One of the many stereotypes that we Brits have of the Germans is that of sun-lounger hoggers. Apparently, when on holiday in sunny climes, they rise hours before dawn to bag all the prime locations around the hotel pool.
As a person who doesn't like lounging about in the sun, I don't see this activity as much of a problem. In fact, it sounds pretty damn sensible to me. But I have often wondered whether the stereotype was true. So, last week, when I found myself staying in a hotel in Tobago that had a number of German guests, I decided to find out.
Fortunately, the verandah outside my room overlooked the hotel's swimming pool. So I rose one morning well before dawn and found myself a good vantage point.
Within minutes, shadowy figures began to emerge from the gloom and stumble their way towards the poolside. Some of them even brought their own sun-longers, which they had presumably stashed in their rooms the night before. Those fiendish Germans! I thought to myself.
But, hold on! As my eyes gradually adjusted to the pre-dawn light, I began to recognise some of these swimming-becostumed early birds. They were British!
A lump came to my throat. Never before had I felt so proud of my countrymen. They weren't going to be beaten by the likes of Herman the German; they were going to beat Fritz at his own game.
But alas! They had fallen into the Germans' devilish trap! The sun-lounger-hogging stereotype was, it turned out, a decoy—a myth spread by the Germans themselves. For, while the British (and one plucky, little Belgian) were preparing to fight them on the beach-towels, in a manoeuvre reminiscent of the Maginot Line débâcle, the Germans had completely circumvented the pool, made an all-out assault on the breakfast room, and commandeered all the sausages.