Saturday, December 30, 2006

Cultural Differences

This year's Christmas celebrations with my British son and his German partner in Berlin emphasized the cultural differences that exist between the UK and Germany. People who don't know about these things might think that all European countries are much the same, and that cultural differences might exist between Kabul and Berlin, but surely not between London and Berlin. Well, they are wrong. Cultural differences exist everywhere, even between different layers of society in the same country.

In our family we had always fudged a British Christmas with a German flavour, due to family history, with the present business over and done with on Christmas Eve afternoon. But this Christmas Eve we hit a real difficulty over Christmas carols. German and British carols are completely different, and apart from 'Silent Night' there are very few carols which cover both nations. Recently in Georgia I had made fun of a German person who did not know 'Joy to the World' (music by the British-German composer Handel), but I now realise how little each nation knows of each other's Christmas music. And for example the British Easter hymn 'Thine be the glory' is very much an Easter hymn ('risen, conquering son'....) whereas in German it is a Christmas carol ('Tochter Zion') with very few words that really don't fit all those notes - originally it is a chorus from Handel's oratorio 'Judas Maccabaeus'. Between the three of us one only knew German carols, one knew British carols, one knew both - and one violinist knew British carols, the other reluctant violinist knew both, we somehow managed to cobble it together. Unfortunately the internet went down just as we got to the British carols - so we had no words.
En passant, on Thursday The Times had this article about French doctors being trained in cultural sensitivity to allow them to deal with the many British who now live in France. French doctors have much more time for their patients, it seems. Also they think that if Brits go to see their doctor it must be something serious - apparently 75% of French go to their doctors with symptoms of flu (poor doctors!) but only 25% of Brits do so. That's because it has been drummed into us not to bother our doctors with the flu - keep taking the paracetamol. And that's quite apart from the different illnesses that exist in different European countries, such as 'maladie de la foie' in France, or 'Kreislaufstoerungen' (circulatory disruptions) in Germany.

It also seems that in some rural areas in France the populations are rising again, thanks to the British influx (Much like in Northern Scotland). That's good, no? Anyone who has seen the magical documentary film 'Etre et Avoir' and who has small children will be forming a disorderly queue to allow their children to experience such an education system.


varske said...

something wrong with that film link

violainvilnius said...

thanks, link changed