Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The German Mind

There's a lot about Germany that I like and a lot that I dislike. For example, Germans are quick to share their opinions with you, and point out how you are wrong and they are right. They also have a crowd mentality.  If there’s an art exhibition that’s received great reviews, you can expect everyone to be there, including people without any interest in art.  People go because other people are going. This applies to travel as well. Germans love exotic destinations, but only if it's the "in" place. These are things that I have noticed over the years, and I don't mean this as a criticism. However, I might point out that Germans have no reluctance in telling me how they find Americans to be narrow-minded, superficial, and materialistic.  

Germans are generally orderly, punctual, and obsessed with regularity. If you have a meeting at 9:00, you better be there at 9:00, and not 9:05. That's late and simply bad form. I generally like these character traits, but you can take a good thing too far.

Today, as I was getting ready for work, I realized it was the first day of March. That isn't particularly important until you understand the German mind.  For Germans, it's the first day of the month and time to begin anew.  For instance, on the first day of June, no matter what the weather, Germans will start wearing summer clothes: shorts, skirts, light fabrics, and sandals.  Likewise, on the first day of October, Germans will bring out their heavy coats and sweaters even if it’s hot.  If the calendar says it’s time for spring or summer, the Germans will comply.  Germans, it seems, are obsessed with regularity. 

Today was no different from the past few weeks. It's still very cold and grey, but the calendar says March. So what did I find as I was riding my bicycle to work?  Bicycle riders, and lots of them.  Yesterday, I saw perhaps 2 or 3 bicyclists.  Today, there were at least 100.  Now, there could be many reasons for this sudden bicycle explosion.  It was the first day of the month and subway passes have expired or people have decided to forgo mass transit because of the recent strikes.  These are all possible explanations, but I don’t think they fully explain the bicycle epidemic. The real reason is very simple: it’s March and time to ride the bike. There would have been 100 bicycle riders today even if there had been a blizzard and the subway was free.

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