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Customer Review

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Revealing, 30 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Springtime For Germany: or How I Learned to Love Lederhosen (Paperback)

This book is quite revealing - and in this sense probably better than the author expected. And for sure different: It does reveal much more about the author than about Germany.

Yes, the author heads beyond the Monty-Python and The Sun cliches about Germany, but, unfortunately to get stuck in just some others. It is refreshing to read some funny words about the German Geistesgeschichte, how romanticism influenced German writers, artists, philosophers and probably also politicians. But explaining everything? Well, this is as if you would like to explain the sex life of British working class teenagers by referring back to Queen Victoria.
Okay, cliches are wonderful fun, got that, but a running gag might get slightly boring after maybe the first 200 pages - especially, when the idea behind it is so obviously wrong. One could call this attitude superficial.

The book also reveals a lot about how little the author knows about the world, and about his own Britain. Many examples presented as typical German are so abundant in the rest of the world, often, because they have been exported from the United States. Take the sex life: Yes, Germans are not exactly prudish, and for many of them it is
quite natural to swim or enter a sauna naked. This might indeed be something typical. But then this absence of subtlty and erotic in a swinger club, is this typical German? I wouldn't expect a US or British etablissement being a place of finesse or sophistication, not even a French one. And actually, when looking at Ann Summers Lingerie, female British students and Victoria Beckham, I am quite surprised to
read such a comment from a Brit.
Another one: The highly official German word for sex is something like "sex traffic". Well, not really erotic, I agree. But is sexual intercourse so much better? ;-) I think Germans use their word as much as the British theirs.
Actually, this whole language thing is rather ignorant: Yes, German has got the ability to connect words and thus to build really long words like
Arbeitnehmer-Entsendegesetz. But could at least the author of a book about Germany have the knowledge and fantasy to imagine that also we Germans don't like such monstrous words? Recognize that this ability of German sometimes helps to create short and elegant words were English need loads of "ofs"? Understand that a German bureaucrat's language is as dull as a UK bureaucrats language ("health and safety regulations") and pretty far away from world literature. But nothing, just the cliches again.
But, although a lot in the book is about sex, there are so many other things sold as typical German which they are not: Take the walking. Donald was so surprised of all the Germans on the Island of Ruegen, leaving their car and then walking for two or three miles to the famous cliffs. Well, one of the first things about Britain I read in my Lonely Planet was that Brits are keen walkers. And I have seen loads of them, along the North Norfolk coast, in Dartmoor or in Scotland. Could it be that the author never visited any such place in the UK?
Another thing is the allegedly Puritan character of the Germans. Everything Donald sees is dominated by the Protestant work ethic. Maybe he learned about it at school. But he didn't learn that half of the Germans are Catholic and the German Lutheran church is much more laid back and liberal than, say, the Calvinist church or the puritanic variants in Scandinavia or Scotland. Or was the author mixing up the two words Puritan and Prussian? Quite similar, eh? But also the Prussian working ethic is quite different from its cliches, and again dominated only parts of Germany.

And then, for British readers maybe most important, the part about humour: Also here, Donald was stuck. You might get a flavour of the difference between German and British humour when you first go to a German and then to a British pub. The level of laughter will probably be the same in both places. But: The things people in Britain laugh about, are actually mostly funny. The author did not manage to get an idea of this typical teutonic sense of so-called humour which you will only understand when you spend new years eve in Germany and watch one of the public TV channel (not N3, they show Dinner for One). Furthermore, humour is Germany is (as everywhere) a very region specific and also class dependent thing. In Northern Germany, people have a quite deadpan humour without spending many words. In some areas of Southern Germany, instead, people are quite chatty. And, yes, others have no sense of humour at all. But nothing about regional or class influences, just the cliches again.

There are good bits in the book. I found the part about fairy tails nice. And the one about Trimmdichpfade very funny, also some others. But then, having everything pressed into this theory of romanticism, sounds as if the author were, well, a bit too German :-). So, even British readers who are looking for some nice German
bashing or for some new clichees might be disappointed.

I agree that the spelling in the book is dreadful. But it just tells another story about (the publisher and) a country, where newsreaders emphasise the second syllable in Sarkozy (and the first in Nicolas) and almost no graduate is fluent in a foreign language.

It would be fun reading a British book about Germany, getting to know new things about your home country, all the peculiarities you have never thought of, with passion and humour. But this is not what this book is about.

Douglas, Norwich, UK
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