April 19, 2010


... and you have done so for the past ten years, in the BBC World Service poll, in which over 30,000 people around the world are asked which country they favour, and Germany consistently and constantly tops the country list as "most likeable" country.

I believe that for the most part – as it is the case with the runner-ups Canada and Japan – that we are well-liked because, in the words of the immortal (and yet, still dead) Douglas Adams of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame, we are...

... mostly harmless.

And so most of the numbers really don't mean anything.

Except three of them. Tell you what they are. France. The United Kingdom. Russia. We are most liked by the French! Imagine that (and France, we love you, too. Seriously. A country with hundreds of cheeses? Wine and women? Why do you think we invaded you in the first place?)

I've been twice to France in my life, and dear god, the women! The women! They can call you a mysoginist pig, and the way it sounds in French, you still find yourself falling in love with them! And once upon a time, you gave us the real comics! Not the American industrialised bullshit caped hero, no, you gave us Tillieux and Moebius and Loisel!

You gave us art for art's sake!

You understand that Jerry Lewis is funny!

You gave us Louis de Funés!

Qui! Non! Qui! Non! Qui! Nooooooon! 

You gave Germans your cuisine (and believe you me, when you see what was considered food before the French invaded us, well, sometimes an invasion here and there... isn't that bad of a thing, okay, I'm just kidding, but still...)

You gave the world liberté, egalité, fraternité!

We love you, France, and it is one of the things that makes me hopeful, because we tried to kill each other for the better part of two centuries.

As for Russia – still incredibly weary of Germans for good reason – they are starting to warm to us, and hey, considering that we killed more Russians than any other group during World War 2. The Soviet Union had casulties of, now brace yourselves, kids... 24 MILLION, and while this does include roughly 1 million Holocaust murders, well, even 23 million Soviets who died on the battlefields, in concentration camps...

(What? Did you think that concentration camps were Jews Only?)

... and brutally slaughtered in their own houses and their towns and on their fields.

Let us think about that number. 24 million. And still, they kind of like us not much less than the Americans or the Canadians do. Which shows a lot about how perceptions have changed since the end of the Cold War.

And my favourite group in the entire world, the British... okay, we still love them more than they love us, but by and by our clashes revolve on who gets the better seat at the pool or who has the better footie team, and I personally am always somewhat of two minds when the English and the Germans are playing the world cup. I want England to succeed, and I never quite understand why they suck.

I once made the point in a conversation with an Englishman that, "kids, you have the problem that you some of the best players in the world, you always had, but know what you don't have? A team. We Germans have never had the players you have. Never. But you know why we beat you almost every single time we face you on the pitch? It's because the Germans have a team. They're willing to die on the pitch. Hell, you have to tell the German team that the game is over three hours after the match, you want to beat them, in the words of Gary Lineker, you have to put them into a coffin, sit on the coffin, hammer a hundred nails into that coffin and bury it underneath the pitch. Your guys give up after 60 or 70 minutes, if they are a goal or two down. A German team will go, hey, we still have twenty minutes! That's ten minutes for a goal! And if we go into overtime, we can still win in the 94th minute!"

He nodded slowly, and with a sad expressions said, "Yes, we know."

But for the fact that the English live and die for their footie, I love them. I'm not a big footie fan myself, but watch them in their pubs in London, watch grown men cry and laugh and cheer, I cannot find it in my heart to not love them for that.

Now, if your idiotic tabloids could just stop bringing up the war, John-Cleese-style, every time the Germans play you on the field, I'd love you even more. But I've read the comments from you guys after Fegruson's ManU was thrown out by Bayern Munich this year, and that idiot of a coach blamed those evil "Germans" like Ribery (oops) and Robben (oops) for badgering the ref into sending off your ManU midfielder. We all know that the kid was stupid to have done what he did, and I want to thank you for commenting with such grace and knowledge.

Now, let's try to get that Germany-England finale in South Africa, eh?

I love you for the fact that you stubbornly refuse to drive on the right side of the road. I love you for the fact that I learned cooking by watching Jamie Oliver, who made it all look so effortlessly that I thought to myself that if this silly git can cook, so can I!

You gave us music!

You gave us the Beatles.

You gave us the Rolling Stones.

Hell, you didn't stop there! You gave us The Who, Queen, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, and for all these, I'll forgive you for giving us the Spice Girls. Really. I forgive you.

I love you for the fact that you still value reading, and that your bookstores look like you want to stay in there forever and just browse.

You gave us Shakespeare. You gave us Dickens. You gave us George Bernard Shaw. You gave us George Orwell. And for all these, I forgive you for giving us Clive Barker. Really. I forgive you.

I love you for the fact that you are anal retentive five days of the week and then chase female tail or male booty on Friday (and don't deny it. I've seen you, and a partying English or Scottish woman is enough to make a German think, okay, that is it, I give up, where do they take that energy from? Can't be just the Red Bull, can it?).

It's those three numbers that I like about the BBC World Service poll.

Because these are the three countries that have been at each other's throats for the first half of the 20th century. Germany. France. Russia.

There may be hope for this world just yet.