Looking for help of any kind? Need someone practical, punctual, educated and well groomed? The internet site "rentagerman.de" may be the place to look.
A fine specimen on offer
At first glance, the Internet site seems to be all business.
"Rentagerman.de offers a wide choice of Germans for your personal and social needs," it reads.
An alert surfer may quickly begin to wonder, however: What are they selling, exactly? Then, after a closer read, the irony starts to come through.
"Select the perfect German for an unforgettable, exclusive experience. Imagine taking your German to parties or family gatherings, or even just out for a day of shopping. You pick the event -- we have the German. Your own personal German will most certainly impress those around you."
Why should you rent a German? Because they are "cuddly," friendly," "useful" and "clean."
What's in a stereotype?
Apparently, they can also be witty, clever and creative. At least, that's a description that applies to the creator of the rentagerman site, Johannes Blank. The 30-year-old Munich-based Web designer studied media in Leipzig, spent time in South America, and began creating "Internet art" when he worked as a college instructor in Italy.
For Blank, his time abroad was key for developing his idea. By living outside of Germany, he was able to see himself as an outsider would. He recognized the parts of him that were pure cliche. By taking distance from himself, he was confronted by the stereotype people in other countries have of Germans.
How Germans fight the blues
Speaking of cliches -- according to rentagerman.de, the only time Germans have trouble is when they are homesick or depressed. Then, only the "Support Package" will make the rental German happy again. It contains German music, German poetry, a bucket of sauerkraut, a good greasy sausage, and video clips of the homeland.
Unbelievable but true, the site promises, Germans are that easy to care for. There are even comments from satisfied customers to prove it. What's more, anyone in possession of a German passport can put themselves up for rent.
In an interview with Der Spiegel newsmagazine, Blank explained his concept.
"Somehow, I wanted to present people as they really are, as Germans, in an ironic way," he said. "People have to figure out for themselves what meaning it has. For me, it is above all art."
Blank found and photographed the people featured on rentagerman.de on a Munich shopping street. He hopes to get a gallery deal at some point.
"For example to have a show in Zurich about rental Germans," he said. "Just to see how people deal with it, out of the country."
What constitutes a German? What doesn't? Do they really make good party guests? Would you recommend them to others? Blank hopes someday to be able to take part in such a debate, preferably live in a gallery setting, in the presence of his "objects."
Or would that be "subjects"? Perhaps he can hire one of those well-educated, discussion-ready Germans to debate the philosophical aspects of modern art. As long as they don't get homesick or depressed, he should have no trouble.