Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is Germany . . . ?

I don't know if it's something new in Google, or some kind of upgrade in Firefox, but suddenly Google is giving me search suggestions as I start to type into the search box. Presumably these are the most popular searches starting with the letters I've typed. It turns out this feature can be pretty entertaining so I started typing in all sorts of things just to see what would come up.

If Google is any indication, here's what everyone is apparently wondering about Germany. I'll try to provide some answers for these poor Googlers, some of whom seem quite desperately in need of more information on this fine country!

Is Germany in the EU?
Is Germany part of the EU?

Is Germany expensive?
This is all relative, of course, and it depends on where in Germany you're going, but as far as Western Europe is concerned, I'd say Germany is not expensive at all. Relative to Eastern Europe, it's expensive. If you're coming here from the US, it's expensive because of the exchange rate for US dollars, although that's been improving over the last couple of months. Of course, just how much more things cost depends on where in the US you're coming from. Everything will seem ridiculously expensive if you're from rural Illinois. From Boston, it's not bad.

Is Germany socialist?
Is Germany a socialist country?

I'm not sure what it means to be "a socialist country." Many things in Germany are socialized, for example, health care coverage. From my perhaps naive perspective, it seems that it really makes for a nice quality of life here.

Is Germany a communist country?
No. East Germany was communist.

Is Germany a good place to live?
Like any country, there are ups and downs, but my overall answer would be: Absolutely!

Is Germany a European country?

Is Germany in Eastern Europe?
No. It is centrally located. By the old political boundaries, it is in the west.

Is Germany in Western Europe?
See above.

Is Germany in UK?
Good Lord. No. The United Kingdom is a separate country.

Is Germany landlocked?
No. Germany has coastline on the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Is Germany racist?
A country itself can't be racist, but its citizens can, and some citizens of Germany are racist. There is definitely a line between Germans and non-Germans, and that line for many may be or feel stronger if race is also involved.

Those in Germany: Would you answer any of the tougher ones differently?
Those not in Germany: Any other "Is Germany" questions floating around out there?


  1. Being a german, i would say: Yes, there are a lot of racists. A racist country? No, not really or let's say it depends on where you are from. Some nationalities have a much harder time here than others. And it isn't always about the colour of your skin.
    In general it is like everywhere in the world. Uneducated people make for a lot more racism.
    I think most of the younger generation (if educated) aren't racist at all.
    I for one can say, i enjoy different cultures and nice people from all over the world.

    btw. Love your blog. Longtime reader, but not a great commenter ;-)
    Keep up the good work!

    Sascha from Ostfriesland (East-Frisia)

  2. I personally liked your answer on is Germany racist. That's just like asking if America is rascist - it's an inadequate question. Or rather, it's asking the wrong question.

    I do feel that rascism is rampant here ... sometimes to the extreme. But moreso, the tolerance for other cultures just isn't there ... when you're talking about living here. What I find intriguing though is I read an article a few years ago that talked about how Germans are some of the best travellers to have in a country - because they like to learn as much about a culture in a country as the country itself.

    An odd paradox, I find ...

  3. alice said:

    But moreso, the tolerance for other cultures just isn't there ... when you're talking about living here. What I find intriguing though is I read an article a few years ago that talked about how Germans are some of the best travellers to have in a country - because they like to learn as much about a culture in a country as the country itself.

    An odd paradox, I find ...

    I don't find it so odd; interest in other cultures elsewhere doesn't necessarily mean they want to have exposure to anything but "their own" culture at home. I neither agree nor disagree about Germans' tolerance for other cultures inside Germany — I guess I don't have enough personal experience in that area. But I am interested to know what examples of intolerance for non-German cultures you can cite, alice. Got some personal anecotes (yours or otherwise)?

  4. It has to be a google upgrade, because it also pops up when I use IE. Love your answers!

  5. Yes, that's a new feature. Quite annoying sometimes, isn't it? It's called Google Suggestions and was in "beta status" for a long time. And it is, by the way, a built-in in some browsers' search bars for quite some time, including Firefox...

    Great answers, though!

  6. *deep breath* someone who has only lived in East Germany, I would say that racism is rampant for me, a person of color. I may have been "sensitized" because of my knowledge and prejudice of German history, but I just can't ignore ´certain things, like when my father-in-law calls me the "Hausdame" out of earshot. Or when the bouncer of certain clubs ask for my ID and won't let me in a club when I don't have my passport, but lets obviously underaged guests through the door with nary a word. So for me, yeah, I would say Germany is racist.

    And be careful in saying that East Germany was communist. I know it obviously WAS communist but any die -hard Ossie is gonna argue till they're blue in the face that they were Socialist, and it can be hilarious when you try to ask them what the difference was. I sure can't tell!

  7. According to the wikipedia article on Central Europe, Germany is there. (I think the term 'Central Europe' feel out of favor during the cold war, but maybe it's time for a comeback.)

  8. Sascha: Welcome and I hope to see more comments from you! :)

    Alice: I think many Americans also see a difference between how much of other cultures they want at home and how much they want when they travel. It's perhaps not as strong as with Germans, as Americans are cool with Chinatowns and Little Italies and K-Towns etc etc, but Germans aren't as keen on super-Turkish areas.

    Cliff: I don't have any exact stories off the top of my head (except the girl who expected me to be horrified at her story that a whole street in Berlin exists that's all Turkish, and I was completely confused) - but there's definitely more acceptance of non-PC comments here than there was in Boston. Of course in rural areas of the US those same comments would be just as OK as here or even more so.

    Bek: Thanks!

    Sandy: Thanks for giving it a name; now I can look it up! :)

    Arashi-Kishu: There are definitely more awful stories of racism coming out of the former East than over here (with foreigners getting attacked etc - but they have happened here too).

    Mary: You're right, you don't hear much about a 'central Europe' designation, but geographically Germany is quite central.

  9. Sascha,

    Uneducated people make for a lot more racism.

    Not true. Many of the Nazis were well-educated and very racist. It's not even true in general. This is just a bias of those who feel that they themselves are "educated," whatever that means.


  10. @ jeffrey
    Racists and Nazis aren't the same.
    You can be a racist without being a nazi.

    I have simplified the "uneducated" part. But racism generally evolves from ignorance, lack of information about other cultures and is often a thing that comes out of the inability to see your own failures or low self-esteem. You will find the most racists in areas with poor education and bad economic situations. Regardless if there aren't a lot of foreigners at all. They are looking for a scapegoat.
    And another thing is the human reaction to generalize. If something bad happens to you by someone - people tend to blame the whole group. And dividing people into groups by certain features is a primeval instinct (and at that time a very useful thing)

    Sure there are "educated" people who are racists or behave like one.
    But most of them are just using racism to gain something - be it power, money or whatever.

    Same with the "intelligent" Nazis - only a few of them were genuine racists. They needed a scapegoat and a target for the less educated masses. That doesn't make them look less racist to the outside, but is something completely different. And the rest of this group (the younger ones) were indoctrinated by the propaganda. They never knew anything else. So it is not a surprse, that they were true believers in racism.

    Maybe "uneducated" isn't the right word. Let's say lack of information.

    Sorry, but my english just isn't good enough to get in a deeper discussion about this.

  11. Do Germans value rules more than common sense?

    Hundreds of examples here, but here is one ... if you drive enough here you will realise that the rules allow for some things that we in english speaking countries have handled a little less elegantly but more effectively, e.g. Stop Signs versus the local reliance on "Rechts vor Links." Common sense would be to eliminate the ambiguity rather than to expect everyone to slow down and remember their proper role (they typically do neither, which is why a German coming at you from the right (mixed metaphor???) will expect you to back up out of the intersection even though you legally own it once you are in it, as they believe they have an inalienable right-of-way.

  12. What a great Idea! Can I reprint this? This would be a great regular feature for an expat in any country. Sweet. This is going to become a meme. I have a feeling.

  13. Mike B: I think they do. On average they seem unwilling to challenge rules even if the rule is overall to their detriment or even to the detriment of the group. Change = bad!

    Yankee: Feel free! :)


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