Untidy? Inefficient? You need to rent a German

Click to follow
The Independent Online

They have a knack of annexing sun loungers. They can cook a mean bratwurst. They win World Cups. Now though, instead of simply envying the Germans, you can rent one for yourself.

They have a knack of annexing sun loungers. They can cook a mean bratwurst. They win World Cups. Now though, instead of simply envying the Germans, you can rent one for yourself.

"A wide range of Germans for your personal and social needs," promises www.rentagerman.de, a new website. "Appear with your German at parties, family events or just hang out with them at the local shopping centre. No matter which occasion you choose, you will surely impress."

Be warned, though: Teutons don't come cheap. Hiring one to boil up sauerkraut in the comfort of your own home will set you back €800 (£555). Support at business meetings costs £832 and a holiday package ("our Germans will do their best to give you happy moments at the hotel bar") is £520.

If this all sounds like a bit of a joke, that's how it started. Johannes Blank, who set up the website, is a Munich-based "new media" artist who saw it as a conceptual stunt. But he should have known that a German joke is no laughing matter: as soon as the site went live a fortnight ago, he was besieged by applications from people wanting to hire themselves out. "It's absolutely unbelievable," said Mr Blank. "They've been sending me entirely serious applications, complete with photos, listing their talents."

With 5.2 million unemployed in Germany, such a reaction was perhaps to be expected. But Mr Blank has also discovered that there is plenty of demand for such precious Prussian talents as tidiness and making trains run on time. Rent-a-German has received more than 200 orders from as far away as America, Malaysia and the UK. "One Belgian firm told me they were having an international meeting near Brussels to develop trivia games, and were desperate to have a German mind there," said the artist. "They even offered to take him or her out to a local disco as a reward."

Next, a London family got in touch. They said they'd had years of trouble getting a sun lounger on their summer holidays, and wanted a German to come along to teach them the tricks of the trade. The response has been so great that Mr Blank says he's now looking for car showrooms outside Germany to display his human wares.

Last week Chancellor Gerhard Schröder held a special "job summit" and announced tax cuts to boost employment. Mr Blank is ready to do his bit, and will visit job centres as a potential employer, but he says Rent-a-German is really about challenging well-worn stereotypes.

"Whenever I was abroad, the first comment I got was 'Oh, you're German,' followed by a long conversation about how all Germans are right-wing radicals who spend the entire day eating bratwurst," he said. "I thought if everyone's so bloody interested in Germans, I may as well rent them out." He won't be drawn on what he believes to be the positive qualities of Germans, saying: "I want people to judge for themselves."

Clichés, sadly, die hard. "Since I moved to Berlin from Los Angeles, I've realised just how messy I am," said Joshua Sternfeld, a musicologist. "I would be more than happy to pay for a German to show me how I can bring some order back into my life."

Comments