International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Germany
Nationality of Hot Dogs
In Defence of German Culture
endless discussions and lots and lots of hours spent churning and
burning inside about all the terrible torturous things in U.S. history
you begin to see the points of the very analytical, drilling and
more than direct German students and their criticism of the U.S.
and its role in the world (keep in mind, this is VERY pre-Obama,
like 10 years).
You feel the shame,
the guilt, the helplessness of wanting to change an entire nation, its
history, its leaders and its industries. Then after a few days, then
a few weeks and then months of this strain you have the realization
that every country has a bad history, bad leaders and bad industry,
but you really can't change that single-handedly. You can't change anything.
You can't even change your own thoughts.
Of course, this can be quite frustrating even depressing in its
own right, but it is also a huge relief to know you are not the only
one with a bad rep abroad just because of your Nationality. But you
do not have to tell this to the Germans, you discover. They invented
the phrase "national guilt trip".
Instead of blurting out this exciting and relieving eureka it is best
that you keep your remarks reduced to positive reinforcements, such
as: the Germans are liked in the world, its just the history that makes
it difficult and that most people are ignorant of it anyway and aren't
interested in the Germans themselves, culturally. You must keep it light,
otherwise you will have a bunch of sullen Germans on your hands silently
contemplating their doomed fate while staring into their red wine. This
can be depressing, but they invented that word, too, along with the
French, I believe. (The French would argue that they had invented red
wine on the same evening as they invented the word depressing, but I
wouldn't believe them.)
But, really, Germans have it rough in the world. The facts of the Holocaust
make it difficult to have a "happy-go-lucky" outlook, which
is really only possible if you wear your rose-colored glasses and live
in a bubble all day long while reading Don Quixote. The Germans have
a lot of baggage that each and every one of them carries around 24-7.
Although it may be slowly wearing off, the stains of their history are
most visible to themselves, which is a quite humbling something
a lot of Americans could use as well. But not many Americans feel like
they should take personal responsibility for the atrocities committed
against the Native Americans and the inhumanities of slavery, for a
On a light note (We have to keep this light, here folks, it's getting
gloomy!): the Germans have an appreciation for all things Swedish, which
makes them, as a Nationality, somehow vulnerable and endearing, kind
of softer. Sure, they appreciate Italian shoes like the next person,
but it's really Sweden that everyone secretly dreams of. From the amazing
and successful school system to large sturdy cars to meat balls (Kotbullar)
the Germans admire yes, even worship everything Swedish.
(I have purposely avoided the semantically-laden word IKEA here, although
it is at the center of and probably the catalyst for the Germans' Swedish-fetish,
leading us into the wonderful and enduring topic of globalization. But
let us postpone that jaunt until next time.) The big yellow and blue
sign is Sw eden's number one export they have no problem exporting
their nationality and everything that goes along with it.
Germans have their Mercedes, BMW and beer. Did I forget something? Oh,
beer. People appreciate the highly tuned powerful machines and the highly
refined tasty belly juice, but there is no further interest in German
style of decoration or German style shoes (Birkenstocks are not a style,
they are just comfortable.) There's the English Garden, the French Lifestyle,
Italian shoes, Swedish design, Spanish architecture, Swiss watches,
Hungarian grapes, Greek houses and even Romanian lettuce. Well, I mean
Romanian castles with mad counts in them. Every imported good carries
the smell, background and essence of a culture, a nationality, a people.
While most of these goods go a much longer way than their initial function
or use, enlightening, brightening and enriching our lives, there is
always a slight hesitation when the topic is imports from Germany (not
counting hot super models). There is this, "Oh. ...[pause]... Nice!"
attempt to salvage the sudden awkwardness, but a little of that aftertaste
lingers. Appreciate their great work ethic and all, but that's it, thanks.
To make it short: Germans are the opposite of patriots they feel
too guilty to have any national pride, or at least show it. However,
thank goodness for soccer and the World Cup in 2006, which breathed
life back into the German flags and the people holding them. Now it's
European Cup time again and the patriotism is back and thriving. Carefully
and quietly, but they are enjoying this new found feeling and freedom.
The Germans are so careful not to show any patriotism that they do not
even have a national hot dog at sporting events. I think every nation
obsessed with sports should have a national gourmet hot dog style. (Although
I admit, there are limits to what you can do with hot dogs. But where's
the sense of excitement there?) In the U.S., it is decorated with ketchup,
mustard and relish, in Denmark with mustard, chopped pickles and cronions.
The Germans have borrowed this and are crazy about Danish hot dogs.
(Of course, an American would understand something very different under
the bakery title "danish". But the Germans have an answer
for that: "Americaner", as in a pastry, as in a thick sweet
pancake dipped in a sugar coating on one side. (Perhaps inspired by
the pancake. Or maybe an attempt to honor American culture: flat but
At any rate, instead of reading a really thick book on world culture
and it's evils and thrills, all you need to do is go to a soccer game
in Europe or a baseball game in the U.S. The food, the smells, the fans,
the people and the atmosphere is what unites them: they all eat hot
dogs, yell names at the umpires, drink their beers and cheer insanely
for their team.
Doesn't everyone have the right to do that, no matter what their history
© Lois Tietzel Feb 2009
loistietzel at yahoo.de
Purgatory for the brain - the delightful bliss of being nowhere
at all flying over the Atlantic Ocean: how places shape the way
you think, be, type, eat, view the world in its entirety.
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