Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Germany and Cultural Survival Points

Different cultures survive....year after year....decade after decade.....century after century....off some key survival points.  It's embedded into their mind and customs.

For a German....it's what makes a German....a German.

Some people might be able to throw around a hundred such points on Germans.   For me....I sequenced these down into ten key points (which are in no order).

1.  Repeating a process.  If you go and view a BMW manufacturing line and test the guys there.....month after month....the window installation guy comes back to install the window in the same correct manner....over and over.  When you go to a city landscaping division...."Huns" has a Monday through Friday schedule....for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, and it doesn't change.  If you asked the head guy of a German vinegar company about the formula for their product.....it probably hasn't changed since 1898.

Across German society, it doesn't matter if you talk education, government, commerce, banking or IT....people are taught a process, and they repeat that process.  I admit.....it may be a bad process or a screwed-up process.....but Germans are very keen to keep repeating it.

2.  Structure.  When you get introduced to the German language.....you eventually come to grasp about ten weeks into the matter....that 90-percent of the whole learning process is simply structure.  It's like some light-switch flips, and you realize all this structure stuff and how it repeats over and over.

But it's not limited to just language.  There's structure in education, government funding, taxation, sales, enforcement, and even regular plain politics.

It's like connecting the dots, and you eventually realize that each dot has another point, and you continue with that trend to see the big picture.

3.  Liquid Refreshment.  Believe it or not.....German culture could not survive without beer, wine, or the hundred odd liquors that exist.  Ceremonies, fests, and celebrations require liquid refreshment.  Germans have been that way for several thousand years.  Anyone arriving and having some anti-alcohol sentiment.....is probably in the wrong land.

4.  Respect.  Since the days of the Romans, and through the Catholic Church days....onto the Kaiser and Duke days....through the 1920s....through the Nazi era....and over the past fifty-odd years....Germans have stressed respect.

There is respect for authority.  There is respect for positions.  There is respect built into the language itself.  There is respect for the law.  There is respect for the police.  There is respect for anyone who has a PhD or high degree.  There is respect for judges.  And there is respect for life.

Anyone who shows up and skips out on the respect business....is just setting themselves up as a "loser" in German society.  If you lived in some dark end of the Earth and just about everyone lacked respect....and you think you can continue that trend upon arrival in Germany....well, you guessed wrong.  You'd best keep a bag handy and start planning an exodus of some type.

5.  Regulation.  One of the key features of German society is that they have a natural tendency to write rules.  Lots of rules in fact.  Part of this goes back to standards and expectations in society.

When they say you need a first aid kid in the car, and it has to be in accordance with such-and-such regulation, and it notes the 16 things within that first aid kit.....they aren't joking.  If the cops stop you and do a stupid random check of the kit....and it's by year 2011 standards and it's missing two key items from the 2014 era.....well, that's a ticket....quick and easy.

There are tens of thousands of regulations in German society.  You could spend years of your life trying to learn all of these.  At best, I think most Germans will claim they are up to date with forty-percent of the rules.....the ones that usually matter in everyday life.

If you are a new guy in Germany, and you hate rules and regulations?  Well....it's something that you can try to slide by.....but it'll keep getting drilled into you....about a standardized life and various rules that accompany it.

6.  Clever-Rocket Scientist-Intellectualism.  Lets be honest about this.....not every German falls into the category of C-RS-I (Clever-Rocket Scientist-Intellectual).  But there are probably 300,000 such people in Germany....who are capable of walking in Einstein's shadow.  This ought to worry most people because of the high ratio of smart people around.  But a lot of these people waste time devising window sensors to detect rain and turn the wiper on automatically.....or they work on an apple that stays fresh for months and months after being picked.

Some of these people attach themselves to politics and drive some Germans almost to  tears with arguments balanced upon the most marginal topics you could imagine.

On a daily basis, you might bump into two or three of these people.  On the nightly news chat forum, you might get six minutes of Einstein-like chat.  Sometimes....it's a positive thing.....sometimes not.

Sometimes, you even get one of these people in as Chancellor....and you get some brilliant words or clever policy decisions.  And sometimes, you get a recipe for disaster.

7.  Fix-It-Mentality.  This goes hand-in-hand with the C-RS-I routine that I just mentioned.  A couple of years ago, some mental giant came up with the idea of taxing truckers for their miles on the autobahn....saying they should pay more than the average car-driver.  So the only way to make this work.....was to spend literally billions to up sensors around the country and force trucks to have sensor receivers that would talk and deduct funds from some account of the trucker's company.  When they delivered the sensors and all the bells and whistles.....it was a jacked-up piece of "crap" that simply didn't work.  They spent roughly three years trying to fix the final product.....going way beyond the completion date....before they resolved everything and forced it upon the truckers.

BER, the new Berlin Airport?  Basically the same way.....it was built screwed up and they've spent three years trying to fix it and there's likely to be at least two more years before it'll be operational.

You can go down various major jobs in Germany.....all the same way....all requiring a fix-it-mentality.  Germans are good at this.

8. Must-Be-Right.  Germans can be argumentative at times.....mostly because they have this feeling of being right.....99-percent of the time.  It is part of their culture and part of the way that they survive.

What happens when you get a number of Germans into some argument?  Just settle back and enjoy the conversation....it'll be like five or six Einsteins sitting in a room and arguing to the ninth-degree about E equaling energy but each in some small subtle but different way.

9.  Humor.  On the landscape.....Germans aren't exactly a humor-filled society.  So, you need to stand back and catch the brilliant moments when shift schedules have to change and various reasons are laid out why Johan can't be on this shift, or why Maria can't be on that shift, and it's apparent that no one can really cover the job that Marvin does, and even though Gerhard has been there for thirty years.....he really doesn't know that much about the other functions of the office.

On some occasions, German humor will be cynical and dramatic....to the point where reality and fantasy meet. It took the Germans almost fifty years to find humor within Hitler.....but if you watch Er Ist Wieder Da......it's loaded with Hitler-humor.

10.  Even if you ask a German what makes up a German.....they really can't say.  But in their heart....they do feel that you need training to become a German and to understand the nature of the "beast".  If you asked how many hours this integration training would take.....everyone has their humble opinion.....some say eight hours.....some forty.....some 240 hours.....some will just wink and say eight years.

To survive as a culture but not really clear on how it is to be a German?  Yeah.  It's a confusing stage of the culture.  Some professor came out today and even said that Germans themselves.....ought to be attending integration classes.

So, if you are an American or just some odd character who trekked into Germany and wants to stay a while.....you might want to think about these Germans and their culture.  It might take a while to assimilate.

1 comment:

Jess Short said...

Outstanding observation. I've lived here for over 23 years and still have not fully assimilated. I just chalk it up to being the hard headed American independent. You are correct about rules and structured living, after 20 odd years in the military, Germany seems like a good fit. One of my favorite pastimes here is to engage people in conversation, and sit back and watch were it leads, German mentality is quite amazing. One thing is for sure, after you start the topic, be prepared for them to discuss this to death. (I do love to 'Poke the Bear' on occasion)
I really have no complaints (except I can't find a decent Hot Dog). Survival here is a learning experience to the grave, one which I will enjoy until the end.