Is perfection a myth

For the Chinese, Qingdao, this metropolis in the east of their country, is a city with a great past. Mainly because they still benefit from the Germans. In any case, that's a common word. The port city on the Yellow Sea was a colony of the German Reich from 1898 to 1919 and the base of the East Asia Squadron of the Imperial Navy.

It is astonishing that even today, a hundred years later, many people still believe that Qingdao relies on the sewer system built by the Germans, because Kaiser Wilhelm's engineers did so well. Even extensive spare parts stores were set up at that time, which the city still has access to today.

One likes to hear that, especially since many Chinese base their image of Germany on such legends. Just like German engineers more than a hundred years ago, Germans are still today: perfect, professional, reliable.

The following example shows how much the legend of the German genius persists in Qingdao: When the sewer system in the capital Beijing collapsed after days of heavy rain in the summer of 2012, while Qingdao survived a similar storm without any notable consequences, an official in Beijing only shrugged on the German sewer system. Beijing was not allowed to get to know German engineering.

Myth of German perfection

Like so many things, that too is of course not tenable. Because in 1914 Qingdao only had 55,000 inhabitants. Today, however, more than 4.5 million live in the city, plus three million in the suburbs. In response to the Beijing official's perturbed comparison, the Qingdao city fathers sent out a press release clearing up the error. As a result, only 3 percent of the 2900 kilometers of sewerage existed at the beginning of the last century. So the "miracle of Qingdao" has nothing to do with the Germans.

After all, German know-how seems to have been preserved in the city. In general, the myth of the perfectionism and professionalism of the Germans in China has nothing to do with it.

On the website sina.com, for example, a blogger reinforces this picture by writing that Germany's kitchens look like laboratories, and that even in private apartments they are clinically clean and equipped with scales, thermometers, measuring cups and egg timers. The German housewives did not cook, they actually carried out chemical experiments. And they would have different knives, utensils and pots for each dish.

Of course, that's not the whole truth. Talking to the Chinese is a quick way to get closer to the truth. Above all, Chinese people who have already lived in Germany know to report that there are also thieves in Germany - and that the trains are by no means always on time. Unfortunately, there are no descriptions of the galleys on these trains. Especially none of chemical experiments.