Marjory Frauts (marjory) wrote,
Marjory Frauts

LJ Idol Week 5 - Open Topic

There was an advert which ran on TV when I was in Germany which used to make me laugh. It also sums up some of the German attitude towards life.

The camera shows a traumatic scene, a kitchen, ruined by a deluge from the washing machine,an image of visceral dread. A workman is summoned and he spend some time rummaging around in the offending appliance's innards with the grimness of countenance generally reserved for life-saving brain surgery Eventually he pulls out the heating element and brandishes it aloft to show us all that it is coated in limescale. He shakes his head ruefully, turns to the cowering housewife and says, "You could have had 20 more years service if you only hadn't bought such cheap and inferior water-softener."

This is indeed what it is like hiring a workman in Germany. Whereas in Britain I would be sorely tempted to yell, "Shut up and fix my machine, you twerp! I'm paying you 30 quid an hour fit that!", few Germans would ever dare do so. Short of having PhDs in Mechanical Engineering themselves, the average German would meekly take the telling off and possibly even take notes for the next time.

For Germany is a country of experts and Germans pride themselves on efficiency and self-sufficiency. Years before anyone mentioned environmentalism, Germans were doing everything in their power to ensure that their cars ran better longer, that their ovens would continue to glow with a pure, clear light into the next generation and that their paintwork would last 1,000 years unbesmirched. I exaggerate. But not by much.

In Germany, this attitude pervades all aspects of life. If you go to a florist's shop, you do not merely buy your blooms from a florist, but from a Master Florist. In a stationer's, one does not merely buy one's pencils from a sales clerk, but from a fully-certified Stationery Sales Clerk. Similarly, the preachy washing-machine repairman of the advertisement is no mere workman but a Master Mechanic with special certification in appliance repair. It is not meant as a personal affront when one is told that one must be stark raving mad if one purchases this or behaves like that; it's meant pedagogically.

The only time this causes arguments between Germans is when there is a conceptual clash of methodologies.

I once watched in rapt horror and amusement as our favourite pub landlady, a touchy enough soul at the best of times (although we liked her for it) bandied wits with the man we called the Kamikaze Connoisseur. He watched like a hawk as she poured his drink, making certain that she selected the apposite vessel, that she held it at the correct angle, that the temperature was correct. Once the poor woman had served him, he leapt up with self-righteous glee.

"The head should be no more than 1cm thick!" he said, delighted to have caught her out.

"1.5cm," she said.

"1cm!" he returned.

It had settled to 1cm by the time they had finished arguing and he was lucky not to have ended up wearing it.

Germans. I miss them all.

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