Thursday, July 21, 2016

Boot-Camp

Years ago, I worked in an Air Force office here in Germany, and had an associate who'd been five years in Germany.  In simple terms, he was the most enthusiastic and German-loving American that I'd ever come across.

There are categories of German-enthusiasm, at least in my book.

I'm in the accidental tourist-Mark Twain category.  You could drop me off in Bavaria tomorrow for a whole month on my own, and I'd get by fairly well.  I'd do it without the tour-guide, the tour-books, or any real plan.  I'd be happy with menu selections, beer choices, and just looking at the landscape.

Another category is the fearful cat category.  This is the guy who will spend three years in Germany and stay mostly on base.  He might make two or three trips around to see things but he'll always be on a tour-bus and operate under a plan.

My associate was one of the one-percent types.....the guy who just absorbs all things German.  He asked stupid questions.....dig into German history....and get weepy-eyed over wine festivals.

His observation was that there ought to be a boot-camp upon arrival in Germany....to give everyone a fair dose of German culture, food, drink, and reality.

We discussed this at length.  You'd be tossed out of bed at 6AM, and put on hiking boots to trek across some woods for an hour.  Then you'd have a hearty German breakfast, with coffee that was 200-percent caffeine, and 500 calorie croissants.  Then you'd get a lecture on the 500 road signs that might appear in your normal day.  By lunch, you'd sip through a hearty dark Bavarian beer, and get another lecture....this time on the proper way of handing the cashier 44-cents in one and two cent coins.  By the late afternoon, you'd sit and watch some stupid reality show about some poor German who'd screwed up and left Germany.  And later in the evening.....you'd sing 1930s songs at some local beer fest.

The thing is, as you look at new immigrants in Germany today.....they more or less had no real boot-camp introduction.

Hajii saw some video-clips of the German autobahn system and cute German blondes in Bavarian farm clothing while back in his homeland.  He got a couple of emails about all the great jobs and fine women of Germany.  So he made the six week walk and adventure into Germany.

Hajii has arrived and been put into some marginal immigration holding camp that doesn't look much like what he saw in the videos.  The food tastes funny.  The guy at the gate gave him 10 Euro for pocket-money today, but he discovered at the grocery just across the street that this only buys you a Pepsi, a can of Pringles, and a BiFi stick of mystery meat.  Hajii sits there and wonders....where exactly is the money and women angle to Germany?

Later, after Hajii gets accepted at the immigration office and gets a visa.....he discovers that they will give him a real voucher of sorts to help get an apartment, but then he finds that in this particular region, there just AREN'T any affordable housing units.  After six months of looking around, he finds a 20 square meter studio apartment that barely fits his needs, but he can afford it.

The German language class helps Hajii meet lovely German women which he writes back to his homeland about but they don't want to share their Facebook or private information.  Hajii describes these women to his buddies back in the homeland as "hard to talk to".

The truth is.....Hajii probably needed one of those six-week boot-camps that my associate talked about.  He needed real orientation about Germany, and at some point.....with reality staring him in the face.....he discovered that Germany just wouldn't work, then you'd give him some paperwork and a airline ticket to return home.

I know.....German politicians would hate this type of deal.  In fact, this boot-camp might scare off sixty-percent of the folks who came all that way for "paradise".  Just for me....finding the ninety-nine ways of taxation on a normal working-class guy.....it'd might freak me out and cause me to leave..

The problem with this idea of boot-camp is that intellectuals would want to get in the middle.  They'd want a reading of Musil and Schiller.  They'd want a three-course dinner each evening instead of brats, sauerkraut or pan-fried potatoes.  They'd want decent clothing instead of the Bavarian style.  They'd talk about great works of music by Handel or Bach....instead of Modern Talking or Lou Bega.  They'd hype up landscape around Berlin, but never drag you out to the rustic Hunsruck land.

Well....just an idea.

1 comment:

Jess Short said...

I guess I was also the Mark Twain Accidental Tourist type. I was in Korea for 2 days and already playing hwatu with a few older villagers. (Fun game, BTW) 12 hours in Germany and I was downtown Nürnburg munching on a Bratwurst and sampling a local brew. And in a few days, I learned about the great German pastime of Wandertag.
But, I was never indoctrinated into this, it was more like 'social immersion' than anything. One has to accept the ways and cultures of others to truly understand them. Something most will never understand even with education.