Bavaria at a glance
One of the explanations for Tyrolians to feel like they are different from average Austrians is that the most convenient connections from Tyrol to lower Austria either run trough the north of Italy, or through the South of Germany. On my way from Innsbruck to Salzburg, I am making a small detour to include Munich in the list of cities visited only to jump back into Austria tomorrow.
Travelling from Austria to the German province of Bavaria does not bring about the most spectacular difference. The landscape gradually gets flatter from South to North but people speak the same language, use the same money, don`t look much different and they don`t behave in a very different way.
'It`s not always easy to please a German`
Many Bavarians choose not to be called German. They insist that they are Bavarian, eager as they are to explain that there are huge differences between the two. Dani (31) is originally from Bavaria but now works in Koblenz. `It`s just not the same. From where I live, I do have a nice view on the river. I have started to feel at home there because I made new friends, but it`s still North Germany. I miss the mountains when I am away, especially during summer. I don`t like skiing so I don`t have much to miss about mountains in winter`, she says.
Sarina (20) describes Bavaria as `gem?tlich`, cosy. `People here are friendly. Maybe not always at first approach, but after a beer or two, they will quickly open up. The village-type mentality means that you can rely on the people you know, but it also implies that people like to talk behind each others back while keeping their face straight to whoever they are talking about. Bavarians are quite quick at judging people.`
Alexandra (22) claims that Bavaria is different from the rest of Germany because the people are different. `We in the South are a little bit less stressed out than people in the North. We care more for joy of living and for social relations. This often causes problems to Northern Germans who want to settle here. You need Vitamin B to find your way in Bavaria. B stands for Beziehung, which means relations.`
`Obviously, there are also lots of similarities between us here and them up north`, Alexandra says. `We all care a great deal for money and for having a more expensive car than the neighbour. Parents buy cars for their children so that both the parents and the children can show off. It`s shame that they don`t take a bit more time to actually enjoy life, like Spanish or Indian people have an innate talent for that.`
Alexandra praises the German social welfare system. `Nobody in Germany needs to live in poverty. Even people who never worked before they fell unemployed have access of monthly grants of 400 euros. They don`t need to pay tax and they don`t need to pay rent. It`s a pity that so many people don`t even want to work. It`s not so common in Munich, but if you look at some small cities in Eastern Germany, a lot of people unnecessarily depend on social welfare.`
Alexandra calls education facilities in Germany `one of the best in the world`: `Other than preparing us by feeding us theoretical knowledge, German schools actually prepare for successful integration into the labour market. There are plenty of internship offers as well as other options to combine practical. Actually, anything that is based on systemization and organisation works well in Germany. Unfortunately, we are such careful planning that we are not always the best when it comes to spontaneity and dealing with whatever comes unexpectedly.`
Andi (26, photo) thinks that the German identity is hard to describe. `We are good at organising and at brewing beer. Other than that, we care a great deal about authority, sometimes up to the point that is doesn`t make sense. Germans who have lived abroad know about that. They will no longer wait for red traffic lights to cross the street if there is no car around, simply because they have experienced that authority can also be questions. German Germans sometimes accept instructions without asking themselves whether they`d better rely on common sense.`
Andi mentions that it takes quite an effort to please Germans. `They want things to be perfect and if anything is not perfect, they will start complaining. The drive for perfection has two sides, though. It also explains the worldwide success of big German companies. The car industry, for a start, but also pharmaceutical companies like Bayer Pharmaceuticals, or technology-driven enterprises like Siemens and Thyssen Krupp. Deutsche Bank is a big player in the financial world. All of them somehow rely on the German love for perfection.`
In the news
Andi thinks of three major events when I ask him how often Germany makes headlines in the international press. `The struggle against funds disappearing into hidden Liechtenstein bank accounts is a recent example`, Andi says. `Apart from that, the scare of communist parties taking power in former Eastern Germany also served as a reason for foreign media to write about Germany. Then, the World Championships of Football in 2006 helped a great deal in polishing the German image abroad. It drew many tourists to Germany and showed that it is actually possible to have a good time in Germany. Thanks to the exceptionally good weather, the World Championships were probably the best PR campaign for Germany since World War II. Some people are also proud that the new Pope is German. When Ratzinger was announced as the next leader of the Catholic Church, the gossip newspaper `Bild` even put on its front page: We are Pope!. I don`t think that such statement is representative for the German general opinion, but the overall impression on German Pope-ship is probably positive.`
Germany was also at the centre of world attention during the autumn of 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall started a period of fresh hope for world peace. Andi remember how his father, for the first and only time ever, told him to watch TV with him, because `something important was going on`. `People were so happy that East and West Germany were united. Too happy, you can say when looking back. The expectations were unreal and were never met. I think Germans are still happy about the concept of living in a united country, but the fact that we in the west still need to pay `East Germany Tax` over our incomes does not make us particularly fond of the practical situation of being one country again.`
Katrin (26) calls herself `alright` with being German, but explains that Germany still finds it hard to deal with its history. `World War I has been pretty much forgotten by now, World War II definitely has not. Schools pay a lot of attention to teaching children about the atrocities that Germany inflicted on the world in those days. The entire nation, with the exception of a handful of die-hard racists, keeps insisting that nothing like that should ever again. Children discuss about it in school and they have to read about it a lot. And I guess it has the right effect. We are now one of the most tolerant countries in the world. People can be different in Germany, much more so than in other countries. What you look like is not very important in Germany. It`s about who you are and what you are capable of.`
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