This entry was posted on May 06 2010 by

Things I Learned in Europe (Part 1 of 4): Germans don’t beat around the bush.

Some months ago, I posted an entry about a three-week book tour that Brett Weldele and I took through Europe to promote the German, French, and Italian editions of The Surrogates.  This was my first time outside North America, and it was a truly eye-opening experience to see so many important cities and walk streets whose cobblestones were laid long before the Mayflower dropped anchor off Plymouth Sound.  The memories and anecdotes are too numerous to recount, but for each country there was a single moment that embodied for me that particular nation and demonstrated how different its culture is from our own.
The first stop was Frankfurt, Germany, where we spent three days at the Frankfurt Book Fair as guests of our German publisher, Cross Cult.  To anyone who has ever attended a comic-book convention or book fair in the U.S.: I’ve done my fair share of those, so believe me when I say they’re nothing at all like the mammoth Frankfurt event, which is housed in several buildings and draws nearly 300,000 visitors and over 7,000 exhibitors from more than 100 countries.  There is literally no way to capture the enormity of the thing in a photo without the aid of Hubble, but here’s a shot of the Cross Cult booth as seen from the ground:
Surrogates European Tour - Cross Cult Booth

The guy in the glasses and hat behind the counter is Filip, Cross Cult’s PR guru, who did yeoman’s work (that one’s for you, Jensen) setting up around-the-clock TV, radio, and print interviews for Brett and me.  It was a hectic three days, but we left the festival feeling we’d done as much as we could to get the word out about the German edition.

On our last night in Frankfurt, Cross Cult treated us to dinner at what I thought they said was going to be an Austrian restaurant, but it turned out to be Australian.  When I realized my mistake, I wasn’t worried—I’m as close to omnivorous as you can get, only abstaining from eating pickles, raisins, and uncooked coconut.  The menu listed some exotic fare, including emu and other native fauna, but what struck me most was the image accompanying the Kangaroo section:

Surrogates European Tour - German Menu

The restaurant was dimly lit and I’m a poor photographer, so the details may be difficult to discern, but that’s a photo of a mama kangaroo with a joey snug in her pouch, both of whom were staring at me with their sad, brown kangaroo eyes as I scanned the list of methods by which their kin could be served to me on a plate.  Germans are often portrayed as a hard, no-nonsense people, a portrait that, after spending a laugh-filled weekend with the affable Cross Cult gang, I was beginning to feel had been painted with too broad a brush.  Seeing this menu gave me an understanding of how such portrayals come to be. 

Before I forget: Thank you, Outback Steakhouse, for designing a menu that doesn’t rely on lifelike images of cows, chickens, fish, or any of the other animals you offer up for consumption.  Need to explain the circle of life to my children: Delayed.

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