Roberts writes from


One of the great things about this World
Cup has been watching Germany trying to reinvent itself.

It’s happened most obviously with their football team: everyone has been hosing
down expectations (largely on the basis that most people consider the team to
be, well, rubbish) and occasional coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been at pains to
stress that they’ll play an attacking, offensive style of game rather than the
traditional German gameplan of efficiency and effectiveness (read dull and

But it’s also happening with the country as a whole. Just about everybody, from
head honcho Angela Merkel down, has been emphasising that this World Cup is
Germany’s best chance to break clear of the dour, joyless image that many others
have of them.

This is, the Germans believe, a great opportunity for them to show the world that
they are actually fun-loving, cool types who can relax and have fun with the
best of them, rather than getting caught up only with making things run smoothly.
So they’ve brought in Claudia Schiffer and wrapped her in a German flag and had
all the key players pushing the same message: we’re just here to have fun and
make friends and show the world a good time.

Unfortunately, that message doesn’t seem to have made it all the way down the
line to those at the coalface. For a start, the opening ceremony was full of just
about every German stereotype you could imagine – lederhosen, thigh-slapping
dancers and giant, floating Bavarian skirts.

But worse still, experiences in the country so far have suggested that dour and
joyless are adjectives that still have a role to play here. From the unhappy and
unhelpful bods at the train station to the surly person serving at yesterday’s
lunch, there has been a surfeit of grumpiness in Crikey’s (admittedly limited)
dealings with day-to-day Germans thus far.

If only Angela, Claudia & Co could get the grassroots staff to change
their stripes too, then maybe the country’s change of image would be easier to

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey