27 November 2010
Stuff I learnt in Germany last week
  1. Bi-lingual children become mono-lingual at about the age of six.  At that point fitting in at school is more important than fitting in at home.  Presumably, they never entirely lose the ability to understand or speak the deprecated language.  I hope so anyway.

  2. Germans are not happy at the prospect of being asked to work until 70 so that Greeks can retire at 60.

  3. Only two German states (Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg) are net contributors to the national budget.  The Ruhr ain’t what it was.  This is rather frightening.  Because if every country in Europe is bust except Germany and every part of Germany is bust apart from the South the bailouts are not going to last long.

  4. Women feel safe to walk around Munich at night.

  5. Actually, Munich is a really nice city.

  6. Germans like their training courses.  If there’s an activity and that activity has a training course they’ll have the training first thank you very much.

  7. I would love to comment on the beer but, sadly due to my under-developed taste buds, for the most part it all seemed the same.  But none of it was bad.  So, I guess it was good.

  8. Germans are big on winter tyres. 

  9. Germans smoke in groups.  One of them decides it’s time to light up and so they all get up and go outside.  One out, all out, so to speak.

  10. I still don’t understand the Germans.  Every other country in Europe, yes (well, as well as I can) but Germany, no. It remains mysterious, unpredictable.

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  1. Did you drink in the Hoffbrau Haus? If so, did you notice the ceilings?

    Posted by mike on 27 November 2010 at 08:11pm

  2. 1. My hunch is that the deprecated languages come back really quickly if the adolescent / young adult can find a reason to bring them back. If not, they probably go away completely. I have a hunch that the child we are talking about will at 18 be fully trilingual in German/English/Russian, because being able to speak English in the modern world is essential, and Russian is useful.

    2. The Germans will hopefully realise that this bargain was forced upon them by their own ruling class rather than the Greeks, and will thus overthrow their own ruling class rather than hold a grudge against the Greeks.

    3. In any country, you would expect about half the country to be net contributors and half the be net recipients. My guess is that a fair chunk of the former West Germany is fairly budget neutral, and the rest would be perfectly fine, but slightly poorer, if Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg were not there. “Net recipient from budget” is not the same thing as “basket case”, although being a net recipient is a bad thing none the less, as it leads to resentment.

    4. This is an unequivocally good thing, as women should be able to feel safe to walk around anywhere at any hour

    5. Munich is a really nice city.

    6. This is fine, as long as the training courses are good training courses rather than things that lead to meaningless credentials. As far as I can tell, German training courses are indeed good.

    7. The beer is excellent.

    8. I am uninterested in German tyres.

    9. This is indeed the case. Was this also true in Anglophone countries a few decades back. I have certainly heard people who served in the US armed forces a few decades back explain that they took up smoking in order to enjoy the smoking breaks.

    10. I don’t think there is any such thing as “The Germans”. There is a lot of diversity. Of course, there is a lot of diversity in “The Spanish” or “The Italians”, too, but I don’t pretend to understand them.

    11. Yes, we visited the Hofbräuhaus. I looked at the ceiling. I have no idea if Patrick did, although he seemed to be enjoying the general ambience.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on 28 November 2010 at 02:35am

  3. (3) Note that this is something I vaguely recall having heard/read somewhere. I certainly couldn’t produce a cite.

    (9) I don’t smoke and neither does anybody in my team at work. This is a crippling disability in office politics, as we have no idea what is going on until things are officially announced. But none of us is willing to make the sacrifice.

    Posted by Alan LIttle on 29 November 2010 at 01:04pm

  4. “I don’t think there is any such thing as “The Germans”.”

    That seems prima facie absurd. Is there such a thing as “The Australians” or “The British” beyond the literal sense of somebody from Australia or Britain?

    Yes there are lots of different sorts of people in each European country, and yes, the advent of cheap and convenient travel and communications no doubt has lessened or erased much of the cultural differences “enforced” by the boundaries of the nation-state (including language). And yes talking about “an essence” of German or Italian or whatever does sound a bit ... mystic… but I think there is a case to be made that nationality-based peculiarities among people may still exist but are so subtle that they are only likely to become apparent to an outsider in little things or unusual circumstances. Subtle as to be persuasive but resistant to clear and easy articulation…

    A further semi-thought: are not some European peoples (or a preponderance among sizeable minorities) becoming more xenophobic now than at any point in the last few decades (for largely economic and psychological reasons)? And is that process not - ironically - contributing to the destruction of any of the remaining subtle national differences as the people look to embrace the more obvious, trivially nationalistic things (e.g. certain TV shows, flags, languages, national dishes, holiday destinations etc)? I’m thinking aloud here, not working any of this out…

    BTW: On the ceiling of the Hofbrauhaus they still have (or had - I was last there six years ago - but I doubt it will have changed in that time) what looks like Swastikas which have merely been painted blue and white, the colours of Bavaria. I always wondered about them, but I never got around to asking questions…

    Posted by mike on 30 November 2010 at 11:09am

  5. but I think there is a case to be made that nationality-based peculiarities among people may still exist but are so subtle that they are only likely to become apparent to an outsider in little things or unusual circumstances. Subtle as to be persuasive but resistant to clear and easy articulation…

    I suspect the point I was trying to make is that yes, there are nationality-based peculiarities, but there are also other collectively-based peculiarities within nationalities as well. Most simply, these are regional differences, but some are less simple than this. Do people tend to identify in other ways withing Germany rather than (or in addition to) as Germans, and how much meaning is there to these other identities or characteristics.

    I’ve traveled in the north of Germany quite a bit, and Hamburg seems culturally quite different than Munich. Dusseldorf is something else entirely. I think Germany is a country with a lot of cultural variation, and I am not sure to what extent trying to understand Bavaria is going to help much in understanding Lower Saxony.

    Perhaps I am stretching too far.

    Posted by Michael Jennings on 30 November 2010 at 06:17pm

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