Tuesday, June 14, 2011
#0007 The Americanization of Germany
Twenty-one years ago I moved to Germany from the US, having studied German and having fallen in love with the culture I had discovered here. I loved the long breakfasts that students had before their lectures and the culture of drinking coffee and having cake in the afternoon. The miracle of H-Milch, bike paths and the efficient train system convinced me this was the place to be.
Plus, I didn't want to pay expensive tuition for an advanced degree in musicology, so - after working in the US for five years after getting my bachelor's - I enrolled at the University of Freiburg in October 1990 and enjoyed the life of a student once more. Sure I missed barbeque sauce, sloppy Joes, Ginger Ale and my family and friends, but now I had Schnitzel, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, real beer and friends who spoke my languages.
In the meantime, things have changed. Universities started to charge tuition - which proved unconstitutional the first time they tried it, but they are trying again! The socialist idea behind the German educational philosophy, where everyone has a chance to find his own niche, has been dropped for elite universities and 60% of students wanting to go to college.
Long breakfasts and coffee hours have turned into McBreakfast and coffee-to-go. You can buy doughnuts (also spelled "donat's") and even "bagel's" spread with Philadelphia and there are at least four Starbucks in Stuttgart (I won't count them).
Good German beer, once clean-brewed according to a medieval law, is sold in the bottle already mixed everything from cola to vodka and lemonade.
The post office and German train system have been privatized, which should have made them more efficient, but the capitalistic journey has only made it nearly impossible to find a mailbox, made it more confusing to buy a train ticket and don't even ask me if the letters or trains arrive on time.
Even the German military - long a source of defense-only pacifism - is involved in wars abroad.
I ask: is it necessary for the other industrialized nations to follow the American Way down to the letter?