- -  Day # 356  + +

EU > Germany > Hamburg

Fighting uncertainty

Hamburg, DE (View on map)

I`m back in country number #26: Germany. After the first introduction from Munich (early May) and the couple of articles I wrote earlier this month, I trust I can start writing without starting off with another introduction of the country. I will simply continue from where I was. One thing I found out during earlier interviews in Germany is that Germans seem to feel uncomfortable with unexpected events, or at worst: scared of change. That observation made me come up with today`s question: what are you scared of and what would you do if you weren`t?

Leif (28):

`Germans do not always feel comfortable with unexpected guests`
Moritz (29) is scared of ticks, and, when I talk to him, scared of missing his bus. Karolin (19) is scared of rats and of having arguments with her boyfriend. Bob (25) calls himself an anarchist and his biggest fear is to be caught by the police during demonstrations: `I am against the current system and against the gentrification of the city centre. The only way to do anything against it is by destabilizing the system, which involves doing things that are not allowed. It`s not possible to force revolution by sticking to the law.` Bob`s friend Nina (25) is scared of life altogether, but she is seeing a psychologist for that and hopes she will be doing better soon. `I would like to go traveling and have fun, but something is always pulling me down to the ground.`

Working abroad
Henrik (26) is studying European Cultural Antropology and he is scared of not finding a job when he graduates. `Finding a job in Germany does not necessarily need to be very difficult, especially for graduates in engineering. My diploma will not be too attractive to most employers. I would also like to do an internship in France, but I can`t speak French well enough to actually do it. It also means I have to leave my girlfriend behind for a while, which is not something I look forward to either.`

Manuela (29) tells me that she would like to work abroad. `I am thinking of Spain, Italy or the UK but I don`t speak either of the languages well enough. I first need to get that in order before heading off. I am also unsure about whether I will be able to find a suitable job when I`m there, or to find one by the time I get back to Germany. The bad thing in Germany is that we spend so much time planning for everything, while unexpected circumstances will get in the way and block the entire project. I know more people who would like to work in other countries. They delay the decision until the moment they have a family and children. By then, it`s too late, so they just give in and forget about it. Later on, they regret they never had the courage.`

Meeting expectations
Nils (24) is afraid of getting bad marks at school or failing on his studies in general. `I will soon start working as an engineer, and I can predict I will feel a bit afraid that I cannot live up to the expectations my colleagues will have of me. I think I find that more important that whether I am satisfied with what I produce.` Nils is also afraid of breaking rules, or more specifically: seen breaking rules. `Last weekend, me and a couple of friends climbed over the fence of a swimming pool. We wanted to go for a secret swim at night, but we were really scared that police would catch us.`

Tobias (26) thinks that many Germans are afraid of moving backwards after they have made progress. `I am studying medicine and I know many people who liked to become nurses. After a while, they had enough of it, but they did not think of changing jobs or going back to school. They just kept doing their job, even though it frustrated them. Life in Germany is somehow expected always to move upwards, or at least to hold on to the standard of living you have acquired. People don`t want to give up their standard of living to change their lives. Compared to other countries, many Germans still strive for the security of lifetime careers. They like the security more than they fear the treadmill of doing the same job every day.`

Tobias adds that many people are also afraid of just losing the job they already have. `Applying for a new one takes a lot of effort and the outcome is uncertain. If you lose your job, it probably implies that you are also unsuitable for another one. In Germany, learning by making mistakes is not an acceptable way of constructing a career. Trying hard to be perfect is only partially sufficient. You are simply required to be good at what you`re supposed to be doing. You don`t have to be perfect, just as long as you don`t make any mistakes.`

World affairs
Jenny (27), whose biggest fear is that family members or friends fall ill or even die, also has traveling ambitions. `I would like to go backpacking in South America for a few months. But I would first need to save some money. I hope I will soon be able to get to that point.`

Barbara (24) is scared that any illness might keep her from doing what she wants to do. Her biggest fear however is to do the exact same thing for the rest of her life. `I am now studying and would like to find a job soon after, so that I won`t have to depend on my parents any longer. I also want to feel free, to travel and see the world. I would like to lose my fear of heights so I can join my boyfriend when he goes rock climbing.`

Henrik (24) would like to go backpacking and travel around the world, but he gets blocked by the idea of ending up in unsafe situations. `Germany is quite safe. I can walk around the streets of Hamburg at 2 o`clock at night and be sure that I will be alright. If I go to Columbia or Africa, I won`t be able to do that. I might get robbed, get ill or whatever. I am not the only German who thinks like that. Germans like to discover the world and they often leave on big trips. But wherever possible, they will sleep in German hotels and eat in restaurants that are run by Germans. Adventure traveling is not yet very common in Germany.`

Henrik also admits that he is scared of any future wars. `I am afraid of what China, Russia and India will do in the future, more so than I fear terrorism or the threat of countries in the Middle East. Gregory (21) would have liked to have grown up with a tiger, but that didn`t seem to be a very practical idea. He fears global warming and its consequences. Dorothea doesn`t like the idea of global dimming which means that pollution will prevent light from reaching the earth. `It`s not something I`m particularly scared of. I`m more scared of friends or family members dying, but I fortunately don`t feel myself forced to think about that.`

Other fears
Leif (28, photo) is scared of water deeper than his knees. `I never learnt how to swim. Everything deeper than one meter will get me panicking. I`m trying to do something about it: first seeing a psychologist before I will try to familiarise myself with the technical part of it.`

Leif is also afraid to hurt people without meaning to do so, or without knowing that he did. `I also don`t like the idea that many people spend more energy on their work than they should do, simply because of the pressure that`s put on them. I think many Germans get in to trouble by the simple fact that they don`t dare to expose their problems at the time they are still small. By keeping their uncertainties to themselves, they only grow more and more disturbing.`

`I also think that Germans are easily intimidated by authority of any kind. When at work, they will easily execute tasks even if they doubt whether they are right or useful. Also, we don`t like ambiguity or conflicting instructions. In case of doubt, we usually follow the rules that are issued by the highest authority. If a team leader told me to do A, while the manager of the department told me to do B, I would always choose B. Personal preferences are mostly considered irrelevant at work, although that would not keep me from telling my direct boss about ideas I don`t agree with. Whether he takes my advice into consideration is secondary. His word will be last.`

`I also think that Germans are somehow scared to be surprised, no matter whether the surprise is positive or negative. It almost impossible to meet friends without calling them a day in advance, for example. No spontaneous meetings in the evening with people you invite during the day. Knocking on their door unexpectedly for a quick hello would almost make them feel uncomfortable at best, offended at worst. Even if I go to my parents` place, it will be appreciated if I informed them of my arrival at least a day in advance. The notice period allows them to integrate my visit into whatever program they have for that day.`

Enlarge photo | Link to this article