Understanding Germany through Handelsblatt Global

Germany is the most populous country in Europe, and it’s biggest economy. Yet how much do we know about their society, and attitudes? I imagine the answer is, no, I don’t know much about them, but I do like their cars.

We know much about France and Spain, primarily because we Brits are frequent visitors, and in some cases holiday home owners. Many of us, sadly, are not fluent in French or Spanish, though we’ve all probably got a good smattering of words and phrases in their languages. Of German, I guess, few of us have even a smattering.

There is a splendid source of up-to-date news and opinion on German business, culture, and politics, all written for global consumption. Written in English, Handlelsblatt Global is the sister publication to Handelsblatt, Germany’s leading financial daily newspaper.

In Handelsblatt Global, there’s a section headed Ask a German: Handelsblatt Explains. Thoroughly interesting and informative.


Wonderful light show along the banks of the Thames thru London

This is ostensibly about an evening boat cruise along the River Thames from Westminster pier to the O2 Arena and back, it’s also about town twinning. Because the reason for my trip along the River Thames was to join visitors from our German twin town.

Surrey Heath is twinned with Sucy-en-Brie near Paris, and Bietigheim-Bissingen near Stuttgart in Germany.

Last week Surrey Heath entertained a small party of visitors from Bietigheim-Bissingen, including its mayor, Oberburgermeister Jürgen Kessing. While such visits foster cultural interchange and civic friendship, this visit included efforts to build business links between the boroughs. The visitors attended the Surrey Heath Business Breakfast and presentations on civic plans for Camberley. Links between Bietigheim-Bissingen and Surrey Heath are strong, with, for example, groups of walkers from Surrey Heath our German twin town in recent years, and church links too.

Ok, that’s the civic stuff, now my photo montage of the boat cruise [took many pictures, of which many were abject failures].

Britain outside the EU? The German view

Britain outside the EU - A German ViewHere’s a view on Britain and the EU from a German perspective – Britain outside the EU? – The German View. Not one you’re likely to find in the UK press.

The report produced by Almut Moller, Head of Program, Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies, for German think tank, The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

The article appears in its English version in World Affairs Journal.

Understanding the German mood and character

Now that I can podcast, I’m keen to post a wonderful 40 minute conversation about understanding the psyche, mood and character of the German people. It is the sole topic of a BBC Radio 4 Start the Week programme late last year.

Why am I interested in this topic. Primarily because it’s sensible that we, as a nation, understand German motives in Europe more clearly, since they are the ‘engine-room’ of Europe’s economy. Surrey Heath Council has an active town twinning relationship with the German town Bietigheim-Bissingen, near Stuttgart. Also, and not least, because here in Surrey Heath, at Tomlinscote School and Sixth Form College we have a centre of excellence in German language teaching. The school is a member of a prestigious group of schools recognised by the Goethe-Institut.

Back to the podcast, Andrew Marr discusses Germany and the EU with Katinka Barysch – Deputy Director of Centre for European Reform in London, Bavarian born Labour MP Gisela Stuart, Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, and Bavarian born Karen Leeder – Professor of Modern German Literature at Oxford University.

Thoughts before the England and Germany match

BBC Radio 4 has little gems of programmes. On Wednesday evening I listened to “Home Thoughts from Abroad” in the car on the way home from a meeting – repeated on iPlayer until June 30th. Here’s the BBC’s description of the programme,

“John F Jungclaussen, commentator for “Die Zeit” magazine, explains what Britain can learn from German politics and vice versa. In the last of an “ideas swap” series, Mr Jungclaussen argues that Britain is an increasingly authoritarian society, compared to laid-back Germany. He also explains what the Germans could learn from the British tradition of celebrating Guy Fawkes night.”

Jungclaussen lives in the UK and is clearly an anglophile. Describing his admiration of our ability to debate, and to use our language to its fullest ability, unlike in Germany. Although he bemoaned our increased acceptance of authoritarian government, describing one difference between the two nations on adherence to a common law banning smoking in pubs and bars. Surprisingly the anti-smoking law is widely flouted in Germany, but never in the UK. His argument was that Britain retains the wrong image of German people.

Of course, now we are playing Germany yet again in the World Cup, British tabloid newspapers revert to stereotypical portrayal of the two nations. Some Germans are not amused, to be expected I suppose.

It’s in this atmosphere that David Cameron has proposed watching the football match on TV with German chancellor Angela Merkel. What a natural diplomat is David Cameron. I hope this is what happens. Such a simple gesture, but an indication of friendship and common cause. Nick Robinson has blogged about this Crunch Match, and how Cameron is different to Gordon Brown, thank goodness.