Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

No Comments » Written on March 29th, 2010 by
Categories: Germany
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How linguistic variations affect where Germans choose to live

Few Germans now say Appel rather than Apfel (apple) or maken instead of machen (to make). The north German dialects that use such variants are mostly dead or dying. But the cultural differences that they reflect still govern behaviour today, says a paper from the Institute for the Study of Labour, in Bonn.

Acting on imperial orders in the 1880s, a linguist called Georg Wenker asked pupils from 45,000 schools across the new Reich to translate standard German sentences into local dialect. The results were used to compile an atlas of linguistic diversity. The new paper shows that Wenker’s dialect regions still define the comfort zones in which Germans prefer to live. When people migrate within Germany, they tend to go to places where dialects resemble those spoken in their home region 120 years ago.

German dialects, formed by geography and political and religious fragmentation, express deep-seated cultural differences. These persist even though borders between petty princedoms are invisible (and often no longer audible). Even small differences count. Swabians share Baden-Württemberg with Badeners. Both spoke Alemannic dialects. But Swabians, who say Haus (house), have a bias against living in the neighbouring old grand duchy, where they say Huus.

That trade is livelier among regions that share a language is well known. The paper’s authors think they are the first to find a similar effect within a single language in one country. They measure migration not trade, because the data are better and cultural factors matter more. The best predictors are still Wenker’s maps. “Even when we don’t speak dialect, the cultural territory is still there,” says Alfred Lameli, one of the authors.

Does this confuse cause and effect? Regions may have similar dialects because earlier generations migrated and their descendants follow suit. To rule this out, the authors looked at the way communist East Germany weakened social links that encourage migration. After unification, they found, the old migration patterns came back, suggesting that migrants respond to cultural factors more than to social ties. It seems that neither television, nor the autobahn, nor even the Kaiser, has created a single country in Germany.

Mar 18th 2010 | BERLIN | From The Economist

Big boss is watching you

No Comments » Written on March 12th, 2010 by
Categories: Germany
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According to a survey by the German government, over 25 per cent of German employers admit to spying on job applicants on the Internet. Young people in particular are all too careless when revealing too much information about themselves on social networks such as Facebook and MySpace. Apparently, applicants are not invited for an interview if inappropriate remarks or photos are found online.

Okay, no employer wants their staff to be racist or to have a criminal record. But it’s unlikely they’d ever discover this information by looking on the net. It’s frightening that recruiters no longer seem to trust their own social skills by not inviting someone for an interview just because they polished off a bucket of sangria with a couple of mates on a holiday in Mallorca 17 years ago. Trying to find this one snapshot could take hours, whereas any trained interviewer should be able to find out after five minutes of one-to-one if someone is a complete idiot or not.

Could it be that the current disastrous situation for the German job market is partly down to human resources wanting to know before inviting web designer Marlene, 28, well-trained and open-minded (as she puts it), for an interview, how she did in the Mariah Carey look-alike contest in 1997?

Do you honestly believe that companies are doing the best they can to overcome the ongoing economic crisis if managers find the time to check if Martin, 31 from Essen, an experienced and enthusiastic engineer, recommends the book “Chat-up lines in 300 languages” in his Amazon list of favourite books?

Dear would-be detectives and amateur spies in German offices, remember what David Brent aka Ricky Gervais said in the brilliant mockumentary “The Office”: “Those of you who think they know everything are annoying to those of us who do.”

The good thing about the new inquisitiveness in German offices is that frustrated job-seekers should relax: if you are wondering why you are never invited for a job interview, don’t worry, this has nothing to do with your qualifications. Just blame it on the fact that you were chairman of a David Hasselhoff fan club in 1985.

Sabine from Bochum, Germany

Apocalypse, anyone?

1 Comment » Written on February 23rd, 2010 by
Categories: Germany
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What would you do if the end of the world was scheduled for tomorrow at 11.30 a.m? Apocalyptic visions have always fascinated mankind, never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures and religions. Now the common fear is fuelled by “2012”, the blockbuster by German director Roland Emmerich which was launched in November last year. Having risen to fame with “Independence Day” and “Godzilla”, the “master of disaster” has now completed his magnum opus with visual effects to shake your senses: blow-ups and bloodbaths, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, even whole continents falling apart. A breathless John Cusack finds himself in a sick world in which only those who pay can escape. The end leaves everyone who claimed to have “been there” or “done that” devastated.

However, all those stars, has-beens and would-bes attending the premiere night recovered all too quickly from the shock, and the question of all questions no longer concerned the end of mankind, but another deeply human fear which is “Is my hair okay?” What a relief that comedian Oliver Kalkofe, renowned for his hilarious parodies of the vanity fair that is German television, was there to comment on the last day of his existence: “Contrary to most other people who spend their lives fearing the future, I would certainly not panic,” says Kalkofe. “I’d be spending a Sunday watching all this crap on commercial television. And then I’d say to myself: Okay, it’s the end of the world. And we deserve it.”

Sabine from Germany

BERLINALE will show restored “Metropolis”

No Comments » Written on November 12th, 2009 by
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Fritz Lang´s silent movie is a timeless classic of cinema history. For the first time after its world premier in 1927, this movie will be shown in its complete version after the missing parts of the original were found in Buenos Aires in 2008. No matter what else is on the program, this will undoubtedly be the highlight of the 60th BERLINALE.

In 2001, a new 75th anniversary restoration, commissioned by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. This version, with a running time of 124 minutes, restored the original story line using stills and intertitles to bridge missing footage. It also added a soundtrack using the orchestral score originally composed by Gottfried Huppertz to go with the film. Now the missing footage is almost completely restored.

A gala performance on 12th February 2010 at the famous Friedrichstadtpalast will honour this masterpiece that inspired generations of filmmakers.

Daniel from Hamburg, Germany

Germany’s answer to Obama

The German elections are less than two months away, and in times like these, with a global economic crisis, increasing unemployment and swine flu, the public are really looking to politicians for answers. Until recently, however, people have been pretty unimpressed with what the potential candidates have had to say and have been rapidly losing interest. That is, until one man showed up and changed it all.

Horst Schlaemmer is a small town journalist who decided to run for election. He wants to become Bundeskanzler (head of the German federal government). Horst Schlaemmer is the alter ego of German comedian (yes, they do exist!) Hape Kerkeling who appeared successfully in an award-winning campaign for VW. His first press conference was broadcasted live on all major news channels:

And it looks like his campaign is unstoppable. According to latest polls, 18 per cent of the people think it’s actually for real and want to vote for him. Surely this should make the other candidates question their own approach …

Daniel from Hamburg, Germany

An idea fit for the scrapheap?

No Comments » Written on August 6th, 2009 by
Categories: Germany
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As a measure to fight the worldwide economic crisis and to support local car manufacturers, the German government introduced a scrapping premium of EUR 2,500 for cars older than 9 years.

While this has led to a short term increase in car sales, it has also had (or will have) a number of negative side effects that politicians failed to see:

  1. Independent researchers and industry experts predict a dramatic slump in car sales for 2010 when the premium programme will finish, with the risk of numerous bankruptcies among franchised dealers.
  2. It has become virtually impossible to find cheap second-hand cars in Germany, making life hard for low-income families, students etc.
  3. Second-hand car exports from Germany to Africa are at a record low, opening up this highly interesting market for other economies.
  4. Workshops specialising in the maintenance of older vehicles are losing business.
  5. Spare parts manufacturers are facing hard times, not only because of the dramatically reduced number of old cars on the road, but also due to an oversupply of second-hand spares from scrapped cars.
  6. Foreign brands (mostly French and Japanese) managed to secure more than 50 per cent of all premium-related car sales.

Update on 08/08/09:

German industry experts estimate that more than 50,000 cars that should have been scrapped were illegally shipped to Third World countries instead.

Knowing the mentality of scrapyard owners and second hand car dealers, it was so painfully obvious that this kind of thing would happen, but German politicians can be so naive and gullible at times, it is unbelievable… Some of them even lose their armoured S Class Mercedes while holidaying in Spain…

Jochen from Bremen, Germany

To beer or not to beer?

2 comments Written on August 5th, 2009 by
Categories: Germany
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The German Reinheitsgebot, often referred to as the “German Beer Purity Law” in English, was a regulation adopted in 1516 concerning the production of beer in Germany. It stated that only barley, hops and water could be used to make beer. Although it was abolished in 1987, German brewers have a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, ignoring the new EU legislation and continuing to adhere to the Reinheitsgebot!

Since the EU ruled that Germany would have to allow the sale of foreign beers made with stabilisers, foaming agents and other dodgy substances, you can now buy all sorts of beers over here, but most foreign brands never really caught on with German beer drinkers.

However, some time ago, many German breweries started producing beer-based mixed drinks targeted at younger people. Positioned as mega-hip, these products come in all sorts of flavours and – besides beer – feature ingredients ranging from fruit extracts to Coca Cola and taurine.

As these beer-based drinks are very successful with younger folks (whose brand affinity can usually still be influenced), this might be a good opportunity for foreign beer brands to reposition themselves in the German market, i.e. by opening doors for their core products with beer-based mixed drinks.

Jochen from Bremen, Germany