It is too easy I know to fall back on silly national stereotypes but no matter how hard I tried this morning I could not stop myself smiling at the news about those whingeing German soldiers in Afghanistan.
Now the fighting in Afghanistan is no joke, let’s get that straight especially when around 30 German soldiers have been killed in the campaign so far. So I don’t want to belittle them. They died in a war which is trying at least to rid the world of the despicable Al Qaeda.
All is not well though in the German army and the soldiers are complaining.
It is all to do with “home comforts” and it appears that German soldiers like plenty of them. It has now gone to the official ombudsman that German soldiers are being deprived of their little luxuries. Their sleeping bags are uncomfortable and they are unhappy about the standard of military childcare.
The trouble is, too many of us have those images of Germans as stereotypes. We all know that during the two World Wars the Germans had the best uniforms – if nothing else, they definitely looked very smart.
We are told too that Germans are very efficient, have no sense of humour and love running around naked. Now I have spent some considerable time in Germany and cannot vouch for any of these things apart from the uniforms of course.
I have seen Germans laugh – even at my jokes. In fact, I once said some very passing and uninteresting remark about the weather in Berlin and all my German companions fell about laughing so much that I assumed that something had got lost in the translation. I was told when they had controlled themselves that I was “dzo funny – you should haff been a comedian.” A German stand-up comic? What a strange destiny for a simple Englishman and how difficult to find suitable jokes.
I have also never seen a naked German – well except in photographs and also….um mm…..well enough of that. This idea that they drop their pants at the slightest excuse has never happened in front of me. Maybe they think I will make a funny joke about them. Who knows. Having said that, I have been in certain Berlin bars where I felt nakedness was only a couple of beers away.
As for efficiency, well I definitely never witnessed any of that – they were always so tied up in protocol, bureaucracy and, dare I say it, a false belief in that fabled efficiency, that things were always getting forgotten or mislaid.
I enjoyed their company though and I have a number of German friends so don’t misinterpret my remarks – they bring out the comedian in me obviously.
Well efficiency certainly seems to be the rule for the Germans in Afghanistan. Apparently 90,000 bottles of wine and 1.7 pints of beer has been shipped out to the troops in just one year. There is a beer ration of one litre per day for each soldier and there is wurst, a German sausage for dinner every night.
That’s a lot of sausage! Hahahahaha – that was dzo funny!
The cost of all this beer and sausage is that a higher proportion of German soldiers are overweight than in the civilian population. If you have ever walked down a street in Hamburg, then you will know just how overweight that is.
The head of the German army, General Wolfgang Schneiderhan ( nice name there General) has got all hot under the collar about this. He thinks his troops are going soft and he sneeringly told them yesterday: “We cannot guarantee soldiers that they will have an all-round feel-good experience.” He went on to tell them to “get a grip.”
Quite right too, I suppose. On the other hand, wouldn’t we much rather have a few fat cuddly German soldiers hanging around doing nothing than the traditional image of the efficient beautifully uniformed Prussian soldier from the not so distant past? I know I would.
After saying all that, I am sending best wishes to those 3,500 German soldiers on duty in Afghanistan. Your job is no joke, I know.