Sitting at the gate in the departure lounge of an airport, your writer chanced a look at the expressions on the faces of his co-travellers. Admittedly it was 7 am local, 4 am in Germany and a twelve hour flight was awaiting us all. The sun was already shining on clear blue skies though and a fantastically mild day was awakening.
But the impression that the other passengers made told a different tale. Mostly German, they were probably tired, having to leave so early. Possibly a few weren’t allocated the seats they wanted for the long flight. It could have been that they didn’t want to leave that tropical paradise. But I’ve seen these expressions in other climates, at other hours, in other airports at varying distances too.
What if their lack of euphoria goes deeper? What if a desire to stay is actually a desire not to return home? What if Germans don’t particularly like Germany? What if Germans don’t like other Germans, their brethren? What if the sense of brotherly love is low.
The most striking impression a foreigner receives upon arriving in Germany is the lack of smiling faces and a certain indifference on the streets. Why might that be? As someone who lived in Germany for three decades, and has called it home, I question whether an underlying distrust or wider skepticism of others may be the cause. Most Germans earn well, live well, have a good social system, material belongings, good infrastructure, freedoms, ease of travel and much, much more. So those can’t be the reasons.
Is it then merely a case of national shyness? Of waiting until someone else makes the first move? A little of both? But Germans are perpetually not so happy or content with their lot. So is it national angst?
Extended periods of denial of the facts in German government and a refusal to question how the country can afford its social state has kept most Keynesian policies alive. But many citizens face further years of diminishing standards of living and lowered self-esteem. And they know it. In spite of frequent turn-arounds in the economy, the German way is proving also to be flawed.
The quest to dish out blame for the misery being incurred is now as strong as ever and soul searching continues in this command civilisation. However, the wonderfully peaceful society all enjoy in Germany is also thanks to an extremely low level of anarchistic tendencies. Just imagine if countrywide contentment with true German efficiency could one day prevail.