Intransparency International


Everyone is on holiday. I am just warm. Very warm. The annual heat wave (36 degrees Celsius) has come to Dizzel and like last year, 20 % of a day’s energy go to simply surviving in the heat. Like last year and the year before, I promise myself that next year, I will also take that three-week-vacation everyone else seems to be having. At least everyone who I am trying to call. Argh!

At least my intern is keeping me company and suggests daily trips to the ice cream store. He also drew my attention to an interesting cultural phenomenon, the cultural take on sharing information.

Sweden is notorious for its offentlighetsprincip, the principle of public access to official documents.  The idea of transparency is quite present in the Swedish culture and you can actually look up people’s salaries in the library in a catalogue. Of course, you can find anyone online with their full address, marital status and birthday. As well as a picture of their house. Creepy? The Swede does not think so.

Germany, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Certainly also due to historical reasons, Germans are freaked out if someone can find out too much about someone else. That’s also the reason why Germans on Facebook choose extremely ridiculous names like “Ne Le” instead of their real name, Nele Schmidt, because they are so scared that the NSA will find out they attended the open air cinema last night or have their employer realize they like The Pet Shop Boys’ fan page.

As usual, the perfect world would be the one where the Swedish credulity would be paired with the German scepticism.

Some we have had contact with, though, take the secrecy to a whole new level. Like a large furniture store that also sells food and decoration (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being extremely easy to find out and 10 being ridiculously simple to guess, how hard is this one?). We called them to find out if they still had enough princess cake in stock so that the intern wouldn’t go there for nothing. “Unfortunately we do not comment on our stocks regarding food and plants”. Eh, what? What is so mysterious about just those two categories? “I am just wondering if you still have eight boxes of the cake in stock”. “I am afraid I cannot release information on food and plants”. Deutschland, deine Geheimnisse.



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