Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's the last days

Well, this is it, the start of my last week in Europe. As part of my wrap up I'm going to talk about the differences between Germany and America a bit, think of it as the conclusion section of this blog. Today I'm going to talk about some things that are undoubtedly better about Germany (this will be accompanied by pictures of lake Konstanz and its' many ducks).
Keep in mind these are just opinions so you don't have to get all huffy. Also it's by no means a complete list, so maybe I'll add more later when I think of it
1) The whole traffic system. Not only does Germany have the famously speed-limitless autobahn which I've had the pleasure of driving on several times, but everyone follows traffic rules here. I'm not talking about senseless things that you'd get a ticket for in the states but common coutisies that you just usually don't expect. Not a single time, for example, did someone pass me on the right. Traffic in the right lane always moves slower and the left lane always moves faster. If you're in the left lane and someone is coming up really quickly behind you, you simply get out of the lane and then they pass. It's like everyone really has agreed to all this, there hasn't been a single exception. Another thing is that I haven't heard anyone honking their horns. They're all just cooperating to make driving as efficient an experience as possible. How very German of them.
2)Related to above, the laws. They are way ahead of us in social progressiveness in Germany and not just because posession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized. They just don't bother with victimless crimes here. I have never gotten a parking ticket in Germany and you'd better believe I've done some illegal parking. Additionally the cops themselves are courteous and helpful, almost as if they got into this job not to tourture teenagers but actually to assist people. I was pulled over once because I was driving poorly. It was really late at night and I was nearly falling asleep. The police officers didn't even test me for drunkenness, they just took my word. Not only that but I got the impression I wouldn't have gotten a ticket even if I were drunk. No harassment, no intimidation, they just helped me. They told me not only how to get to my destination (I was a bit lost) but they even told me of a nearby hotel that wasn't too expensive. Now THAT is a public servant.
3) This is a tough one, but the way they have dealt with their grusome past. Almost everyone here takes the whole WW1, 2, holocaust thing very seriously. The anti-nazi movement is much bigger than the nazi movement, they teach about it in schools non-stop, there are memorials everywhere, and everyone is really, really sorry. More than that though, the government actually admits wrongdoing, and actually pays for it. My grandmother still gets checks from Germany. Classy. I don't see Japanese or African Americans getting any reperations and the bone we threw to the Native Americans is insulting. This is the only way you can deal with a thing like this and they really get it right.
4) Non-standardization. Of buildings, restaurants, stores, people. Nothing is the same here. The rooftops are slanted and the streets are often not a uniform size and direction. People aren't trying to fit in to one particular mold here and you can't find more than one of the same restaurant in almost any town. Sure sometimes you long for the safety of standardization, but most of the time it's oppressive. They have chains here and there, but it's not like America where most small businesses have been swallowed up by enormous chains.5) Environmental stuff. They really take it seriously here, it's something I just assumed people didn't have the capacity for after living in America for so long but boy was I wrong. The amount of recycling is astounding. Every trashcan is subdivided into 3-6 sections and everyone does their part. There is almost no litter and everyone is also conserving water and electricity. It's like someone sat Americans down and told them how serious everything was going to be if they didn't clean up their act AND they actually listened. It really makes me wonder what is wrong with my country that we are so behind on this.Ok, that's all I've got for now I think. I am sure there's more, but this is already like the wordiest blog entry even and this gives you an idea. Love this country, xoxo, Jesse


Anonymous said...

how nice of you to notice all these things.. i'd agree with all the points, just that i feel like the standardization happens in other ways here - for instance, there is a standard house color called 'eggshell' (creamy yellowish white) and sometimes, whole neighborhoods are painted with it. i think that despite all the chains, your country addresses individualism much more than mine. just think of the Germans' endless conversations about fitting into something, wanting to belong somewhere, complaining because they won't have the job they've got now for a whole lifetime, etc.
other than that, it's a very good idea to give your blog this conclusive section. makes the whole thing readable like a book, and you know there's blooker prizes and everything.. :) i didn't do that with my america blog, well partially i guess because i never got to actually leave this country, when i left i knew i'd be back soon. anyway, keep up the comparing, i'm looking forward to learn more about the good things of my country.

~SaS~ said...

I agree, really interesting concluding section! :)
Plus: as an American studies person I love to get to know what you think about Germany/ Europe from the comparative culture perspective.

I agree on less standardization in Germany, even though there are some standards, like the whole driving issue you mentioned and the "mutual agreement" to drive according to the rules. I think this is partially because the licence-classes are pretty good here.. hell, I was jealous of a school friend who went to the US for college year and came back with a driving licence he just got within like four weeks, age 17... takes way longer over here.

The thing about the past is true as well, but even if we are a good example (and I wish other countries would pay more attention to their past and take responsibility, too!), they are cutting down history lessons now and people are complaining about that it is too much WWII discussions. I disagree. Because I believe in the power of role models.

Also for welfare state issues and stuff, it is pretty good here, but it gets difficult because many people abuse our system like grabbing money from the state and bringing it somewhere else.

Again, less responsibilty at times, also for folks who don't give a damn about generation contracts like you get security and a very good education during your youth, then you "pay the people back" by using this education to the best for the country as a whole. Gonna be a big deal in the future....

Ah well, long comment..
enjoy your last days in good ol'Germany/ Europe. (:

And keep on comparing and writing about the differences and similarities you noticed! ;)