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Deutschland verstehen is the ideal present for the German(ophile)

Although it was actually published back in the summer, one of this year’s best Christmas presents in Germany has been a book of ‘infographics’ called Deutschland verstehen – ‘understanding Germany’ – which is effectively a heavily-illustrated, slightly whimsical and very elaborate piece of navel-gazing, and one which massively indulges the German appetite for facts and figures along the way.

Typical amongst its pages are a breakdown of all the staff on duty for one match taking place at the Allianz Arena in Munich, home of FC Bayern; when there are 22 players on the pitch and 69,901 spectators in the stands, reports the book, there’ll be 470 media people, 600 security personnel, 150 mobile vendors, 400 kiosk sales staff, 72 matchday hostesses, 14 ball boys, nine green keepers and one Berni, the club mascot. And it illustrates all of them on a ginormous ‘Where’s Wally?’ scale.

On another page, the book’s authors quantify what can happen in Germany in just 60 minutes: 76.7 children born, 85.7 people die, 10,100 books are borrowed from libraries, 1.97 million letters are sent, etc etc.

Everyone will find something of interest in this volume, although amongst the most eye-catching pages is the one which charts the adoption of the German language around the world – the Venezuelans use ‘Quark’, the Americans love ‘Wunderkind’, the Spanish like ‘Kaputt’, the Australians like ‘Oom pah pah music’ and the English like ‘Angst’. And there’s the one on Germany’s sexual habits, such as the average length of an erect German penis (14.61cm), the frequency of sex per week arranged by Lande (winner = Mecklenburg Vorpommern), and how long the process usually lasts.

Entertainingly presented, wittily conceived and no doubt incredibly well researched. It deserves to do well.

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