Monday, July 08, 2013

The elephant on the border

A couple of weeks ago I drove into Germany to visit a large steel producer and interview their CEO. It’s quite a pleasant drive, about an hour tootling through b-roads in the Dutch countryside followed by an hour of adrenaline packed, foot to the floor, hell for leather flying along the speed-limit-free autobahn towards the infamous Ruhr region. As I was driving along I couldn’t help but wonder why in god’s name they don’t have road signs pointing to Germany! Seriously, you will pass umpteen signs directing you to every pint-sized village near the Dutch border, but Germany? One of the largest countries in the EU? That enormous industrial powerhouse humming and away and paying off the debts of just about every other country in the Eurozone? Nah, don’t need a sign for that.
Conversely as I was leaving Germany I noticed there are no signs for the Netherlands. People, we are crossing international borders here! When I stop to fill up by car I may be able to use my euros wherever I am, but it’s nice to know whether a goedemorgen or a guten morgen is in order. I don’t want to be confusing my worst with my wurst, do I want to top it with mosterd or senf, and a side of zuurkool or sauerkraut? And if things get really complicated, what if I ask for a simple hotdog when I should have requested Würstchen meist in einem Brötchen verkauft?

The Germans probably figure that if you want to get to the Netherlands just put the car in neutral and whichever way it starts rolling down hill, keep going that way.