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Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Why Everything is Done Properly in Germany


I grew up in Germany, where according to English folklore, everything is done properly.

As always, there’s a bit of truth behind that and now that I live in the U.K., I find that truth in places I did not expect, for example insurance sales calls.

I have taken a lot of insurance company sales calls lately because two of our short-term insurances ran out—the one for the car we recently bought and the one for our fridge freezer we purchased a year ago. That’s right, welcome to the U.K. where you buy a fridge freezer with insurance.

To cut a long story short, the woman trying to sell me an extension for the fridge freezer insurance managed to annoy me. As soon as I had told her to email my wife she hung up on me mid-sentence to optimise her time.

This behaviour does not automatically create a bad feeling about the shop that sold us the fridge. As everyone knows, they are outsourcing the insurance to some insurance broker. When I realised that I was at the “over my dead body” stage with that particular insurance broker, I suddenly could see how far away from my roots I am.

Growing up in Germany and even living in France, it would have never even occurred to me to differentiate between insurance vendors and shop owners. In Germany, we are used to a much more monolithic view of things. That includes telephone operators that send their own technicians, gas repair people that work directly for the gas supplier and so on. If I had this experience in Germany or France, I would have mentally added the shop to my personal black list. The sub-contracting jungle that is the U.K. was pretty alien to me when I first arrived.

Now I’m sure that Germany and France are going the same way essentially, but I think (hope?) they’re both a couple of years or decades behind.

The fun part is my daughters will grow up knowing about this and they will totally adapt to it. It will be second nature for them that of course the guy who repairs the boiler does NOT work for British Gas! Papa! *roll eyes*

So there goes a part of my culture, a bit of primordial knowledge that had been planted deeply into my belief system and has now been uprooted completely. I’m sad to see it go, I must admit. But I know now why the English claim we’re doing things properly: because we do.

© 2012, Jan Petersen. All rights reserved.

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Jan, who is German, works mainly from home as a software engineer. His wife, who is Algerian, stays at home to look after their three girls aged 7, 4 and 1. They live in the U.K. and are raising their children multilingual in Arabic, French, German and English.

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