Monday, June 6, 2011


Back in May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made some awkward remarks about her southern neighbors and their attitude toward work. Her comments are still reverberating three weeks later as the problems in the European Union continue to grow. In the speech she made to some party loyalists, she suggested that the EU should equalize the legal holidays in all its member states, broadly hinting that the southern European “domani” attitude toward work was perhaps responsible for the economic breakdown in Greece and Portugal. Speaking as a US Amerikaner, who was driven to the brink of starvation by the frequency and frivolousness of Germany's holidays back in the bad old days when grocery stores were only open until 1 pm on Saturdays, Merkel’s remarks struck me as hilarious. Critics across southern Europe quickly pointed out that in fact, on average, Spaniards and Portuguese work longer hours than Germans and have an older effective retirement age. Basta!

I can understand Merkel's frustration with Greece and Portugal because of my own frustration with the Germans. I often travel to Germany in the spring, and my plans are always being derailed by the string of holidays that loom over late May and early June: Christihimmelfahrt, Pfingsten, Buß- und Bettag, and my personal favorite, Fronleichnamsfest, which translates into something like, Happy Cadaver Celebration. Well, I’m exaggerating a little, and Buß- und Bettag is actually in autumn, but it’s my blog. I was curious enough about this issue to search for more information today on the subject and came across an account of Merkel’s speech on this fascinating blog/website: Holidays to Abu Dhabi. Here’s a quote attributed to Merkel from the article:

“(People) in countries similar to Greece, Spain and Portugal should not retire progressing than in Germany. We should all make the same efforts, this is important,” she told a celebration eventuality in Meschede, horse opera Germany.

In the words of the immortal Hank the Cowdog, “Huh?” I read further in the article and it’s all nonsense like that. With unemployment in Europe so high, you’ve got to ask yourself why the website doesn’t just hire themselves a writer moderately familiar with the English language. I’m particularly struck by the last phrase: in Meschede, horse opera Germany. Merschede is no garden spot, but to me it seems disrespectful to refer to it as a "horse opera".  I’ve always felt that was a decidedly pejorative term.

So maybe it’s not the love of holidays that’s doing in the Euro Zone, it might be badly written blogs, with little or no proofreading. Southern Europeans are justly outraged about Chancellor Merkel’s inaccurate portrayal of them as lazy layabouts, but Germans in North Rhine/Westphalia’s Sauerland have just as much right to indignation under the circumstances. And so it goes, charge and counter charge, in an escalating spiral of tension that pushes Europeans to the breaking point. Before this crisis is over, they’re all going to need a little time off.

Southern Europeans, hard at work


Tyler Vance said...

I think I'd like to live in a horse opera.

Christopher T. Terry said...

Tyler, don't try it: horse operas are highly overrated. But seriously, Merschede is in a region of Germany called "Hoch Sauerland" I'm guessing they ran that through a text program that gave them "horse opera". I tried it on my iPhone and the correction software gave me "Hooch and sayer", which makes about as much sense. All I can imagine is that the blog is just a form of link bait: pages that are created only to come up in popular searches. The creators of such pages are presumably looking for ad traffic. It's way beyond me.

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