browsing in one of my habitual bookstores i came across two books strategically placed next to each other:
both are books by americans about living in germany. both are marketed as light-hearted, fun reads. not having heard of either author, and judging only from cross-reading somewhere toward the middle, the decision for me was easy. madison rubbed me the wrong way, i could tell, though i couldn’t put my finger on why or how. so i bought kloeppel’s book (which according to the printing information inside is a translation of an english-language book, but i have not been able to find out anything about that – please comment if you have more information, as in title, etc.)
well, on my walk home i figured out why i couldn’t buy madison’s book. the answer is very simple. it is because he exploits the image americans have over here as being narrow-minded and opinionated (at least as opinionated as germans themselves!) and just keeps playing on that, with snippet observations like, “germans do sandwiches wrong” etc.
observations are good, but i tend to like it when people use their brain. kloeppel however (again this is just from my cross-reading at the bookstore, i look forward to reading more) does use her brain and – while also making observations re: cultural differences, she acknowledges them as such, going further than just wanting to get a laugh out of it. she actually looks at day-to-day activities and decisions and dilemmas that arise from being in a different, seemingly similar but still foreign culture.
madison’s research, even in the small cross-section i read, shows clearly premeditated ignorance and a refusal to get, at all, in any way, involved, even in such respects as personal observation, – anyone who spent more than a few days actually taking part in normal life in a country would notice that there are, to stick with the tiresome example of bread-usage, many different ways in which things are and can be done, even in a geographically limited area. madison is the american germans love to hate – for him, he (assumably) pretends, germany is nothing but beer, lederhosen, one-layer-bread-sandwiches, and the “chicken dance” (which really is called “ententanz” i.e. “duck-dance” if you must mention it, and is for kindergardeners and the occasional rest-home party only.)
intercultural perception has always been an interesting topic as well as a valuable resource for humour, but here the only actual INTERcultural account is kloeppel’s – madison is merely a visitor to a zoo, if not a freak show. at the same time i am sure his book will outsell kloeppel’s easily. why? because the freak show is free of charge, and who knows whose side the bars are on.