Germany ended more than 40 years of political and cultural division in 1989. Austria modified 40 years of neutrality and entered a new era as a member of the European Union (EU) in 1995. Switzerland continued its 179-year tradition of neutrality and independence by rejecting EU membership in 1994. The German-speaking world has undergone many changes in the last several years. The German Way is a profile of the daily life and culture of the German-speaking people living in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
The Germans and their Austrian and Swiss neighbors are often the victims of cultural stereotyping and misconceptions. The horrible events during the reign of the Third Reich and the aftermath of the Second World War continue to color people’s perceptions of a culture that has given the world not only Goethe, Mozart, and Einstein, but also Bismarck, Hitler, and Honecker. This book attempts to offer a balanced look at one of the world’s most significant cultures from an Anglo-American perspective. Do Germans usually walk around in Lederhosen drinking beer? Is The Sound of Music anything remotely like Austria and the Austrians? Are all Swiss either bankers, watch makers, or Alpine farmers?
Stereotypes are difficult to overcome, perhaps because there is usually a kernel of truth in them. Witness the revival of an old joke about Europeans that has been making the rounds of late even in the new ... European Union. According to the joke, in heaven the cooks are French, the police are British, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian, and everything is organized by the Swiss. In hell the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.
The phenomenal Asterix satirical comic series pitted the indefatigable Gauls (today’s French) against the bumbling Roman invaders, while managing to poke fun at the British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, and most of Europe in the process. The German Way concentrates on the German-speaking area of Europe, taking a bit more factual if no less enjoyable approach.
The German equivalent of When in Rome, do as the Romans is Andere Länder, andere Sitten, which actually says, Different lands, different customs. The Anglo-American and German-speaking cultures are not as different as might be the case between, say, France and the U.S., and certainly not as diverse as Japanese culture compared with Western culture. Not that there aren't some significant variances—or why this book? But beginning with our mutual Germanic languages (mother/Mutter, garden/Garten, son/Sohn, water/Wasser, house/Haus) and other shared Anglo-Saxon qualities (stress on the Saxon), you will find the two cultures have much in common. However, in this book we will deal more with the differences, so that the reader might better cope. This book is intended as an introduction that may serve to help you avoid many avoidable unpleasant, uncomfortable situations that inevitably arise from culture shock. As you read, keep in mind these words from Germany’s Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: There is nothing more terrible than ignorance in action. (Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine tätige Unwissenheit.)
Related GW Links
- GW Expat Blog - For expats, by expats
- About the German Way Forum - Life and work in German-speaking Europe
- AboutGerman.net - Free German lessons online
- Austria: Links and info for Austria
- Germany: Links and info for Germany
- Switzerland: Links and info for German Switzerland
- GW Topic Index
- GW on Facebook
- GW @ Twitter
NEXT > GW Contents
MORE > GW Topic Index