do mention the war, please!

your blogger enjoying a proper pot of tea in Athens where the crisis began

There’s been enough sentimentality here for a while, right? That’s not what you normally come here for. What do you come here for, anyway?

I’ve been pondering the things that people coming here seem to enjoy, and the more personal I get…well, it seems that’s what people want to read. I’ve tried covering some relatively serious topics, or at least I’ve begun to introduce them, and it might be read, but no-one seems to want to talk about it. Sure, there are a few comments…maybe. But more often than not, it seems like people are politely waiting for another entertaining story.

Who would blame them? You don’t come here to be bored, eh?

I’ve thought about what I like writing about that might be interesting to the people with whom I regularly interact. Although politics is intriguing to me, I’m often bored by your run-of-the-mill political scandal. As soon as the Prime Minister resigns in disgrace or some government agency completely screws up a task, I’m already looking for what the story says about the society in general. The specifics of the events aren’t nearly as interesting to me as what they ultimately mean.

So the big story here for the last few years has been the European debt crisis, and to be honest there are far more experienced journalists and bloggers who can cover this from a financial perspective. I think I do a passable job of understanding those things, but writing about it is not my strength.

Instead, I’ve always been interested in the cultural aspects of the story. The stereotypes that the different countries have of one another. The divisions that’re ignored when times are good suddenly become very ugly when things go sour. The press has done a remarkable job of stoking the fire in some cases, by calling southern Europeans lazy or insinuating that the problem with the northerners is that they’re simply too rigid.

There was a series of articles printed simultaneously in a number of European newspapers this week (El Pais, gazeta, La Stampa, Le Monde, and my local rag Die Süddeutsche Zeitung) about the idea of Europe and the present situation in general. I was thrilled when I saw The Guardian was also taking part. Saves me from doing a lot of painful translation of what I’m reading.

Here’s how the project is explained:

Six countries, six newspapers, millions of readers. One Europe

The European Union is grappling with its deepest crisis in 60 years, a malaise that goes beyond the euro debacle and the enormous tide of debt swamping the continent. The union seems exhausted. Expansion has ground to a halt. Sluggish EU economies are being eclipsed by rivals in Asia and Latin America. “Brussels” has become a dirty word, no longer only in BritainEuroscepticism is on the rise across the continent. The taboo has been lifted on national stereotyping and scapegoating – lazy Greeks, bossy Germans, chauvinistic French, haughty Brits.At this critical juncture, six leading newspapers from the largest EU countries have come together in a joint project to build up a more nuanced picture of the EU and explore what Europe does well and what not so well.We begin by investigating the benefits the EU has brought to 500 million people and later today examine the national leaders labouring to steer it out of its current difficulties. Tomorrow we look at euroscepticism and national stereotyping. At the end of the week, you can take our “How European are you” test and see how you and other European readers rank.

Doesn’t that sound interesting? If not, say something now. Along with stories of a vomiting dog and windscreen meat, I plan to talk a great deal about this European crisis stuff. I could easily start with the page about German stereotypes, because they’re the ones I know best, but instead I’ll give you a link to British stereotypes: do mention the war, please!

I’m going to leave you with that. I’m hoping this is going to be fun.


    1. That’s what I’ve wondered about. When I talk to American friends about this stuff, they’re completely baffled by what’s going on. Or not interested.

      Glad you’re interested.

  1. I’ll read anything you write. You make anything interesting. Also, more pictures of you! Look how cultured and fancy you look! I’m pretty sure a similar picture of me would have food all over, poky-up hair, a frazzled look on my face, and probably a waiter asking me to leave.

    1. You’re really kind Amy. I’m sure I could find something to bore you…just wait and see.

      A trip with you to a tea room…I can already see the comedy of errors that would come from that.

  2. woooooot! cultural aspects interest me a LOT more than financial ones (mostly because finances alternatively stress, bore, and baffle me). i’m pretty good with numbers but i prefer them in stoichiometric equations…

    also, fancy pants picture! 😀 woot!

    1. Exactly what I expected. But I think most people who felt that way wouldn’t bother saying anything.

      If you stick around Julie, I wonder if I might make this a bit more entertaining.

  3. the football chant “two world wars and one world cup” seems to cover the english view of germany. but then, the culture of football is a whole other level of race relations.

    1. The politics of football is an entirely different story, and I’m sure I’ll get round to that.

      Every four years, I desperately hope for an England v Germany final. It’s one of the most historically fascinating rivalries.

  4. I suspect cultural stereotypes play a major role in the differing attitudes of various European countries to the idea of European union. Historically, these stereotypes and attitudes are interesting too (I often wonder how far some politicians/media outlets have come from the viewpoints of the 19th and early 20th centuries when it comes to how other European countries are seen and portrayed!). I, for one, will be interested to read what you have to say about the cultural aspects of the economic crisis.

    1. Ok, this is the sort of comment that’ll push me to write more posts on this topic. I can already tell you have strong opinions, which I like, and the way you worded a few of those phrases makes me want to delve into ‘politicians/media outlets’ and their viewpoints especially in relation to both the 19th and 20th centuries.

      Hopefully you’ll be back here. I think what I have planned for this blog will be something you like.

  5. Hi. I found this site recently on one of my unsupervised internet forays and have stuck around. I’m usually an avid lurker, but I think I’d like to try and comment for once. – Though it’s not short. I’m sorry.

    I generally only seek out and enjoy the inane, the whimsical and very occasionally, the thought provoking, but I don’t have any objections to your current direction (thought provoking with a heavy dose of current events,politics and economics) because this particular topic is something I’d like to hear more about. I’d rather hear what you have to say on this subject as a layman without an agenda than a ‘professional’ with their statistics and case studies.

    I wandered into Germany five years ago and since then, I’ve spent about 20 minutes total pondering any sort of inter-European interactions. I was much too busy with living and surviving, I didn’t have a tv and I don’t get a paper. However, I’ve been stuck watching a lot of late night talk shows lately, and I’m beginning to pay attention… if only a little. – I feel like the current crop of political scandals are something of a welcome distraction for the news industry. Headline topics get pick up and dropped so quickly without the ends of the stories, it’s dizzying. I see a lot space between the lines that no one talks about. I can’t tell if it’s something normal and that the natives here just know about because it’s cultural or if it’s something they’re trying not to notice because life and taxes are just easier that way. – This is the cultural/social bit of this topic that I find interesting.

    I’m not an expert on much of anything, I don’t interact heavily, I don’t like to talk about things more controversial than pets and car repairs, but I do enjoy hearing opinions and listening to others discuss the topics I don’t feel I’m competent enough to speak about myself. This seems to be something that you can and are willing to do here. So, whether you keep at it or not, thank you for the thought.

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