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Deutschland: Love it or Leave it

In the past week I’ve read a couple of blog entries that essentially ranted about Germany. J ranted against Germany, going off on a number dislikes that makes Germany seem like the worst place on the planet. Shortly thereafter B. ruminated on her first six months in Germany, passing off interesting bits of advice. Generally speaking her ranting was positive, although there were a few negative points slipped into her discussion.

I felt that it was time for me to do some similar kind of reflection—without rehashing too much on issues previously discussed. Ultimately what I like about Germany is usually a reflection of what I dislike about the United States; and vice versa. Oddly, this is similar to what I like and dislike about Canada.

Some of these seem truly minor and trivial, but hey, it’s my list.

Like: Bread. The average piece of bread in Germany is just plain better. Hands down, no doubt about it—it has character and density. I realized this in July when I was shopping for buns for bratwurst in Bloomington. The soft and squishy buns I found at the grocery store were just plain wrong. Of course the Bratwurst was just plain wrong as well, but that’s a different issue.

Dislike: Getting the bill. At restaurants in Germany it is often a very difficult to get the bill delivered when you are ready to depart a restaurant. However this is actually a problem in America, for the opposite reason. I started getting incredibly irritated in the States when bills were delivered even before I had finished eating. In America bills are delivered with the expectation that you will immediately pay and depart even if you’ve barely had a chance to start eating. In Germany bills are delivered fifteen minutes after you needed to be somewhere else.

Like: Pizza. Unlike American pizza, Pizza in Germany is consistently good—a relatively thin crust with a perfect amount of toppings, baked to crispy perfection. It’s made me a pizza snob in the United States—I refuse to eat Domino’s or Pizza Hut ever again. The only pizza I adore in the United States comes from Greek’s in Bloomington—The House Gourmet Pizza is a pizza that I once dreamt about from the time I woke up in Frankfurt to the time I took my first bite 18 hours later, one connection and an hour long drive from the airport in Indy.

Dislike: Smoking; but I’ve discussed this before.

Like: Walking. In Germany it is conceivable to walk around town without the fear that you’ll get hit and that within a reasonable distance you will encounter a grocery store, a bakery, a bar, and other infrastructure that makes you realize that you are in a real community. As I noted earlier this summer, it is difficult to take long walks in Bloomington, unless you live in the heart of the city. Where I stayed there were few legitimate sidewalks—something that is true for a surprising percentage of the city. Here in Germany, I can’t recall having seen a street within a city that didn’t have a sidewalk next to it.

Dislike: Freedom of Speech. In Germany, like Canada, one doesn’t have the First Amendment that protects the freedom of speech (and association, for that matter). In Germany it is perfectly acceptable to restrict the free speech rights of Nazis. While superficially this seems like a good idea, I still believe that it’s better to allow all view points to be expressed, even if they are repugnant. Forcing people underground makes it difficult to identify people who believe that the Aryan race is superior—I’d rather know who these people are. I also recognize that it was freedom of speech in the United States that allowed gay rights to blossom—for it wasn’t that long ago that gays and lesbians were the active targets of governmental discrimination, as opposed to the mostly passive discrimination that is currently undertaken (ignoring the “don’t ask, don’t tell” nature of the military).

Like: Public Transportation. I have tangentially touched upon this before—I don’t think I’ve ever seriously pointed out that it is feasible to get from virtually anywhere in Germany to virtually anywhere else without using a car. Consider my occasional forays to the g-garage in Leipzig. I get there by walking 20 minutes to the train station, getting on a train for an hour, getting off the train, walking 10 minutes and hitting the club. Making the similar trip to Talbott Street in Indianapolis by public transport would require catching a bus in mid-afternoon from the place I stay to downtown, then catching the Bloomington Shuttle up to the Indianapolis Airport. From there I would catch the infrequent bus from the airport to downtown and then, I hope, find a bus that would take me close to the club. Unfortunately I would probably arrive several hours before it opens as there are no realistic late evening options.

Dislike: Wheelchair access. Ok, so this doesn’t affect me directly but man is Germany unfriendly to people in wheelchairs or with other physical disabilities. Few curb cuts, few elevators, and so many of the businesses have steps to get in the door. I’ll admit that historical legacy accounts for many of the steps, but that doesn’t explain all of the steps. (And oddly, I thought of this because I saw hot wheelchair boy again this week.) Random factoid: if I were in a wheelchair the Weimar Office would be off limits.

4 comments to Deutschland: Love it or Leave it

  • Annie and Matze

    Art. 5 GG: “(1) Jeder hat das Recht, seine Meinung in Wort, Schrift und Bild frei zu äußern und zu verbreiten und sich aus allgemein zugänglichen Quellen ungehindert zu unterrichten. Die Pressefreiheit und die Freiheit der Berichterstattung durch Rundfunk und Film werden gewährleistet. Eine Zensur findet nicht statt.

    (2) Diese Rechte finden ihre Schranken in den Vorschriften der allgemeinen Gesetze, den gesetzlichen Bestimmungen zum Schutze der Jugend und in dem Recht der persönlichen Ehre.

    (3) Kunst und Wissenschaft, Forschung und Lehre sind frei. Die Freiheit der Lehre entbindet nicht von der Treue zur Verfassung.”

  • From Wikipedia on Germany’s Freedom of Speech:

    Reporters without borders world-wide press freedom index 2002 ranked Germany 7th out of 139 countries (in a three way tie). Freedom of speech is guaranteed by Article 5 of the German Basic Law. There are, however, some restrictions, for example personal insults or hate speech (Volksverhetzung). The latter includes the propagation of neo-Nazi ideas and the use of Nazi symbols like the swastika, except for purposes of art, research or education. These restrictions are justified as being necessary to protect the democratic constitution of Germany. In fact the Basic Law does not protect Freedom of speech per se but the Freedom of expression of opinion which results in subtle differences concerning speech which is not meant to express an opinion.

  • J

    I have to admit that when I wrote that post, I was in a very bad mood due to lots of unpleasantries that had happened (including Deutsche Bahn leaving me).

    I have a love/hate relationship with this country. Sometimes I can’t imagine living anywhere else and other times I can’t imagine staying here. However, I have no plans to leave at this time so explosions like the one you linked to might happen from time to time. I don’t regret posting it and could easily delete it and pretend that it never happened, but my blog is a journal of my life and that’s what I was feeling at that time.

  • I don’t think what you wrote was bad, I think that its reflective of how you felt at the time. I would be lying if I didn’t admit there are times I get very frustrated here with how the system works–but as I suggest, much of what I like about Germany are only reflections of what I dislike about the USA; and vice-versa.