German ideas that would make life easier in the UK – archive, 1969 | Germany

Although one would not wish to swap the House of Commons for the Bundestag or British justice for German Rechtsprechung, there are a number of blessings of German life which we might care to import – at no cost to our balance of payments. I am thinking of a variety of gadgets and public services which make life easier, if not so adventurous.

During a discussion the other evening a group of Britons in exile came up with the following list of benefits:

The automatic fuse box, enabling the electricity supply to be restored by the simple operation of a switch or the pressing of a button.

The ability of the Post Office to remedy a telephone fault by remote control. Except in difficult cases, the engineers can restore the service without having to send a man round, and the trouble is often put right in a matter of minutes.

The slot machine in public call boxes, which shows the caller how much money he has left in the slot. If he has any change to come he gets it back when he replaces the receiver.

The postman, who not only delivers letters, but pays out money orders at the doorstep, accepts television and radio licence fees, collects customs dues on behalf of the Customs and Excise Department, and delivers newspapers and magazines for which subscriptions have been paid.

The telephone answering service operated by the Post Office. This keeps a note of all calls, and, if requested, tells callers at which number you can be reached.

The beer bottle with a device at the bottom to take off the crown cork on the next bottle.

The plug for electric shavers in the lavatories of trains.

The petrol pump which operates until the tank is full.

The twice-yearly collection of every possible kind of junk. This started in the early years of prosperity to allow households to dispose of the poor quality goods they bought immediately after the war.

The list of gadgets and services is pretty well inexhaustible, but no doubt we who sing their praises will be told that Britain has rapidly caught up and can produce an enviable list of its own. For myself, I used to think as a child that surely no other country was capable of beginning to compete with British inventiveness. In fact, I was slightly put out, on reading a children’s encyclopedia, to discover that there were trains and buses and telephones on the other side of the Channel. Not surprising then that insular types should be doubly impressed with some of the things that the Germans have thought up.

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