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Government Advice on German Behavior Abroad (August 3, 1978)

A journalist pokes fun at a campaign by the Federal Press Office. The campaign urged German tourists to behave well during foreign vacations, so as not to bolster anti-German prejudices in neighboring European countries.

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Deutschmark, Deutschmark über alles …
Or: How ugly are we Germans really? Bonn wants to turn tourists into goodwill ambassadors

BONN, August 2. The German Federal Press Office wants to turn fifteen million German tourists vacationing abroad into ambassadors for the Federal Republic. A five-part advertisement series created with the help of caricaturist Pit Flick deals with prejudices against Germans, as well as prejudices held by them (after all, next year will see the first direct election to the European Parliament). The project was prompted by demographic research on the image of Germans abroad. Conclusion: we really aren’t that ugly after all.

The first product of this research recently appeared in magazines: camera-wielding, snorkel-wearing Teutons in recreational-vehicle convoys, descending upon their hosts from above. The welcome sign is written in vacation-colony-German, as can actually be found in some “Southern German Zones.” For instance: “Reel Geman koffie” or “Fig-knuckles with sauerkraut.” Then comes the government’s suggestion to German vacationers: seek out contact with local residents instead of huddling together in beachfront high-rises and resorts. The London Times has already responded in a friendly fashion. After this initial, tone-setting ad, come the next four, which deal with common prejudices held by our neighbors; each appears under the heading: “European vacation in 1978: Germany is worth talking about.”

The first prejudice that is caricatured and challenged: “Germans really only enjoy one thing: working.”

You see industrious construction workers building a giant D, that is, a blueprint for Deutschland (an ironic allusion to the campaign slogans of the chancellor’s party). First, each ad acknowledges the truth in each prejudice: in the past few decades, people in Germany have indeed worked long and hard, because Germans have had to rebuild a livable country from rubble and ruins. Then statistics challenging German “workaholism” are introduced: 92 percent of the labor force works a 40-hour, five-day week; 88 percent of the labor force has four weeks of annual vacation; 750,000 citizens are in voluntary early retirement thanks to the flexible retirement age. As for the catchphrase “dog-eat-dog society,” the government wants our ambassadors in swimming trunks to know that the German federal government spends one-third of its 200 billion DM annual budget on social services, and that there are effective laws against unbridled competition. For example, there is the antitrust law, the right of codetermination, the Works Constitution Act, the tenant law (not all of these laws are popular with the CDU/CSU opposition).

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