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English as a foreign language

Living as a German in an increasingly English-speaking world

2018-10-28: Back to sanity

Finally, the clocks have been set to sanity around here, and normal time has returned. One would hope that we have suffered through “summer time” for the last time (but I don’t believe we have).

You see, the thing is that there is no such thing as “winter time”. If summer time means that you change the clock so sunset is not at 20:00 but at 21:00, winter time would mean that you change to clock to move the sunrise from 08:00 to 07:00. It’s an entirely feasible concept, but I am not aware it has ever been done, and definitely not here. No, we don’t have winter and summer time, we have normal and summer time, or rather normal and abnormal time. Sane and insane time, even.

Don’t forget that the reference median for UTC+1, to which we have returned, is at 15° East, near Görlitz on the German-Polish border. That means that all of Germany suffers a mild case of summer time even at UTC+1 (the sun reaches its highest point only after 12:00). The westernmost parts of Germany would actually be better served by UTC±0 as they are approximately at 6° East and therefore closer to the UTC±0 reference meridian (which of course goes through London).

Now time zones are of course a good thing. Before telegraphs and railways, there was no value in having the same time everywhere: every town and village had their own time. It was noon when the sun was at its highest point. When no communication or interaction could happen at a higher speed than that of galloping horse, it simply didn’t matter. Today that would be a nightmare. And while the almost globally (except for some nutty exceptions) accepted idea of hour-wide time zones is by no means the only possible choice, it appears to be a good compromise.

Strangely, though, the concept was pretty much perverted in Western Europe. UTC+1 is overall a good choice for Germany. For any countries west of Germany, like the Benelux countries, France or Spain (or Andorra and Monaco, of course), it’s a terrible choice. So I think those countries should have one more change, in the autumn of 2019, to UTC±0.

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