Monday, May 29, 2006

The Secret to German Self-Discipline

NOTE: I know many Germans to whom this does not apply, but felt I owed it the following public service for friends planning to visit for the World Cup…

This is a package of typical German toilet paper.

For those that can read German, you will note that nowhere on this packaging do they make any mention of concepts such as ‘softness’, ‘gentle’, etc. This is mostly likely because nowhere within this packaging are these concepts applied.

Over the past several years, whenever I have come to or passed through Germany, I could not help but notice that their toilet paper is significantly harsher than what I had grown accustomed to in the US. At first, I thought that perhaps my American rear was just a wee bit sensitive from the spicy döner I had enjoyed for dinner the previous night. However, after numerous incidents with the paper products encountered across the country, in locations ranging from private homes to airports to excellent hotels, I had to face the inevitable conclusion that was staring me straight in the …er… eye.

Germans are hard asses.

In the US, this is the type of material that would be used to strip the paint off an old car or file away the bars of a prison cell. Unless there is some unusual trend towards pucker exfoliation, I can only assume that Germans consider the ‘softness’ of their TP to be acceptable.

Any culture that lives with this level of pain on a daily basis (twice if they’ve just had some coffee) simply must have a more highly stoic approach to life. Perhaps they feel that suffering is a path toward enlightenment. Perhaps they feel that this is a good way to harden themselves against the burdens of this mortal coil. Perhaps, after years of numbing, they simply feel nothing at all.
Regardless, the moral of this story is that if you ever plan to visit Germany, and you are not entirely certain of your sphincteric fortitude, then bring your own toilet paper.

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