Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Germany/Guatemala similarities

An updated version of an older post:

The two sites of my anthropological fieldwork have been Guatemala and Germany.  At first blush, they would seem to share little more in common than an initial "G."  While equally exotic in their own ways, looking a little deeper we find a surprising number of similarities.  Whether this is a case of ancient contact, modern diffusion, or just uncanny parallel evolution, I will leave it to the reader to decide.  But consider these traits and behaviors found in both places:
-a bureaucratic obsession with paper certificates, seals, tax stamps, and so forth; hard copy, notarized copies are often required for mundane tasks;

-folks make routine purchases in smaller quantities (tending more to what can be easily carried) and, subsequently, more frequent trips to the store than is the Stateside norm

-there is an attention to and use of titles, such as Ing., Diplm., Lic. In addition to Prof. or Dr.

-there is a formality in everyday address: use of Sie and Ud.

-one finds small kiosks on almost every corner

-one drinks coke from glass bottles that are returnable for a deposit

-on the train in Germany conductors go through after every stop and check tickets of new passengers–remembering who has been checked; this same role is assumed by the ayudantes on Guatemalan buses

-weekly markets with fresh produce, meat, artisan handicrafts

-abundance of different sorts of mushrooms, very seasonal

-willingness to make long commutes in order not to move, attachment to place

-cash-based economy–I find myself always looking to change large bills as smaller bills are needed at the smaller stores

-legacies of Holocaust violence, racialized discourses

-more public urination; drunk men and young kids will pee in the streets, for example, if a toilet isn't handy

-more developed artisanry market: cobblers, brush salesmen, etc

–annual town fiestas

-more people walking (although for different reasons) than we find in the States

-ritual drinking: a variety of public rituals that involve ceremonial drinking, often from the same glass

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