it is hard to tell who is worse in bitching. i think it would take a great effort to come to valid data, e.g. analyzing posts in forums or articles in newspapers.
however, let me tell you that, in germany (since 1945), i never read an article so humiliating, so chauvinistic, and so misinformed as the following trouvaille from the new york post:
LET 'EM EAT WURST By RALPH PETERS
July 13, 2003 -- MY
heart breaks: Sniffing in Teutonic superiority, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has cancelled his Italian vacation! Apart from the fact that Italy, the home of grace and beauty, doesn't need any more loud, fat krauts polluting its environment, there's an even more important matter involved: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi doesn't take any crap from Eurocrats and the self-righteous sons and daughters of the SS
. Informed that Germany's answer to Bill Clinton wasn't going to grace bella Italia with his presence this year, Super-Silvio shrugged and said, "Too bad for him." Berlusconi nailed it. An embarrassing not-quite-secret is that German politicians can't wait to abandon Deutschland for vacations in Tuscany or Umbria. (Schroeder's foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, almost qualifies for Italian citizenship.) Yet the Germans remain deeply bigoted toward Italians (and toward all Europeans who live south of the Alps - "Not our kind, Dahhling . . ."). Forget the fact that the German contribution to the Renaissance was the realization that you could fit more beer in a bigger mug. The Germans still regard Italians as Untermenschen, fit to run a neighborhood pizzeria, but not to have an equal say in the future of Europe. Berlusconi isn't playing along. The Italian prime minister isn't a member of the snitty little club of European politicians who spend their adult lives commuting between Brussels, Strasbourg and their own capitals. He comes from the business world, where men and women actually have to accomplish things. And Super-Silvio accomplished plenty. Berlusconi is also a refreshingly direct man who speaks his mind (no wonder he and President Bush get along). After 9/11, he broke a European taboo and suggested that Arab religious extremists might be partly to blame for terrorism. Of course, he was jeered at by all the café dwellers wrinkling their precious little brows along the banks of the Seine or the Spree.
More recently, after being needled by a member of Germany's Green Party (a German Green is a Gestapo wannabe with a red paint-job), Berlusconi put on that I-know-how-to-earn-my-own-living-and-you-don't smirk that drives the Eurocrats nuts. And he suggested that his German colleague might be better employed playing a concentration camp guard in a movie currently being filmed about the Nazi era. All of northern Europe - well, the politicians and bureaucrats, anyway - was mortified. You see, one of the elementary rules of the European Union is that Germans can never be called "Nazis." It's just fine for Germans to call Prime Minister Sharon or President Bush a Nazi - that's not name-calling, it's legitimate political speech. But for an Italian to compare a German political hack to a Nazi? Mais non, monsieur! Nein! Who says European culture isn't entertaining anymore? Well, there was a great deal of back-and-forth, with the grown-up Italians trying to offer the little German babies a few verbal pacifiers. (One Italian undersecretary even resigned after telling some impolite truths about the Germans.) But when the German and French apparatchiks coiled around each other and insisted that Berlusconi's remark proved he wasn't fit to serve out Italy's present six-month turn in the EU presidency, the Italians finally had enough. The message was clear: Ain't nobody down in the Tuscan hills forcing Fritz and Frieda to drink their 1997 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva. And Italians aren't going to put up with that Aryan superiority complex anymore. Poor Gerhard may have to settle for that incomparable paradise on earth, Dusseldorf in July. Of course, other Germans will continue to flock to Italy. And, just now, with tourism down world-wide, the Italian hospitality industry can use the business. So the elegant Italians just have to grit their teeth as Hans and Hilda slop marinara sauce over the shirts they've both worn for three days running, argue about the bill, then skip the tip. But, in the long run, when the tourist industry picks up again and more Americans - grateful for all that Italy has given us - return to bella Italia, perhaps more Italian hotel and restaurant owners can subtly let Fabulous Fritz know that there's no room at the inn for anybody who shows up wearing Jesus boots (that combination of sandals and dark wool socks so beloved by northern Europeans). Think it won't happen? Think again. Let me share two incidents from the family travel diary. Several years ago, in Verona, I made the mistake of speaking German to a companion as we entered a restaurant. The manager swiftly informed us that there were no more tables. When I expressed my regret in broken Italian and English, his expression changed entirely. After asking if I was American, he apologized and seated us at a perfect table, then sent over a special wine for us to try. Over the decades, Americans have turned into pretty sophisticated travelers. We're no longer the noisiest or the most demanding. On the contrary, we're friendly and really want to appreciate what foreign countries have that we don't. If anything, we apologize too much. Last month, my wife and I went back to Rome, one of the world's greatest cities - ranking right between Manhattan and (God, I hate to admit this) Paris. And my long-standing belief that the Ugly American has long since given way to the Ugly German was confirmed in spades. I'll never forget sitting with the love of my life over drinks on the Piazza Navona in the late afternoon light, enjoying each other's company and people-watching, when a German couple seized the table next to us, ignoring the host's greeting and cramming their abundant bodies against us under a cloud of cigarette smoke. The grunting, barking duo were a mockery of all things decent about humankind. The woman, about 60 and grotesquely fat, wore a skimpy Shakira halter top and short-shorts. Her appearance was a crime against humanity, far too gross for an old Fellini film. I still have nightmares. And horrible Hermann - in his Jesus boots - gave orders in the same voice that Obersturmbahnfuehrer Schultz must have used in Rome 60 years ago. And they both smelled. Master race, my Schickelgruber. I don't think Italy is going to miss Gerhard Schroeder. Maestro Berlusconi's outburst did his country a great service. It was an act of purification. Ciao, bella Italia!
Ralph Peters is a frequent contributor to The Post and the author of "Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World."