I was delighted to find an article in the February 1, 2014 edition of The Economist dedicated to the mindset of the Swabian Hausfrau. The article links the economic mindset of this stereotype from Germany’s Southwest to the economic mindset of Germans within Europe. It is a deftly created argument and the article is surprisingly detailed in its research of the origins of the Swabian mindset. Unfortunately they weren’t as thorough in their research into the origins of Maultaschen, and were duly called on their sloppiness two weeks later in the Letters to the Editor.
Who is this Swabian Hausfrau? In my experience she isn’t a Rabenmutter like myself, but spends her days working hard to keep Home, Garden and Family all running smoothly. Rather than purchasing flashy (and cheap) items with bells and whistles, the Swabian makes purchases based on quality. She asks: Can I maintain that product? Will it last 20 years or more? What is the use of a kitchen appliance that breaks after 18 months? Can the parts be replaced? How can it be cleaned? For years in Germany I found this mindset narrow and frustrating: sometimes you just want things to be cheap and cheerful! Alas, after just a few years back in North America I am constantly seeking the highest-quality goods I can find. Germany is not the market for disposable consumer goods.
The Swabian Hausfrau cooks proper meals midday (for we all know that Germans eat warm meals for lunch and not for dinner), made from fresh ingredients that she probably purchased that same morning. One remarkable aspect of German cuisine is how little of it is prepackaged – Germans actually cook real food on a regular basis. Of course many non-Germans do the same… but the amount of ready-made meals in a German supermarket pales in comparison to those on offer in North America or England.
The Swabian Hausfrau also keeps a tidy and clean home, and I’m sure she never misses a Kehrwoche. Regarding cleanliness, I’ve only heard from friends and acquaintances what the expectations are, and am sure I would never live up to them. I’m hoping for myself that by the time we return to Germany, the Merry Maids have set up a franchise!
Is there any one woman who perfectly fits the stereotype of the Swabian Hausfrau? Probably not, as stereotypes never completely fit the individual. As a model for Germany within the EU she is an interesting choice: Opting for quality over quantity, taking pride in hard work, mastering the art of delayed gratification, focusing on long-term goals instead of quick gains… Sounds like a stereotypical German, and a stereotypical Swabian Hausfrau.