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Posted: 8/13/2002 4:45:30 AM EDT
Worried that the US might be on the way out? Then read this litle blurb about the German work ethic! It will calm your fears that any [u]European[/u] nation may eclipse the US! [size=4]Ich Bin Ein Slacker[/size=4 [b]The demise of the German work ethic.[/b] by Jeffrey Gedmin 08/12/2002 BERLIN Breakfast in Berlin is brilliant. My favorite place to go is the Mokkabar, a cafe in Kreuzberg, the district where violent lefties used to blow up cars and that the city's Turks have always called home. Today, Kreuzberg, at least the neighborhood of the Mokkabar, has calmed down. It's lively, gentrified, charming, and true Multikulti, as the Germans say. I used to think European breakfasts were always those underwhelming little plates with a couple of pieces of hundred-grain bread and a vastly under-boiled egg. Not so in Berlin. Here you get plates--platters, really--stacked with salmon, fresh cheeses, assorted meats, scrambled eggs, a variety of fruit, warm croissants, bagels, and pancakes if you like. Everyone drinks the Berliner Milchkaffee, a delicious cafe au lait, served in a bright and colorful oversized coffee cup nearly the size of a small beer stein. There are plenty of freshly squeezed juices. Take your pick. There's only one catch: [b]The service at the Mokkabar, like nearly that at every restaurant and bar in the city, is, well, miserable. This is not the French waiter syndrome[/b]. True, there's plenty of anti-Americanism to go around among Euro-Gaullist elites. But the average Berliner, unlike the Parisian, for example, feels relaxed and actually likes the Americans. I haven't yet encountered an ordinary burgher drooling with rage over the death penalty in America or our skepticism about the International Criminal Court. No, this has nothing to do with Americans or other foreigners for that matter. It turns out millions of Germans are suffering every day, too. I used to think we Americans had our problems. We do. But then I learned a secret: Bad service in Germany is about a system (this is the country of Hegel, after all, and everything in Germany is a system). Once upon a time, Germans had a world-class work ethic. But as the economy prospered and the welfare state grew over the years, it gave way to a world-class German leisure ethic. Germans spend quite a bit of time on this. The German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung recently published four pages on "the Science of Vacation." A lead article discussed "The Problems of Relaxation: A Phenomenology of a Distorted Perception." In another piece, a professor from the University of Marburg speculated that certain vacations could result in a decrease in IQ of about three-quarters of a point. Having fun has become serious business in Germany. It's no wonder. Germans have a 38-hour work week, five to six weeks' vacation annually, plus Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ash Wednesday, Ascension Thursday, Pentecost, All Saints' Day, Labor Day, National Unity Day, and a good handful of other holidays, depending on what state you live in. Germans also get a bonus in the summer called Urlaubsgeld--vacation money. It's easy to see how managing free time can get stressful. For some Germans, their adrenaline flows more talking about being elected vice president of the tennis club than being promoted to vice president of their business. Back to the Mokkabar. Once upon a time Germans also had their equivalent to the "customer is always right" ("Der Kunde ist Koenig," they used to say, or, "the customer is king"). Today, though, the employee has become emperor in the "social-market economy," which means when it comes to service, if you are on the customer's side of things you usually lose. In a restaurant like my Mokkabar, for instance, it's easy to sit endlessly waiting for even a menu, while the waitresses chain-smoke and sip espresso at the bar. Employees in Germany enjoy generous mandated breaks and, for some, even a Pinkelpause (literally, a "peeing break," to which the worker has a legal right since the normal breaks are generally not considered to be enough). Match this up with a strong sense of superiority in the relationship, and it all spells trouble if you want to boldly ask something like, "What's the soup of the day?" Everyone has his sad customer stories. Last week, I took a blazer to an alterations shop in a busy downtown area near Friedrichstrasse first thing in the morning. I could not find a needle and thread at home and needed a simple button sewn back on. This was Wednesday morning and the young woman on the other side informed me that I could pick up the jacket next Tuesday. When I asked if there was not some kind of express service--I needed the jacket that night--she scowled. This, it seems, was the express service. A senior business executive related to me recently how he called for weeks across all Berlin to find a custom shirt maker who would make him a dozen shirts with his initials on the bottom. Custom shirt makers, you can find. But they make the shirts apparently just the way they, the shirt makers that is, want them. That means no initials in Berlin. Shop hours are still highly restrictive. On evenings and on weekends, at least Saturdays starting at 4 P.M., the employee enjoys his "social protection" and the customer is a lonely, forlorn guy. (Maybe you want to get away from it all. Book a seat on a German train by phone and you pay extra to the railway for each minute you wait to talk to a booking agent. If you don't like that and want to file a complaint, there's a special hotline you can dial--but that call will also cost you.) Imagine, foolish me. I once naively thought you could rent a video here on a Sunday. Think again. You can also see why waiting, even forever, for a Milchkaffee and brunch at the Mokkabar is not such a bad idea. (Jeffrey Gedmin is director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin.) I feel better already! Eric The(OldGerman)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 4:49:31 AM EDT
Socialism keeps ALL of Europe down. The only way Europe will overtake us is if we adopt their socialist mindsets. I think we're already pretty far down that road.
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 5:02:42 AM EDT
Each system has its merits. I think most of the European nations have little chance of obtaining economic powerhouse status, yet if you were to ask the guy on the street if he enjoys his life, the answer will probably be more positive than what most Americans would offer. The Europeans don't work their fingers to the bone like we do. They are not interested in such a life. If that's what they want, fine. There's more to life than work, you know. Hell, I know guys who never take more than two weeks off a year and some years no time off at all. Is that anyway to live your life?
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 5:08:02 AM EDT
[b]mattja[/b], both America and Germany became great because their citizens were more interested in doing their work correctly and efficiently, not in trying to figure out when and where to take a vacation. Ask your grandparents about vacations! There is no problem with vacations, once your work is done, nor is there anything wrong with having breaks. When, however, that becomes the main focus of your workaday world, you are going to have problems. Serious problems. Eric The(Productive)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 5:10:57 AM EDT
Originally Posted By mattja: Hell, I know guys who never take more than two weeks off a year and some years no time off at all. Is that anyway to live your life?
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That would be me. And YES, life is good. EVERY DAY (when I get home) is vacation to me.
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 5:16:07 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2002 5:21:55 AM EDT by Winston_Wolf]
Originally Posted By EricTheHun: ... certain vacations could result in a decrease in IQ of about three-quarters of a point. Eric The(OldGerman)Hun[>]:)]
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... Ha! that ain't shit. I've been on vacations that decreased my IQ by 2 points! [:D][beer]
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 5:32:57 AM EDT
Ditto what ETH said. My home town, a farming community, has a large German heritage. And with that combo a very strong work ethic is/was expected. And I've worked with people here in this Colo. town, that is rather similar to my hometown, that have done nothing but complain about being over worked and when and how they get an extra break. This is in a retail store...they definatly are not over worked. In fact the description of the German cafe' sounds like the people in the store. Moral is low and it was a miserable place to work. Hard work is it's own reward. Grandpa knew it, Dad knew it, and now I'm old enough to know it.
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 6:04:36 AM EDT
Eric (the 9K posts) Hun is complaining about slackers[?] Eric (the I'm ALWAYS on-line) Hun counselling people to do their work first and then play[?]
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 6:24:43 AM EDT
Originally Posted By PINGi3: Eric (the 9K posts) Hun is complaining about slackers[?] Eric (the I'm ALWAYS on-line) Hun counselling people to do their work first and then play[?]
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I've seldom wondered how some members manage to stay online all the time. I guess some, like g-man might be retired. Eric The(Productive at WHAT????)Hun, Please tell me your secret. I'm jealous [;)]
Link Posted: 8/13/2002 6:38:14 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/13/2002 6:41:43 AM EDT by mattja]
There is nothing wrong with hard work. Being a tech worker, I've done my share of 60-70 hour weeks, so I know how it is. I also know there is more to life than work, and if you don't take advantage of the time you have on this earth, you'll find 20 years have passed and you'll have little to show for it but some extra money in the bank. I don't condone slacking on the job, of course not, but I don't think you can have a full, rich life either if you spend every waking hour at work, away from your family and friends. I know 50 year-old guys who barely know their own kids. I've seen what happened to them and I don't want to be in that same position when I'm 50. It's a choice you have to make as an individual, of course. In any case, I think now days it's more important that you work smart. That 38-hour work week thing is really a good idea. Numerous studies have proven that workers are more productive working 32-38 hours as opposed to 40. I don't think that will work here, but the facts do support shorter work weeks for those who work with their minds as opposed to their backs. Working 60-hour weeks doesn't make you a better person. In many cases you are not even a more productive worker. Every worker should have the option of taking a month off work every year. Junior workers perhaps should only get paid for two weeks, but if they want the additional time off at their expense, they should have that option and not be penalized for it.
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