Following The Rules

One of the reasons Germany has been more successful than some of its neighbors in battling COVID-19 is that Germans are very good at following rules. Even when they defy common sense.

There are strict rules in place about how many people can gather together. For example, only one person can visit a household, and only people from two households can be together. That means my wife and I can’t visit another couple, or have a couple in for dinner. To me that seems a little extreme, but I understand the feeling that it is necessary to limit contacts. But what about when it isn’t a social visit?

Germany, as you may be aware, opened its borders to Syrian refugees at the height of the Syrian civil war. Estimates vary, but it is safe to say the country took in close to a million refugees in a short time period.

They have been here for a few years now, but German is a hard language and many have struggled to learn it. I definitely sympathize with that – I’ve had to accept that I will never become fluent.

Not speaking the language can be a problem when dealing with officialdom. What do you do when you don’t understand what is being said, or what is in the letter you have just received? How do you know what your response should be?

If you can find someone to translate that is a real help. And that is just what a Syrian mother did recently when she was summoned for a parent-teacher conference at the local school. She brought with her a German woman who speaks Arabic to facilitate things. Problem solved, right?

Apparently not. The teacher wouldn’t meet with the mother and translator. They would be from three different households, and that is not allowed.

Maybe I misunderstood. I suppose I could have it wrong, that it wasn’t the COVID rule following that kept the translator out of the meeting – my German isn’t that great. But that is what the woman understood. If it was some other reason that would underscore even more why the translator should have been allowed in the meeting.

Given my experience with German bureaucracy, it did have the feel of the sort of thing that would happen. The rules are the rules and must never be broken. Even if strict adherence makes no sense.

What are things like where you live? Has this pandemic seen an exodus of common sense? Or was it never there to begin with?


One comment

  1. agreed there should be exceptions. But a teacher is in a public situation and could be easily criticized. I have no clue why a discussion outdoors with people standing away from each other wouldn’t work.

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