By Stefanie Claudia Müller
We talk about transparency in these days. Politicians have to be more transparent about their expenses, contacts and agendas. Banks have to be more transparent about their risk management and Political parties about their internal selection processes.
Very often Spaniards ask me:
“For sure that in Germany you do not have to deal with so much corruption.”
My answer is always that corruption is everywhere and that in Germany it is just more sophisticated. It is not so much about filling your own pockets, but on cheating on the system like Deutsche Bank did with the manipulation of interest rates and Volkswagen with their motor software. Citizens can hardly cheat because the controls are very tough and your are considered miserable if you do not pay taxes, your are unemployed or living on social aid.
There is obviously a difference between a wide spread corruption like we can see in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain and corruption scandals like they pop up everywhere, every now and then. Cheating in Germany is not well seen, while in Spain it is a kind of sport. You are clever if you know how to pay less taxes, if you use your contacts for getting a better work or you do not have to work as much as others. If you running a bank and can afford to be three times in the week on the golf court, it is rather admirable then shocking. But also most of the employees will never know and not even wonder, where their boss is really when the secretary tells them all the time: “Sorry, but Mr. xy is in an important meeting.” Spaniards know perfectly to play along.
Already as a child you learn to live a double life: the one with your parents and the one with your friends. Parents very often have no clue about the “real life” of their kids, they just care for the appearance, that they apparently take no drugs, are always in time for lunch and apparently do not smoke. Although they might suspect that behind that nice outside there might be a things they do not agree on, they prefer not to see it. They do not want to confront with it. The Spanish society is a society of “double moral and easy going.” The catholic country is one of the most attractive for prostitution, because visiting a whore after having lunch is for some business men as normal as drinking wine with the food. Their wives will never know and they know they better do not ask. The most important thing: Their husband comes in time for dinner and kisses the kids goodnight. The rest, who cares.
Already trained as a child later as adults Spaniards have it easy to pretend many things, to hide many things and they have no psychological problems playing the loving dad and the passionate lover with different persons at the same time, going to church on sundays and visiting their parents for lunch. It is all about appearance. And many times their friends may suspect things, but they will never dare to destroy this “harmony”.
While the nordic society is more direct and transparent and therefore also in many ways less fun, Southern parents do not want to know everything about their kids. While in Germany kids learn to do many things on their own from very little on, in Spain education is outsourced in many cases to grandparents, nannies and private schools and universities.
While in Germany it is most of the times the parents that are in charge for everthing, they have the control, but normally leave them space to develop their personality in the same house, bringing friends home and allowing them to stay with girlfriends or boyfriends overnight. But they also teach them from the beginning to be responsible of their acts and to be always honest to their parents. “Never lie to me!”, “Whatever it is, you can tell me, but never cheat on me!” This is a phrase every child in Germany hears throughout education at home, in school and also from their friends. The consequences of a lie can be hard. Kids get a slap or arrest. In school for not admiting that I was cheating the professor gave me a “failed”, although the exam was very good: “You have to learn to stand up for your acts, this is the consequence”, he said. I cried a lot, but he was right and I learned the lesson.
I have seen people in Spain hiding an important part of their life to their parents, to their kids, to their partner and this culture of hiding, of not being transparent might be one reason why the South of Europe is more tolerant with cheating the systems at work or within the public administration.
Spain is changing, but not just the public controls have to change and politicans, education must change, towards a more honest relation between people, tolerance and real aceptance of different opinions and life styles. Education on values like non-discrimination, not lieing, not cheating, not being easy, but hard working and responsible. If you do not have to hide anything from your parents so many things are not interesting anymore and you can use your energy for more constructive things then trying to do everything that your mother does not realize that you smoke.