Thursday, August 13, 2009

England, more than half English

[Ah, such are the pitfalls of using a shared computer: this post was written by the male half of our marital collective, even though it doesn't appear that way. Just saying, like, to avoid confusion.]

Well, close, but no cigar.

Two questions shy of passing: if only I had known the correct answers to 'What age must you be to be let into betting shops or gambling clubs?' (it's 18 whereas I thought it was 16) and 'How many days must UK schools be open for each year?' (190 instead of my foolish guess of 170), I'd have made it.

(While we're on the topic: why is it that you can legally have sex and join the army at 16 but not place a few bets? Political correctness gone mad, I tell you.)

Given that I'm not actually planning to become British, my failure to pass the test isn't all that tragic. In any case, as it says up there in the photo, only about one is seven Britons can themselves manage a passing score, and, in failing, I'm in illustrious company.

I assume that some provision is made to prepare people for the test (or for them to prepare themselves), and to learn all about council taxation, betting shops and the intricacies of school regulation.

More relevant to my life and future, I have recently taken the German citizenship test (Einbürgerungstest) that was introduced last year and consists of 33 questions: 30 nation-wide ones (drawn from a catalogue of 300) and 3 that are specific to the federal state in which you reside (from a list of ten that are provided beforehand).

And I am happy to report I managed 33 of 33. (There's a separate requirement for a language test, but I had that covered years ago.)

It helped that there were no tricky questions about betting shops (off-track betting not apparently considered an essential aspect of citizenship in this country). Instead, the questions tend to focus on general democratic principles, the basic functions of the various levels of government, the key dates in German history and the reasons why Germans need to feel guilty about their past.

There are also a few thrown in that signal clearly the populations at which this test is aimed, such as those asking how many wives a man may have -- the answer is one, in case you were wondering -- and the steps that parents may take if their daughter tells them she intends to marry a lad of whom they disapprove (the answer: nichts!).

Given that the bar for success is set generously low (17 of 33 correct), it occurs to me that theoretically one could be firmly of the view that Germany accepted polygamy and 'honour killing' and still pass the test as long as he or she has memorised the functions of the Bundesrat, the duties of the Bundespräsident and the fact that between 1933 and 1945 Germany was not a constitutional monarchy but rather a dictatorship. (And has, in addition, memorised the state-specific questions, which are actually the harder ones: without a little preparation, I'd likely not have been able to tell you the colours of the state seal of Rhineland-Palatinate.)

It seems to me that there is little knowledge that is useful on an everyday basis that is tested, such as how to pour Hefeweizen, knowing how to find and use the Wagenstandanzeiger or comprehending that 'there is no strong tradition of queuing in Germany'.

On a vaguely related note: Shuggy has pointed out that the British government's most recent plans for making life hard for immigrants grants them extra points if they agree to settle in Scotland.

I'm trying to think of what the German equivalent of this kind of plan would be.

And I'm stumped.

(Thanks to Dale, who is even somewhat less successfully British, for the link to the test.)

[Posted by JCW, aka The Husband]


mikeovswinton, and rostock said...

Wouldn't you deserve extra points for eating at the Kebab place at the Ostsee Park [actually a Real supermarket of enormous size] just outside Rostock if you are a vegan?
In which case, send me my Passport!

J. Carter Wood said...

If I were judging the matter, sure, I would say that that counts.

I would have thought that the fact I spent a couple of days selling beer at a Schützenfest would give me automatic entitlement to citizenship.

Sadly, it ain't so.

mikeovswinton, Gemuesetaschekoenig said...

Did you sell enough to become the Bierkoenig? If so, surely they would have had to give you the passport. Unless it was in Bavaria, which all my German friends tell me is not "really" German.

J. Carter Wood said...

Sales were poor, but I heard they picked up during the afternoon (during which time I had to absent myself so as to, actually, take the Einbürgerungstest).

I lived for a few years in what is officially the northern part of Bavaria but which identifies itself -- quite insistently -- as Franconian. It seemed pretty German to me.

But, yes, the Bavarians have their own separate conservative party, red cross, etc., and I think some Germans from other regions resent them because they've caused foreigners to think of several things as 'German' (Lederhosen, Dirndls, Oktoberfest) that are actually more specifically Bavarian.

I wouldn't want to push the metaphor too far, but in some ways I've tended to see Bavaria as something like the Texas of Germany. (I mean the American state, of course, not the band.)

The feelings go both ways, though. I had one student who, during a class discussion about whether or not they felt 'European' (typical answer: only when they're around Americans), said: 'I'm Bavarian, I have a hard enough time feeling German, let alone European.'

But this is a debate for the natives.

Those of us for whom Germany is a Wahlheimat love all of its component parts equally...

mikeovhamburg, recently said...

Do they still say "Gruss Gott" instead of "Morgen" in the mornings down Bavaria way? By the way you were right some months back when you pointed out that it isn't just Munich and Bavaria that shut for business on sundays. Hamburg recently was eerily quiet on a sunday when we were searching for grub at tea time. Until we found a Chinese restaurant which was empty, but then filled up with most of Hamburg's Chinese community for a birthday bash. And the grub was excellent too. Which shows that one old english proverb is true, tho' I doubt its on the test for englishness.

The Wife said...

Gott zum Gruße, Mike (oh you gracious teutonophile)!

Not only do people in the South continue to invoke the great deity for each humble act of greeting (which might have been the reason for me to abandon the habit in the first place - why mention God every time you enter the baker's/butcher's/purveyor's of feminine hygiene articles? Seems a tad too much, no?), they also (all of them, that is!) wear dirndls and lederhosen while yelling "Gottimhimmel" (Or "Schweinhund". Or "Blitzkriegscheissekruppstahl").

That's about the only words we know.

Anonymous said...

Anja - it's possible to read too many of John's old 'Commando War Stories' comics, you know.

Chris Williams

mikeovmunchen said...

Listen, I'm only reporting what my friends in the North say. I'm agnostic on the whole "Bavaria isn't German" thing. But there was a shop that sold dirndl etc near Munich Station last time I went. Just near the Reformhaus in the sort of underpass/shopping centre thing. I think their main customers were those very "German" bier places near the Dom. You know, the ones where if you buy a "Sausage salad" you get half a pound of pink wurst, half a lettuce leaf and a radish if you are lucky.