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German Tourists Are Told To Criticize Human Rights Violations

Many Germans lecture Americans about their country's alleged wrong-doings. The foreign ministry's human rights envoy apparently wants to utilize our penchant for lecturing others. Guenter Nooke appealed to the 44m Germans who travel overseas every year: 
"Too many travellers are uncritical, or have a false solidarity with the governments of the countries they visit," he said, arguing that visitors should talk to "people in authority" at airports, museums or hotels in ­countries where abuses of women's or children's rights occur or where the death penalty is practised. (...)
Tourists to destinations such as Turkey which attracted 3.7m Germans last year should be aware of the limits on press freedom and "deficits in the country's legal system", and could engage with local people on these issues. Equally, visitors to Egypt where 1m Germans travelled last year could ask hotels for information on why emergency powers have been in place since the early 1980s. Tourists visiting the Olympics in China next year could organise "private meetings" with local citizen groups, although he warned against actions that endangered visitors or locals. Regine Spöttl, of Amnesty International, said she was "thrilled" by the appeal and said visitors to luxury hotels in Dubai, for instance, should confront hotel managers over the working conditions of low-paid Bangladeshi women staff, who regularly faced rights abuses.

Full text of this Financial Times article is available at
MSNBC, which used the appropriate headline: "German tourists told to be rights pests"

I am sure, Günter Nooke's appeal is well meant, but I just can't imagine a positive outcome of this initiative. Most German tourists will ignore Nooke's appeal anyway. Others will continue to criticize the breakfast or the swimming pool rather than human rights. A few tourists might lecture some service personnel about human rights violations they can't do anything, but I very much doubt that German tourists will talk to "people in authority" as Mr. Nooke would like to see.

One consequence of Nooke's initiative might be more cartoons about German guests lecturing their hosts, like in this
Simpsons clip.

Also, check out this comment by US Fulbrighter Scott Brunstetter about the "arrogant German syndrome"

Over the fifty plus years of the German-American Fulbright program, we have done pretty well in countering the "ugly American" problem. Through direct experience in each other's society we bring direct interaction that can inform both sides of the cultural and societal norms of both Germany and the US; myths are dispelled and replaced with facts. Yet, we fall short in addressing the "arrogant German" syndrome, in part because it is relatively new.

Related post in the Atlantic Review: Germany's Culture of Complaint


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Detlef on :

I must admit I haven´t even heard about it. To me, it looks like another case of political "summer theater". Some politician desperately trying to get mentioned by the media in the quiet summer period.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Yes, "summer theater". Zeit, Welt, Sueddeutsche, Tagesspiegel and Netzzeitung wrote about it. See Google News search for: Nooke Touristen. Most news sources made fun of him: Rough translation of Joffe in Die Zeit: "A nation of World-Pedagogues" "Ein einig Volk von Weltpädagogen" [url][/url] Rough translation of Sueddeutsche Headline: "German tourists: World Champions in Moral Values Export" "Oder den Strandkindern im thailändischen Pattaya während der Massage einfach laut aus dem "Spiegel" vorlesen." Source: Deutsche Touristen im Ausland Weltmeister im Moralexport [url],ra4m4/kultur/artikel/707/128496/[/url]

Don S on :

This is such a transcendently BRILLIANT idea on so many levels that I cannot BEGIN to express my admiration. Or not. Go for it. Although Germans might be better off confining their negative comments (as in the past) to - well you know whom I am referring to. Could be problems with doing it in the Middle East or China..... "Equally, visitors to Egypt – where 1m Germans travelled last year – could ask hotels for information on why emergency powers have been in place since the early 1980s." Ummmmm - I would have thought the reasons for the emergency powers were obvious. Beginning with a little shootout in 1987 which resulted in a number of German and Swiss and Italian tourists returning home in the cargo hold. Not to mention the occasional bomb splashing touristic body parts all over various places in the Red Sea resorts..... Egypt doesn't wish to lose it's tourist trade to disgruntled members of the Muslim Brotherhood - t'is as simple as that. Turkey faces a simplar (although less extreme) problem. I personally am thinking of visiting both places this autum, but sans police protection I would not. It wouldn't remotely be safe enough. What does one call a Nile cruise boat? Without police security I would call it - a target.....

Zyme on :

Andere Länder, andere Sitten..

Axel on :

Günter Nooke is the [url=]Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid[/url]. That is, translated for our American friends, a politically completely irrelevant office and, as others already have mentioned, he is nothing but a backpencher trying to get some media attention during the slack season.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"completely irrelevant office" Maybe, but it should not be that way. The fact that Nooke makes such an appeal deserves to be noticed and criticized or made fun of, as many in the press have done. Ideally, our human rights commissioner would come up with better ideas. Ideally, Nooke is doing all kinds of smart things behind the scenes to free dissidents in China. And maybe he is doing that. Who knows? Freeing dissidents etc should not get a lot of publicity, because the Chinese won't like that. A lot of good work has to be done quietly.

Don S on :

Perhaps you could answer a question, Joerg? Why should the Chinese free dissidents? Perhaps there are good answers to that one, answers which might appeal to the Chinese government on self-interest grounds. So another question: Why should the Chinese governmet care a jot about what the German government or people think about such matters? Will not doing so change anything? Can the Germans apply any pain for not caring?

Zyme on :

"Why should the Chinese free dissidents? Perhaps there are good answers to that one, answers which might appeal to the Chinese government on self-interest grounds." Now that we arrive at self-interest grounds - what interest do we have in Chinese dissidents? The Chinese government looks stable today. China´s economical relations to the world are increasing rapidly in volume. Among others, german companies are investing heavily. Nothing is feared more by these companies than instability. So why should we even be willing to risk that stability?

Don S on :

Zyme, the Kaiser's government appeared stable - until it wasn't. In teh same time frame the Manchu government of China under the 'Old Dragon Empress' appeared stable - until it wasn't. In France three governmets in a row appeared stable - until they weren't. Charles X, King Louis-Philippe, and 'Emperor' Louis Napoleon all appeared to be the epitome of stability at their zenith - but had feet of clay. Are you really willing to bet the house on the Chinese oligarchy? Such systems look good but are really quite fragile - in the long term.....

Zyme on :

That´s a good point. But it reminds me of another one: Don´t you think one might have a hard time convincing our governments that it would be a good idea to cause that instability NOW before we had the chance of earning further profits?

Don S on :

Zyme, I left out the crowning example of stability suddenly turning to instability - the Shah of Iran. The US got quite close to the Shah. Do you think that helped Washington with the next government? Getting too cozy with monarchs or oligarchs can positively RUIN your long-term relationship with a country if you are not careful. China looks like a vast strong oak from without - as did Wilhemine Germany. But great trees rot from within but invisibly to the usual outsider. I think the parallels between Wilhemine Germany and China are striking. They both had/have economic growth, both share relatively repressive political regimes very slow to reform. Both had rising discontent and repression of the discontented. Wilhemine Germany felt the pressure and responded poorly - in large part because the political system could not throw out the old bums and bring in a new set. China shares the same problem. Does Germany willing to bet the house that the result won't be similar? As the US did with the Shah of Iran?

Zyme on :

Interesting comparison. We will have to find out. And I also think that the current Chinese regime will not remain over the course of our lifetime.

Don S on :

"And I also think that the current Chinese regime will not remain over the course of our lifetime." I agree. The question of change will become paramont. China is a huge economic success. Much as Germany was between 1870 and 1900. In neither country has political reform remotely kept pace with the economic changes. In Germany that led to rising pressures which eventually contributed to the genesis of WWI and a political crisis lasting two generations. I'm fairly certain that China's crisis won't take the same form as the German one did. But I'm certain China will have it's crisis nonetheless - and it will be a sharp one. I have to wonder whether the relative laggard India isn't a better bet than China in the long haul, because India does possess a system capable of political reform and has repeatedly proved it.

Joshua on :

Wouldn't it be more effective to encourage one's citizens to travel to countries with good human rights records for vacation, and discourage them from going to countries with bad human rights records? Countries like Turkey, Egypt, or China might be able to ignore the criticism from a few German tourists if those tourists are spending their euros in the Turkish, Egyptian, or Chinese economy anyway.

Don S on :

What Nooke appears to be attempting is to get Germans to apply the same standards and behavior to other countries as they currently do vis the US - exclusively to the US to current appearances. Admirable if a bit quioxtic. My point is that Germans trying to do this should expect at least as strong a reaction as they got from the US in 2003. Arguably stronger, even much stronger, in some places. Do you really wish to be *that* popular?

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