Why people think Germans are so efficient

Source: BBC News

By Giulia Pines

In summer 2011, I was working at a small Berlin travel agency and facing a conundrum: my clients literally held tickets to nowhere. Their planes would be taking off shortly, but their destination – Berlin-Brandenburg Airport – would not be open to welcome them. Six summers have since come and gone, but each year the same news, almost gleeful at this point, trickles out of that massive construction site south of the capital: the project has gone billions over budget and is nowhere close to opening. So whatever happened to German efficiency?

If the overdue airport weren’t enough of a hint, I’ll let you in on a secret: German efficiency is a myth, with roots in religion, nationalism, enlightenment thought and a few major wars. It may have reached its pinnacle in the 20th Century, but since then it’s survived as a useful stand-in for everything that confuses the world about Germans – that in spite of a war that decimated them, a wall that divided them, a currency designed to weaken them and a financial crisis that could have ended them, they still seem to come out on top.

Just not where airports are concerned.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport has gone billions of Euros over budget and is nowhere close to opening (Credit: Credit: ODD ANDERSEN/Staff/Getty Images)

The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport has gone billions of Euros over budget and is nowhere close to opening (Credit: ODD ANDERSEN/Staff/Getty Images)

 

Much like German humour, German efficiency (or the lack of it), is often a hot topic among visitors as they marvel at trains that follow their schedules to the minute, pristine autobahns where German-produced cars seem to drive at warp speed (while getting into statistically fewer accidents), and, perhaps every foreigner’s favourite gripe, citizens who wait for the walk signal before crossing the street – and admonish you if you don’t do the same.

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