Emboldened by their recent success in ordering their population to be happy, the German authorites have moved on to Phase II of their Joy Through Strength programme by ordering them to be friendly too. In preparation for the expected influx of party-hearty foreigners arriving for the 2006 World Cup, billboards and public service announcements everywhere urge the natives to put aside their traditional xenophobia and play nice, under the slogan "Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden" (roughly translated as "Time to Make Friends").
“When you meet a foreigner on the street, instead of bayonetting him in the stomach, why not try smiling and waving?” suggests one typical poster.
The former German national soccer coach, Franz Beckenbauer, who is fronting the £2 million campaign, yesterday spearheaded an appeal to "roll out the red carpet" for foreign guests. "Unfortunately, we're not viewed as particularly friendly people and we have to improve on that," he said at yesterday’s launch. “With fewer than 100 days until the June kick-off, there’s no time to lose in instilling a sense of hospitality in our proud German volk”, he added, straightening the silver-braided cap of his immaculate black World Cup uniform.
Frankly this is a lost cause. Not for nothing is Germany known as “The land where the Israelis learnt their manners”.
In any case, the poster campaign will go only a certain way to proving how tolerant Germany says it is. Out of more than 70 service workers depicted, only two are of visibly non-German origin - a sushi waiter and a young boy playing with a football. None of Germany’s huge and football-mad Turkish population appear.
In fact, as part of the “Time to Clean Haus” campaign running in parallel, there seem to be fewer Turks on the streets too. Herr Beckenbauer explains: “The Turks? What Turks? Oh, those Turks. Well, they’re… uh… on holiday. In special… uh… holiday camps. With extra friendliness training.” When tasked to comment on the lack of phone calls or letters from those attending the camps, he informed reporters that the residents were “probably just really busy with World Cup stuff.”
And will they be back after the Cup? “Ah… let me get back to you on that…”
“Germany - a warmer welcome through intimidation.” © Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus, 2006