or secret societies intent on controlling the world economy. People will always work to their own self interest causing secrets held by more than a handful of people to eventually come to light. The world economy is too complex for any ideology to exert enough influence on it to make any difference.

Anthony said...

@Anonymous tax guy - do you have a business email address? I need a new tax advisor. In addition to my family income, I also own a couple rental properties in the States under separate LLC's. Can you help me?

Anonymous said...

I am German who has been living in the States for 5 years but I am now living in Berlin. Of all the 'complaints' mentioned I can mostly relate to the critique of German state television. It is really extremely one-sided, often openly anti-American and tends to bend over backwards in order to stay within very rigid, politically correct guidelines. The irony is that most Germans think it's the best and most unbiased news reporting in the world and that whatever the 'Tagesschau' says must be the truth and nothing but.

The customer service is probably worse than in other countries in Europe, but it has gotten a lot better in the last 15 years. I also agree with what was mentioned, that the waiters in the US can be extremely annoying when they ask you whether everything was alright about every two minutes. I might want to add, that it also takes some getting used to, when they pull the plate away the second you finished your last bite (with you probably still chewing).

Antisemitism, or Antizionism is an issue. There is actually a term for it: 'Israelkritik', and it's on the rise unfortunately. Germans (but not only Germans) like to picture Israel as a violent country – 'who does the same thing to the Palestinians that we did to the Jews back then' – so that they don't have to feel so bad about their own history. That's a bit simplistic maybe, but I am certain this whole guilt complex plays a big role. Most of them also never really got over the fact that it took the 'stupid Yanks' to liberate us from Nazism. They will never really 'forgive' that, if you know what I mean.

As for the rules: yes, there are many here but I experienced a quite heavily regulated daily routine in the US as well. Just the way you are treated at the post office reminded me of the worse stereotypes about former Eastern Germany. I've also never been in a country before (and I have been to many) where I was told so many times that I can't stand/walk here, have to form the line there, have to go back over there to do this/that and so on.

I know (and I appreciate) that Americans generally put a bigger emphasis on getting along well and live together decently than Germans (who, despite of all of their claims of being a 'social' country, actually behave quite rudely with each other), but sometimes I felt like in kindergarden.

I agree, that we are a neurotic bunch. We are so hell-bent on being liked by others – especially after what happened 65 years ago - that we don't realize that we've lost all lightness. We try to be perfect in everything which in turn doesn't make us very likeable. But we are working on it.

memomachine said...


1. Federal Reserve: it was created because having Congress mess with the money supply *directly* turned out to be a bigger problem than you could possibly imagine.

Or rather imagine Charles Rangel in charge.

2. IMO it's long past time the USA and Europe broke up. Europeans want to create a 'counterweight' to the USA so I find it hard to credit why the USA should continue spending the money, effort and lives to defend them.

Let's dissolve NATO once and for all and the next time you folks in Europe need someone to come on over and save your ass ... don't call us, we won't call you.

Anonymous said...

@memomachine - You don't really think the US has a military presence in Europe to defend the Europeans, do you? Anyone who knows anything about geopolitics knows that the US keeps forward deployed troops to defend its own interests. There isn't a nation in the world that would attack an EU member country. Britian and France have nuclear weapons and extremely well-equipped conventional militaries that would deter even the most aggressive adversaries.

No, the US simply wishes to keep troops overseas to watch over its own economic interests. There has not been a fight for "freedom" since World War II and even then there was not a single day when freedom in the US was at direct stake. All of that 'our troops are fighting for our freedom' junk is simply jingoistic blather that gets the Fox News crowd all fired up.

Besides, most Europeans, while appreciative of the US effort during WWII, know that the Soviets had already defeated the main Nazi military capability. It was the Soviets more than anyone who "saved (Europe's) ass" from the fascists.

It could be argued that the US 'saved' Europe from the Soviets during the Cold War but I suspect the huge numbers of European soldiers would also expect a bit of that credit too. It wasn't just Americans waiting at the Fulda Gap.

By the way, I'm as American as they come. Born and raised. I've just studied history and politics more than you have.

Anthony said...

@anonymous - you said, "There isn't a nation in the world that would attack an EU member country. Britian and France have nuclear weapons and extremely well-equipped conventional militaries that would deter even the most aggressive adversaries."

Really? England and France "well equipped"? By third-world standards perhaps, but in terms of ability to withstand all takers...I'm not so sure.

I believe we must learn from history. In the last 300 years, a great many battles have been fought on European soil. It just stands to reason that more conflict WILL happen again at some point. To think otherwise is very optimistic, but also quite naive. Conflict is inevitable - history proves this.

Also, the Soviets wouldn't have defeated the Germans if Hitler didn't have to worry about fighting on two fronts. The German army had far superior equipment, personnel, and tactics than the Russians. And if one reads their history, they will find that the Germans were within spitting distance of Moscow. The German's defeat on that eastern front was caused more by logistics errors than by the might of the Soviet army.

I'd like to point out that it was the USA who defeated Rommel in the desert. It was the USA who spearheaded the invasion of Italy. It was the USA who spearheaded the invasion of Normandy. It was the USA who routed the Germans in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. To say the Russians held majority stake in liberating Europe is pure fantasy (I think Patton would have slapped you for even thinking that.) In fact, I encourage you to visit some of the American gravesites in France and Belgium if you want to get a sense of the scale of the US fighting man's sacrifice for freedom. This spirit endures in our ethos, it's not "jingoistic" and not just on Fox News (ya jackass.)

Bottom line: US still maintains a presence in Europe because of legacy foreign policy (i.e. WWII victory, post war reconstruction efforts, cold-war treaties, etc.) US presence in Europe remains advantageous insofar as it offers superior strategic positioning to respond to threats (both to US and European interests) originating from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Is the US positioning a result of altruistic motives? Certainly not; but it is benevolent, nonetheless. I personally believe the US should let Europe fight her own battles, but since the US has allowed itself to be foolishly pulled into a "global" financial network, we have no choice but to share the fight against European enemies - whoever they may be.

Anonymous said...

@Anthony - I've worked with the British military and can tell you that not only are they well equipped but their training is at least as good as anything I've yet seen in the US military, SF included. I haven't had direct contact with the French but much of their military equipment is comparable to that of the USA. In fact, in missile technology and computer guidance systems they outperform their American counterparts. A quick look at Jane's online would reveal that.

As for withstanding all takers I'll simply point out that the might of the world's greatest superpower has yet to defeat a bunch of determined adversaries with 1970's Russian equipment and a few horses in Helmand Province. The Iraqis put up a longer fight than the Japanese did in WWII. I suspect the Europeans could mount a bit more of a defense than the Iraqis. Of course, a more sophisticated foreign policy than Bush and Co. managed goes a long way toward avoiding conflict in the first place.

I'll invite you to spend some time reading about the 20 million Russians whose graves line the roads from Moscow to Berlin. The timeline of the war is not a secret. I seriously hope you don't think the US's entry into WWII marked any kind of turning point. The Nazi forces had been reduced in numbers by 45% by the time the US entered (Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; available at any library). The invasion of Normandy was a tactical failure by the Americans who failed to achieve ANY of their stated objectives. Thank God for the British and Commonwealth forces who managed to gain the advantage on the beaches there and who took out the German artillery behind the lines. This is just common knowledge. I've been to Normandy many times on holiday and have visited the landing beaches and ALL the cemeteries there. The US isn't the only nation with its young men buried in that soil. Don't be so myopic. Seriously, a few hours of reading some of this history would serve you well. Turn off the Glenn Beck and read some REAL history books written by historians and first person witnesses. Don't limit yourself to American sources only. There are a great many histories of Europe and its conflicts written from the viewpoints of ALL participants.

The world is too complex to be seen in simplistic black white dichotomies. "Our" ethos is indeed not only represented by Fox News (heaven help us if it is!). The world is not a vacuum and blowback is only to be expected when a careful assessment isn't made before blindly 'shooting from the hip'. Mission accomplished? Not even close.

. said...

Great blog, love the sarcasm. Not going into detail about your views, but I've lived in Germany long enough that your reflections on the rules and the German class system are quite accurate.