Germans Like It Explicit!

Everyone knows that Germans have a set of rules for everything. And if there’s no official rule consecrated by some recognised authority, then you will usually find detailed “suggestions” not only on HOW to do something, but also WHY.

I spotted this little gem on the notice board in the block of flats where my mother lives, right next to the Hausordnung (house rules):

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Someone’s got a Phd in Laundry Room Physics… 

Translation:

Please note:

The drying of laundry in the basement leads to high air humidity.

This, in turn, causes already semi-dry items of clothing to re-absorb moisture as well as any newly pegged-out washing to dry more slowly.

For this reason we would like ask you, during times of high humidity (i.e. when a lot of washing has been hung out to dry), to open the windows in the drying room for a short duration of time in order to allow the air to circulate.

Please do not forget to close the window again afterwards.

If only the Kyoto Agreement had been drafted by my mother’s landlords, it would never have failed…

Here’s another example of instructive cajoling, fresh from my village green, aimed at the pooch-owning general public:

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Translation: Dog owners – BE CONSIDERATE! Just in case…for now or for later. Pull bag. [Some hooligan has slapped a parody FC Bayern München sticker right across the pictorial guidance, but at least it matches the dispenser’s colour scheme]

What gets me is the utterly redundant “just in case… for now or for later”. I mean, not even German German shepherd dogs plant their malodorous pine cones like clockwork every day at the same hour in the same spot. So, if you’re walking your four-legged poop machine and you ain’t got a poop bag and you see a poop bag dispenser, you’d know what to do, right?

I suspect that the company was so proud of its word play, that it just had to get it out there. Let me explain: The word “Fall” in the idiomatic expression Im Falle eines Falles (= just in case, or, literally “in the case of a case”) has another meaning: fall/drop. So, in case something happens to…erm… drop from your dog unexpectedly… ah haha… ha.

As you can tell, I didn’t have to go very far to find both of these examples. They are everywhere. But WHY?! Do Germans really think that their fellow human beings are not smart enough to work these things out for themselves? Or do they just enjoy being patronising?

I think the issue is two-fold. First of all, Germans are, on the whole, a bunch of pragmatic realists. As such, they accept that about a tenth of the populace consists of morons. What Germans do not accept, however, is that those 10% are let off the hook on account of being dimwitted. Therefore, they resort to stating the bleedin’ obvious. On every noticeboard, on every street corner.

The other reason is linked to their compulsive drawing up of rules for everything. Rules have to be pretty watertight, not only for the benefit of the cretins, but also for the 10% situated at the opposite end of the spectrum, namely the very special breed of German Smart Arse (“Klugscheisser”). If a German Smart Arse flouts a rule, their first recourse is to poke their sausage finger at an omission or ambiguity in the rules.

This gives rise to the need for detailled written instructions for even the most common-sense behaviours meant to ease communal living. It’s the German way of creating social pressure for a special sub-species of the German Smart Arse, aka the Lazy Arse Klugscheisser, by obliterating their first line of defence, which usually goes something like this: “Wo steht das?!” (Where does it say that?!).

[For some more Germanalysis, see this post: The German National Character Explained in Three Culturally Loaded Phrases ]

 

 

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Germans Like It Explicit!

      1. NancyTex

        Crazy busy, my dear – but I finally managed to get a post up with a “Day 2” recap from my adventures in torture-land. Post went up yesterday. Maybe I’m not appearing in your reader?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Ooooooh! I went through my reader this morning. Sometimes it doesn’t pick things up, it seems. Bloody WP, constantly fixing things that don’t need fixing and ignoring stuff that ought to be sorted.

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Ellen Hawley

    I worked for a writers organization that often ran contests, and every time someone called up to ask a question about the rules we had a habit of clarifying the rules next time around. They go longer and longer and less and less comprehensible. They addressed everything possible and people called anyway. My favorite question was, “I see if stays to staple it on the left-hand side. Whose left is that?”

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
  2. June

    There are NO rules here. Zero. Nada. Nichts. No social rules, no sense of personal space, no consideration for others (including any sort of forethought as to the consequences for others of what you’re doing now). Those rules that sort of semi exist in the ether are completely ignored by the masses. In some ways it’s liberating – I was brought up with lots of rules and it’s interesting to see how things amble along fine without them. On the other hand, if one more person pushes their trolly (or worse, their boobs) into my back at the checkout I’m going to deck them. Why couldn’t I have met a nice German guy?

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      No rules in Spain either (except bureaucratic ones, where they can rival the Germans any day).

      That reminds me of something… in September, new neighbours arrived in my building. Erasmus students. German Erasmus students. A couple of weeks in, one of the girls put up a sign “Dear neighbours, there will be a birthday party this Saturday. It will end at 0:30. Apologies for the inconvenience.” Now THAT is unheard of in Spain. In Germany, noise is a big issue, and ill tolerated.There are RULES as to when you are allowed to make it and when not. (The party was indeed over at the specified time, by 0:35 all the guests had left the building.)

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  3. Kim G

    Well, I hope you followed the proper rules for writing witty blog posts. In any case, it seems to have worked in this case.

    By the way, your making fun of German rules doesn’t mean you’ve “gone native” from too much time in Spain, does it?

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where there are plenty of rules, but few written down.

    P.S. this post reminds me of the time when I infuriated my lover-before-last by posting laundry rules by the washing machine after one too many black turtlenecks had been washed in hot water with an entire gallon of bleach, along with the formerly yellow towels.

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  4. Kim in Fiji

    LOVE this post! I know someone who tries to educate everyone about the correct way to use toilet paper. If I hear it one more time, I will send that person to Germany to pursue his calling.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hahahaaaa! Hmmm… I think even the Germans would draw the line at instructions on how to wipe one’s arse. But then again, there’s probably that ONE public toilet with step-by-step instructions SOMEWHERE 😉

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  5. camparigirl

    I love the Germans! In Italy that would result in 70% of the population not obeying the rules on purpose, just because in the collective imagination rules are meant to be broken at all costs. On a side note, accounting for only 10% of the population being morons is very optimistic. Happy 2016!

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Anonymous

    Hm, as a German who has been brought up abroad I can see the funnyness in the examples above. I’ll try to explain:

    Germans don’t like rules any better than anyone else. So, in order to make people comply, we tend to use either “higher authority”, or just a hint at such by using a command-like style: “Betreten des Rasens verboten!”, or we try to appeal to reason.

    Yes, there is a tendency to makes rules very explicit and detailed – I guess that has it’s origin in the sciences and engineering, where such precision is actually needed.

    However, this approach kind of fails when it comes down to everyday rules, especially in legislation. A prime example would be German tax legislation, which accounts for 80% of the worldwide output in legal tax texts worldwide, each year. A complete disaster!

    On the other hand, we have created the BGB (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch), a rather lean set of laws that cover 90% of everyday live, from property, business, family laws, etc – not including criminal law. The BGB is a masterpiece: It almost never goes into detail, never uses concrete examples, and still offers 100% clear-cut rules and definitions. From it’s first draft to the first version to pass legislation took 80 years! And – it has hardly been changed since then.

    So, there are two different approaches to one German trait (and that truly is omnipresent): The obsession with perfection.

    Just my 2 Cents.

    G.

    Liked by 1 person

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