The Germans Weigh-In

The longer I do this blog, the more it’s getting passed around to people I don’t know.  It’s been really fun to find out who’s reading it and get to know the newcomers.  A few of these newcomers, like Alexandra and Ina, are German and are still able to enjoy my examination of their culture and have even extended a hand in friendship to meet for coffee, tips on sauna protocol, and other funny and nice gestures. They were directed to my blog via Anton (Alexandra’s brother) who is married to my friend Pamela and living in the States. It can’t be easy to see their country scrutinized and, sometimes criticized, and I really appreciate their good humor and thoughtfulness. 

And, going into this project, I realized I should be prepared for the tables to be turned and to accept German opinion about Americans and even about me personally.  Fortunately, no one seems to have a personal gripe with me yet but I’ve been gently reminded about some American shortcomings such as our general ignorance of history.  Of course, there are many Americans who know the Battle of the Bulge has nothing to do with dieting but there are too many who don’t.  

Then again, I’m not going to apologize so hard for that weakness because it is also one of our great strengths.  We don’t dwell too long on what happened or what could happen. We move forward, we go, we do. But, I’ve learned that since Germany sits in central Europe, its history of invasions by other countries has, understandably, burned insecurity into the collective psyche. For example, our landlord needed to enter our house for a repair recently and I was not going to be home when he could come.  So, I told him I would hide a key in our garden and he could enter while I was away.  The man was riddled with anxiety thinking about all the people that could find that key and wipe out all our possessions or do even worse. “Gosh, this is a pretty peaceful area, have there been any problems? ” I asked.  “Oh no,” he said in surprise.  “But there’s always a first time,” he gloomed. Sure, he could be right.  But, our contained neighborhood only has people that belong there and the garden is large and covered in flowers making it impossible to find a hidden key. Optimistically, I hid a key and told him where to find it.  When I got home, I found him standing guard outside the door.  He had not looked for the key. I felt bad for worrying him so much. 

Anyway, one of my favorite responses to the blog came from Ina.  We had never met and her email came out of the blue.  She had been sent the link to my blog and “I did a print out (oh jesus, almost 10 pages…) and I took all the paper with me. I forgot about it. Today I was in the middle of a big traffic jam on the “Autobahn A 5″ – I spend almost 2 hours sitting in the car, listening to radio and watching all the angry faces around me in the other cars. Stop – I remembered myself to have those papers in my handbag and I started reading. It has been so entertaining … I couldn’t help laughing … and laughing …. And suddenly I realized how it was to seat [sic] in a big traffic jam and just laugh… Can you imagine the faces around me now?!” Sure, her message is complimentary to me which is always nice. But I love the tempo of her words and, most of all, am relieved my observations and predicaments gave her a smile and not an insult.

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One response to “The Germans Weigh-In

  1. Hi Ellen, it’s me – Ina. I just want to say hallo to all readers! It’s been so entertaining to “observe” your life in Germany. Love to hear more.
    Take care, Ina

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