But there is a paradox. Germany is also complex. Germans like complex systems, be they rules and regulations or toys and machines. It’s like the German crosswalks at busy intersections: a maze of lane markers that you need an owner's manual to understand. Cars, buses, streetcars, bicycles, pedestrians—each has a lane. Are there pigeon lanes? No wonder nobody jaywalks. You can get killed.
Germans make things complex because it makes them feel secure. This is not new. It’s a stereotype and a cliché. It is also true.
I’ve been reading the details of the dual education system on the website of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education. There are 344 distinct professions, each with detailed descriptions, histories, teaching plans, genealogies. You can also find the chart for the German tracking system: grammar school through universities. You can pull your hair out for a while studying these things.
And then, after a while, they start to make sense. Germany makes sense.
It is like the trains. The system is as dense and complex as a swarm of bees. The trains just snake along everywhere. They’re like water pipes, leading to every house, apartment and sink. Wherever you are, there is a train to wherever you want to be. And it is coming soon, no matter when it is. And when something goes wrong—like a little fire that started in the Göttingen station under the wheels of a fast train to North Germany—all the right people with the right fire extinguishers are there immediately. The train is announced delayed ten minutes, then canceled, then a new train is brought up ten minutes later and everyone is off. Unbelievable! I hate to think what would have happened if that had been Amtrak, the American train company.