A Stern View of Britain
May 24, 2001
One of Germany's most popular news magazines, Der Stern, has published a savage critique of modern-day Britain - describing pockets of abject poverty, a decrepit health service and school system, a disorganised civil service and bungling politicians.
Britain has been branded a country in "deep crisis" by Der Stern, which describes it as a country blighted by ill health, poor education and an incompetent government.
The 12-page article in current affairs magazine Stern, which sells around one million copies a week, paints a damning portrait of modern Britain under the title of The English Patient.
But an academic in German studies at a British university said the article reflects the "dismissive attitude of a nation with an axe to grind."
The editorial begins with a grim picture of Stepney Green in London's East End, where it says "tuberculosis is raging" in living quarters where up to 10 people are living in one room.
The magazine goes on to say: "One in five adults in the land of William Shakespeare and Harry Potter is practically illiterate."
Dr Peter Barker, a lecturer in the German department at Reading University said Germany was in fact trying to deal with similar problems as those detailed in the article.
As a matter of fact, Stern is not the first paper to publish an all-out condemnation of modern Britain.
Four weeks ago, at the height of the Foot and Mouth crisis, Stern's more high-brow and even more influential rival, Der Spiegel, published a damning survey of the UK with the same headline: "Der englische Patient" - the English patient.
Many of the complaints are familiar to UK residents: Poor public transport. A crumbling infrastructure with potholed sidewalks and lousy roads. Long waiting lists for operations that are routine in Germany.
English cooking is another popular complaint, and some ingredients, especially beef, are positively feared.
Another popular view is that the UK is still a class-ridden society, with a small but rich upper class living the good life, while the majority is poor and somewhat downtrodden.
One English commentator said. "Stern puts forward a rather more extreme version of a view that we have already seen elsewhere."
Abstracts: Stern: The English Patient (in German) / Germen-British Forum