Saturday, June 1, 2013

Why You Need German Society and Culture

Years ago, it hit me that Mark Twain went off and spent some time in Germany around the winter of 1879.  It's hard to say if he was burned out or run down, but he might have been at some point in his writing career....where he just didn't have much else.

He ended up writing A Tramp Abroad in 1880 while in Munich.  And by 1884, back in the states....he wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Some people think this trip rejuvenated Twain.  I doubt if he'd want to admit that.  He was nearing forty-five and might have been near the point of thinking he'd seen just about everything, and then discovered....there just might be more.

It would be wrong of an American to condense Germany down into 300, or 500, or even a 1,000 page book.  A guy could write four hundred pages just on beer....making some folks weep on the fine details of brewing and expecting only a five-star brew at the end of a process.

It might be wrong for an American to settle on ten days driving around the countryside of Germany and thinking he'd seen just about all there was, and turn the corner on the last day to find some golden wheat field in some rural Germany countryside, that you just wanted to pull off the side of the road and gaze at this brilliance of wheat laid out for miles and miles.

It could even be wrong for an American to sit at some Oma's restaurant on the edge of some vast rural area of Germany and think he'd already had the best schnitzel ever, and discover that this old gal was about deliver a plate beyond mortal means of consumption.  And you just couldn't decline eating the whole plate of food.

Germans have this preoccupation with them....fixated so to speak....on giving only the best of the best. It doesn't matter if we are talking cars, lawn mowers, floor tiles, or fancy glass.

Germans tend to have expectations of schedules.  If that timetable says the train runs through this station at just won't settle with them in a pleasant way when it arrives at 1:29.  Comments will be uttered....the conductor might get a mouthful....and the station guy will note this in some little book.

Germans have a preoccupation with weather and the necessities of life when invoking the weather.  Summer and winter tires are a national thing....don't even bring up all-weather tires.  The discussion over chains?  A German will swear over the art of mounting them when in a bad situation.  The dozen odd sidewalk mixes for a icy situation?  You will use one of the dozen, period.....with no exception.

Yeah, Germans have a drawn tough look at Americans.  We aren't that precise.  We aren't always polite.  We aren't always acting within standards that people would expect.  We run a rough country, where crime is always discussed, and guns are issued out like candy.  At the end of the day....when some emergency comes out of nowhere, there's that American guy who just won't stand by idly and jumps into a mess, prepared for a fight beyond mortal expectations, or accepting a do-or-die statistical challenge.  Then the Germans kind of stand there, amazed how a crazy guy would do things like that without thinking a bit.

So Twain came and found this land at the end of the spectrum.  Crime wasn't rampant or even noticeable.  Folks sat on a hot summer afternoon, and sipped finely brewed and chilled beer (not too cold, but not warm either).  Twain likely ate some fine German cookies and marveled how German coffee was damn strong.  For all purposes, Twain was on another planet.  He'd found something to change his prospective and regain his creative edge.

Somewhere in this enormous world....there is this need for German society and culture.  We may not be totally sold on it, but it's a sense that out of just might find some place with a bit of order.  And just a bit of order....might be enough to make you feel different.


Anonymous said...

Great blog! Keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

Just came from 10 days in Germany - not for the first time. Enjoying your blog!