Roger Boyes on his dear Krauts

It’s hardly a surprise that English journalist Roger Boyes’ book on the Germans, which I previously posted about here, is at the top of the sales charts. Here’s Boyes’ analysis of the German character:

No other society so regularly seeks the views of foreigners. How are we doing, Dutch or Italian or indeed British correspondents are asked on television. Are we messing up again; are we failing Europe; are we incapable of change? It is difficult to imagine British television producers showing a similar interest in the opinions of the outside world. This vulnerability makes Germany attractive. Interesting, even, for those of us who are paid to live here. You never know from one morning to the next whether politicians (or your doctor or your pub landlord) are going to be crippled with self-doubt or whether they will declare their undying pride in being German.

And Boyes’ ruminations on those supposedly dour, unfunn y Germans:

I think that the British prejudice about Germany’s supposed humour famine stems from the fact that there is no German tradition of daily banter. In London you can hear a dozen wisecracks in a day — at work or on the bus or in the coffee shop. They may be lame, but at least they’re quick. In Germany, humour is stockaded, kept apart from everyday life. In the evenings Harald Schmidt, a genuinely funny talk-show host, will crack their sides. But only after dinner has been eaten, the plates rinsed and the yoghurt pots washed, ready for recycling. In the office next day people will repeat Schmidt’s gags and they will laugh again. However, they will fail to spot the inherent absurdities of their own office life.

5 thoughts on “Roger Boyes on his dear Krauts

  1. Harald Schmidt, a genuinely funny talk-show hostWhat has this Boyes guy been smoking? Harald Schmidt is as funny as a lamp post. People tune into his show because he is a designated Vordenker of German society. BTW the last time I saw him on TV was in Jay Leno’s audience getting Nachhilfeunterricht. Jay Leno pointed him out to his viewers, teehee very embarrassing.

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  2. >there is no German tradition of daily banter

    There was, albeit confined to the dialects – whose number is dwindling. Remnants can be found with the Bavarian tradition of Derblecken; daily banter was common as well with the Rhenanian folks, particularly those from Cologne. A rucksack-carrying friend of mine, being too insistent, was once refused entrance to a fancy disco by a good-natured Cologne bouncer like so: “Jong, ish shlach d’r de Kopp eröm, da kannze ding Röggelsche us dinge Rucksack foddere” (something like: Boyo, I’ll whack your face backwards, so you can munch your Röggelchen right out of your rucksack). Nowadays Turkish kids are upholding the tradition. One sturdy guy I was quarreling with once, wasn’t too pleased when I asked him not to be “vulgär” – which he was, but I shouldn’t have used such a fancy word for it. He was quick to bellow: “I’m not ‘vulgär‘!! …and I’ll shit on your glasses!” Can’t argue with that.

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  3. Roger is right to point out that we Germans tend to ask ourselves how do others see us. I would consider this a typical symptom of fragile, insecure persons. One might say that this insecurity is the very essence of the German psyche. However, “undying pride in being German” is not something that comes and goes. Patriotic pride, for those who feel it, exists permanently and cannot (and should not) be extinguished.

    On humour: people in my office do tickle and tease each other all the time, so much that it sometimes becomes almost impossible to find a serious moment to discuss things. There is a very familiar, confidential atmosphere here, where people feel warm and secure, maybe that is the key to everything.

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  4. I’ve just borrowed this book and was wondering what other’s think about it. Interesting to read your views. At the moment its all sounding a bit silly but no doubt will improve

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    TITLE: Some US Comedians Still Associate Germany with Nazi Past
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    BLOG NAME: Atlantic Review
    DATE: 12/29/2006 03:40:40 PM
    Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brian and an American blogger make jokes expressing concern for German troops going on tour again and suggesting that today’s Germans could turn into Nazis anytime.US News and World Report quoted NBC’s Conan O’Br
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    PING:
    TITLE: Some US Comedians Still Associate Germany with Nazi Past
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    BLOG NAME: Atlantic Review
    DATE: 12/29/2006 03:07:31 PM
    Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brian and an American blogger make jokes expressing concern for German troops going on tour again and suggesting that today’s Germans could turn into Nazis anytime.US News and World Report quoted NBC’s Conan O’Br

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