Questions over questions
„Good question“, I think. Again, I am being standing a bit helpless. My local acquaintance wants to know from me – after he has guided me for half an hour through his village and has answered various questions – what our villages look like. I have grown up in one, I should actually know that. But he has – if at all – only a vague idea of Europe. What he perhaps knows through newspaper- and magazine reports, possibly through TV (on the island itself there is none) about Europe, I wouldn’t tag as a reflection of reality. A village is hardly worth a news, and what the media cover about Europe is mostly glossy on soap opera standard. Slightly awkwardly I am trying to provide him with a somehow realistic picture of rural life in Germany’s southwest. Each sentence is prompting a continuative question: “Agriculture has become rare!” – “But what do the people live on then?” After half an hour I pass out. A German village is too abstract as to even roughly put it across without some vivid example. Consequently, I promise to carry some pictures next time.
Travel broadens the mind. But I had never thought that I’d have to spend so many thoughts on my homeland. More than once, “good questions” perplexed me. Simple questions, actually: What is your staple food, how much is charged for a medical treatment, for how many years do people visit school on an average, how much is the governmental minimum salary, in what age do people normally retire, do you have a professional army…Probably, I have a bias to complicate things unnecessarily. On the other hand, I am eager to give answers that would satisfy me as well. After all, it is not less than the image that one provides of himself and his place of origin. And easily this gets too paradise like. Simply “no direct costs for necessary medical treatment” or the elaboration of the social insurance system. The first – paradise like – is not true, the second option is quite tough to explain.
Last week a young chap has ashamedly and hinter vorgehaltener hand addressed me with a question that is for long heavily discussed amongst his friends: “Is it true that in Germany men and women can have free sex, if they like?” Just before he had asked which way to follow best, if wanting to study in Germany. “Good question”, was my answer.