Long Live Socialism

Like any country, Germany has its share of bums, mostly alcoholics who hang out on the main square. They're largely not very noticeable, save one middle-aged woman who spends a lot of her time either dancing and singing to herself or screaming at passers-by, and another happy-looking fellow who seems to spend his time considering the mysteries of the universe.

One thing that is clear is that the bums are far better off than in the US. They've always got a bottle and I see them quite often in the store, buying real food -- meat, cheese, bread -- to go with their booze. I'm not sure where they sleep, but as I haven't stumbled onto any hobo encampments -- something I have an uncanny knack for -- I suspect that they might even have regular housing. But how good their life really is was brought home to us last night.

We left the office around 11pm and went out to get my bike. While I was diddling about with the padlock, a rather bedraggled looking fellow started begging from Karin. His accent was a bit thick, so I'm not sure if Karin knew what he was saying -- he was asking for sixty pfennig -- but it was clear she understood the gist of it.

I told him in German we didn't have anything, but this didn't deter him and he continued working on Karin. I winced at the tirade he was about to receive -- Karin is not patient with beggars and can be quite sarcastic. Fortunately for him, she was in a good mood and told him in a relatively gentle voice that she wasn't going to give him any money as he would just spend it on drink. She did this in English, assuming that that would drive him away.

Surprise, surprise. He responded in good English that he wouldn't spend it on drink, he just wanted a doner kebab. Well, this so surprised Karin that she didn't really know what to say and mumbled something about how she would give him some lettuce if she had any. By this time, I'd gotten my bike unlocked and we left, shaking our heads in amazement that the education system in Germany is so good that even the bums are bilingual.

Long live socialism.