The headline pretty much is the gist of any conversation I’ve had abroad when people asked me something about Germany.
As per Chutzpah’s request, I’ll do a list of things that are stereotypically German, but unlike “You know you are German…”-lists, I’ll try to add a few aspects that are typical but not necessarily stereotypical of Germany and Germans.
As I started typing this, I realized this would turn into an extremely long post, so I’ll convert it into a mini-series instead, covering one topic at a time until the majority of commenters begs me to stop. I think you’ll quickly notice that about 90% of typical and stereotypical German habits are the same as typical and stereotypical Ashkenazic habits.
For a start: The Good China
I’m not talking about the most positive aspect of China here (namely refugee immigrants that have opened Chinese restaurants with all-you-can-eat buffets for around 7Euros; a lunch recommendation for travellers that don’t keep kosher), but about an aspect of everyday German life that particularly gets installed in girls so much that it’s not exactly surprising to see a guest flipping over a plate or cup to see what brand the china is. Now, I understand that in a society where most usually drink their coffee from paper cups, where coffee mugs are purchased at entertainment parks or greeting card stores as souvenirs or little trinkets, and where many eat most of their food off disposable plates or out of disposable containers, an obsession with china brands must seem somewhat absurd. But I promise, it’s all in good health. Really. We’re all good. No OCD. All good. All happy. All healthy.
Indeed, Germans don’t so much differentiate between milchige and fleishige chinaware, but between â€œeverydayâ€ china and â€œthe good chinaâ€. Reasons to use â€œthe good chinaâ€ mostly are family-get-togethers or hosting guests; increasingly fewer families make it a point to use â€œthe good chinaâ€ on weekends or holidays though. Why? That’s because, no matter how dishwasher-proof â€œthe good chinaâ€ might be, the lady of the house will insist on the plates’ decor facing inevitable destruction inside a dishwasher. Once â€œthe good chinaâ€ gets replaced by â€œa better chinaâ€, thus gets downgraded to â€œeveryday chinaâ€, no dishwasher in this world could do the decor any harm.
Beware though, â€œthe good chinaâ€ is not simply just a spare set of china used on special occasions. Sorry, but what were you thinking? You won’t find your set of â€œthe good chinaâ€ at supermarkets or, ack, a Swedish furniture chain (though I’ve heard that chain’s opened classy concept stores over here)! â€œThe good chinaâ€ is a status symbol. Hence only the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of chinaware is eligible to consider itself good china, namely Rosenthal, Villeroy&Boch, Hutschenreuther, Goebel, Winterling, Arzberg, Lomonosov (tea sets only), Wedgewood, MeiÃŸen, Seltmann-Weiden…
Similar rules apply to kitchenware, flatware and towels.
A girl will be equipped with her set of good china by the time she gets into kindergarten lest she ends up in shame and without something proper to set her dining-room table with (using the good china on the kitchen table would be a profanity of sorts)! The flipside of that is that in many cases, the decor will have gone out of fashion by the time the little girl has grown into an adult, but one can be lucky like in my case: my china as well as me stem from 1979. Just as flares are making a definite comeback (and that’s flares, not bootcut â€“ already got a pair of tomato red ones), so do decors, and my china now could be considered rather fashionable. Just that I don’t ever really use it.