World-class whiners

Jammern auf hohem Niveau – whining at a high level. This is one of the many ways in which Germans complain about their complaining. And, indeed, the Germans complain quite a bit. Nothing seems to be right, or just right, or good enough.

Sven Astheimer wrote a very interesting editorial in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in June of 2015. His basic argument was that German whining – a more accurate term is German Unzufriedenheit or dissatisfaction – is one of the German people’s great strengths.

Never being fully satisfied. Always “looking for the hair in the soup.” Striving for perfection. “Geht nicht, gibt’s es nicht” is a very well-known German figure of speech. It translates loosely into: “It can’t work, doesn’t work for me.” Or “It’s impossible, is impossible.”

Astheimer fears that Germans are becoming too satisfied. The country is extraordinarily successful. Strong economy. Balanced federal budget. A finely meshed social net protecting the weak and the unfortunate (and the lazy).

In other words, Jammern is under threat. Germany does not have abundant resources. It has only the creativity, the innovation, the strong minds of its people. Knowhow. And knowing how to do something – how to do it better or in a new way – is driven, is sparked, by Unzufriedenheit.