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The Teutonic Way October 5, 2009

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

05 October 2009


Here’s a gag that the Brits tell from the Second World War. On a desert battlefield in North Africa, a duel ensues between a German soldier and a British Army Gurkha. The tall German is brandishing a rifle with fixed bayonet while the diminutive Nepalese mercenary is wielding a large boomerang-shaped knife. Confident of his superiority, the German lunges first, charging headstrong and grazing the Gurkha’s collar with a bayonet stab. The Gurkha sidesteps and counters with a swing of his blade.

“Hah! You missed!” the German soldier yells smugly.

“You shake your head,” replies the Gurkha.

Puzzled, the German gives it a shake and his severed head promptly falls to the ground.

It’s a grim joke but it makes a point. They’re tough fighters those Gurkhas, which is why they’ve been prized recruits of the British Army since the 19th century and have been exalted by generations of British officers as “the best soldiers in the world.”

But that’s not to say the Germans don’t make for good soldiers. It’s simply that in most of the Allied war stories I’ve read, the Germans always seem to get portrayed as bullheaded troopers who insist on doing things the Teutonic way – the “superior” way.

To be honest, that also happens to be how they are portrayed by the global media, with Hollywood being the guiltiest in perpetuating the image of Germans as overbearing, square-minded authoritarians (no disrespect to the Terminator, now also known as the “Governator,” who is actually a creative thinker and is technically Austrian by birth). It is of course an unfortunate generalization considering that I have encountered and befriended more than enough Germans who are nothing like this stereotype.

So I found it amusing, even startlingly refreshing, when the wine shop recently played host to a guest who exhibited basically all the stereotype characteristics described – a tall German with a wide frame, straightforward demeanor and a library of opinions that he was not the least bit shy about insisting upon. Whoa yeah, he was very opinionated.

“Let me tell you,” he said to me with a poker face from across the bar. “Don’t be angry but the way your place looks is DUMB.”

Yup, he said that. And he was just warming up.

“Don’t be angry but who designed your place? Your sister designed it? Is she a licensed interior designer?”

“Don’t be angry but your place feels like a house, not a store.”

“Don’t be angry but I wouldn’t pay good money to build my counter behind the bar like that.”

“Don’t be angry but your location is not good.”

For someone who didn’t want me to get angry he sure was laying it thick. And I actually wasn’t angry. The fellow is a really friendly and decent gentleman who has been living in the Philippines with his wife for the last two decades. Together they make arguably the best charcuterie products in the country, which was the reason I had asked them to meet me at Cyrano in the first place. But the gentleman seemed determined to discourage me from using him as a supplier.

“Let me get this right,” I asked. “Are you telling me that you don’t want me to buy your products?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “but you won’t make money selling my products here. I’m sorry.”

“My friend,” I said, exasperated by the complications of what was supposed to be a simple request for supplies. “I’m NOT turning my place into a deli. This is a wine shop. My core business is wine, not deli products. What I’m trying to do is carry a few of your items so that customers who order them will also be encouraged to buy more wine.”

“Well, I will supply you if you really want but I tell you, you won’t make money. People won’t like your location. Don’t be angry but you asked me my opinion.”

“Actually, you volunteered,” I pointed. “I didn’t ask.” Gee, I must have said something right because his wife, who had kept quiet the whole time her hubby was freely dispensing advice, suddenly burst out laughing after my remark.

When our meeting finally ended, I wasn’t surprised that we hadn’t reached any agreement, not even in principle. But I made him a promise that we would talk again.

“I believe in your products,” I said as I escorted him and his wife to the exit. “Don’t worry. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement that works for both of us.”

Believe me. He’s one of the good guys. His opinions may flatly contradict what Cyrano friends have been telling me for years but I respect what he had to say because his heart is in the right place. He was just trying to look out for Cyrano in his own insistent, Teutonic way.

But I needed a drink right after that meeting.





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