Nations tend to go ape upon winning the World Cup (soccer/football variety), so one can forgive Germans for leaving their shells to celebrate the recent event in Rio de Janeiro. Such emotion is usually displayed only at Fasching, when all inhibitions are legally cast aside.
Hundreds of thousands flocked to Berlin to welcome the team, which arrived on a specially painted Lufthansa 747 and then progressed in a foot-faced procession—atop a specially designed Mercedes truck—to the Brandenburg Gate, where the crowd had been waiting as long as 8 hours to ensure a good spot. That merely see—from a distance—some young men that are able to kick a ball better than most. The rest of the nation remained glued to a television, despite the two hour delay in arrival. (A baggage cart collided with the plane at Rio airport, perhaps as revenge for the Brazil-Germany debacle.) Football/soccer unites nations, unlike the divisions caused by football/baseball/basketball in the United States, which do not have national teams.
For years—decades even—Germans feared showing too much exuberance and never displayed the flag outside official buildings. Lately, the (ugly) red/black/gold are seen everywhere, including being worn as a cape. Everything American was copied, except public-display-of-affection for the national flag: that has soccer/football to thank for its growth.
Winning is great and adulation is gratifying, but now the pressure is on to perform equally well at the upcoming (2016) European Championship and the next World Cup competition (2018). And, all these guys start playing for their respective professional clubs soon, where no one cares about nationality. There is never any rest for the weary in the world of top level football/soccer.
In some cases, Americans have been clever in appropriating professional sports global championships: World Series, Super Bowl, NBA crown (whatever it’s called), etc. With the exception of the Olympic Games, the honour of the nation is never piled on the shoulders of one athlete or even a team.
Soccer/football (notice how multi-lingual I am and how considerate of non-Americans) is different. The World Cup competition brings out the worst of nationalism. People, who are rarely interested in sport, come out of the woodwork and from beneath stones to rave about something about which they know little. The main criteria is to root for one’s own.
Germans never fly the national flag, especially in one’s yard, except during the World Cup. For a short time, cars are adorned with flags, mirror decorations, and hood covers in the national colours. During games of the national team, streets are devoid of cars; bars are full, and something known as “public viewing” overflows with people seeking their like to cheer or suffer. Fears that nationalism might remind people of World War II are forgotten for the duration. The hopes of the nation ride on every game/match. Angie even flew to Brazil for the opening game and was back in the office the next day. Can you imagine Obama doing that? For soccer? Angie knew that voters would expect this and would appreciate her effort. No one questioned the cost of the fuel or her neglecting the crisis in Ukraine or battles with the UK over the European leadership issue.
Of course, similar scenes are repeated around the world in countries lucky enough to qualify for the competition. As teams fall be the wayside, countries will suffer psychological damage and spend the next four years analysing what went wrong and who is to blame. (If you don’t believe, check English newspapers, who lament or criticise their team’s early demise, the worst showing in 60 years.) Coaches are fired. Players, of course, return to highly paid jobs with professional clubs/teams.
Life goes on…
Why do Americans hate (or, rather, are told to hate) France, the French, and anything French. Few know anything about the country or culture the France. In contrast, Americans tend to like or tolerate Germany and things German (about which most know just as little).
History suggests that the US should be BFF with France, since they have always been allies and have never faced each other in war, unlike the Germans and British. Americans tend to forget (or never learn) that the Revolution was fought against the English (France was the only friend, because they hated the English), and Britain is the only nation to attack the United States. English troops set fire to the White House, but tend to be forgiven. Instead of appreciation for friendship, the French suffer denigration and insult. (Because of this, I refuse to order freedom fries.)
I believe the reason that American citizens are told to dislike France by politicians and media puppets is that the French do not respond to the beck and call of American leaders and tend to have a mind of their own. This is not allowed in the US worldview. Germans tend to be obedient by nature and suffer a bit from having lost two wars (with some rather appalling behavior during the last one). Like the kid that becomes water boy for the football team, because he is not big enough to play, Britain wants to hang out with the US and do its bidding. The French don't care about being liked or disliked; they just want things their way...just like Americans.
Whenever I hear politicians--primarily from US or UK--tout their citizens as the “best workers in the world”, I smirk. First of all, a good portion of those toiling in any country are foreigners, which surely skews the score. Second, and more important, nationality has little or no effect on worker performance. Foreign manufacturers (no English automobile firm has survived) erect factories in England not because workers are superior, but because of favorable taxes and cooperative unions.
Human traits are universal. People are either diligent or lazy, conscientious or indifferent, intelligent or stupid, healthy or impaired, loyal or false, etc. Nationality plays no role. People work hard for a variety of reasons: out of fear of losing a job, because few are offered; because of his or her character; to curry favor, etc.
I have seen a report comparing productivity in Germany and England. Guess which nation loses! One never hears German leadership (political, union, industrial) boast about their workers, but the numbers tell the story. Germans understand the importance of caring for workers, not the need for empty words.
From my limited knowledge of German political history, I do not believe that any party has governed the country after the war without a coalition partner. Germans like coalition government, because that is their form of checks and balances. The feeling is that one party would get into too much mischief, without a partner to keep an eye on things and raise the alarm. They have learned from past mistakes, and now are able to make new ones.
German is like a giant oil tanker, difficult to turn in a short distance. Because of that, minor ripples--or even large waves--do not cause course changes in this country. Germans like status quo, which major parties deliver, even if the partners change.
You’ve heard of an out-of-body experience; well, how about an in-body experience. That’s what happens when the air temperature equals or exceeds body temperature.
Today, the temperature was similar to the last time I was in Arizona in June. If I had closed my eyes, when exiting the supermarket, I might have mistaken being in Phoenix. But, I am in Germany, where recent weather has been colder and wetter than at Christmas. No wonder Germans are so moody and dissatisfied.
Complaints have changed from “too cold” or “too wet” to “too hot”. But, the mood will swing back in a few days, because temperatures are due to fall to half the current reading. Today, the mercury hit 38 degrees (look it up yourself), and Saturday is forecast to be 17 degrees.
Yesterday, I traveled six hours and went from summer to winter. I left Dubai, where the temperature was 35C and arrived in Frankfurt, where it was 5C. The forecast calls for the mercury to fall below freezing and snow is predicted to fall on elevations above 500 meters. Current temperatures are lower than those that we enjoyed at Christmas and the rain is colder. Only the grey skies are similar, but the festive cheer and presents are missing.
After five days of warm, sunny weather--as well as six hours of sunshine in the air--we traveled back in time in terms of temperature. We waved goodbye to the sun just before descending through the clouds during the approach to Frankfurt Airport.
No wonder Germans are so moody and dissatisfied...
I have been guilty of tending to cynicism. I can’t help but to call ‘em as I see ‘em. For me, a spade is a shovel, to dig your hole deeper; a club a blunt instrument to beat a dead horse; a diamond a piece of hard glass to tempt gullible people (mostly female, that most vicious of the species); but, a heart is something to have for the less-fortunate, the abused, and the underdogs amongst us.
With this in mind, I thought today about the difference between Germans and Americans, both fine examples of the species, even if each has evolved in different directions. Eons from now, paleontologists examine fossil evidence will notice variations in bone structure and teeth, both with evidence of different nutrition.
In general, Germans enjoy an excellent quality of life, but constantly complain. They know that life cannot become better for them, because of rigid social structures. Only lottery players hope for more, even if they know that they are dreaming. This is the only tax that anyone gladly pays.
In the United States, where streets are reputed to be paved with gold bricks life keeps becoming worse for the majority. Word about actual road conditions has not reached all foreign lands, and citizens do not understand that tax money is needed to improve all non-golden streets. Average living standards are declining, and the middle class is shrinking. Only the number of people sinking below the poverty level increases. Nevertheless, the American Dream is alive and kicking, with belief thriving unabated. Most seem to foolishly blame themselves or bad luck for dire circumstances and believe that the system and the Constitution allows life to become better, if only....
Unlike Germans, few Americans complain--except about the Government, regardless of the party in office. They know that improvement is just over the horizon and down the Yellow Brick Road...
Records are being broken in Germany. Not the athletic sort, because performance at the recent Olympic Games was disappointing for a nation glad to see its athletes in heroic terms.
Just as surprising as poor performance is the weather. New peaks in daily temperature have been reached...more than once. Heat confounds Germans and not because temperatures are higher. Behavior changes--for some, at least--because intense activity on hot days is difficult and debilitating. Germans are used to being called diligent and hard-working--not like lazy residents of Mediterranean countries. Sultry is a word never spoken. Heat has been even known to cause some Germans to utter a sympathetic and empathetic word about long-derided neighbors to the south, who tend to seek out shade and slow down in the heat of the day.
Fortunately, temperature only rises on a few days...and in some years, not at all. That is good, because people do not know how to act, few have air-conditioning, and too much would have to change. Most do not understand the need to close shutters during the day and to air out rooms in the cool of the night.
Mad dogs and Englishmen might go out in the noonday sun. Germans know only how to complain...
Watching Germans form a line (that’s queue in British English) can be entertaining, if one is not involve...or aggravating, if one is. A nation of disciplined people displays its true character, when the need to wait patiently for one’s rightful turn is involved. Compared to the English, who politely wait, Germans by-pass, push to the front, ignore others, are rude, and try to be sneaky--as if no one notices. Watching individual reactions to being caught at abusing one’s rightful place can also be entertaining and revealing.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.