She offered rare insights into her personal life and how she approaches political problems during a podium discussion hosted by women’s magazine Brigitte.
“You need to be quiet in order to speak cleverly,” she said during Thursday’s discussion.
“Much of my strength is based in the fact that as a child I was quiet,” she said. As a scientist in East Germany, she used to have, “a lot of space to be quiet.”
But in an admission which may astonish those who see her as always in control, she said she would sometimes say things she didn’t mean to, and was annoyed with herself afterwards.
This less self-assured image of Merkel was also reflected in her comments about how she made political decisions. The Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper reported she said each decision was made with around 40 percent of her own opinions and 60 percent opposing arguments. She weighs these things up against each other, she said.
“I take enough time to form an opinion. After I have thought through the topic, I no longer have to hesitate,” she said.
Greece a very difficult situation
She said one of the most difficult recent situations was the Greece bailout last summer. She worked through several different possible scenarios and used her rationale and her intuition.
Her decision last year to accelerate Germany’s exit from nuclear power was partly fuelled by an emotional response to the Japanese Fukushima disaster, she said. But added that she conducted a careful analysis of the situation.
And her famous and oft-parodied habit of holding her hands in front of her, thumbs and first fingers pressed together has no more meaning than something to do with her hands, she said.
“The question was where to put my arms, and it came out of that. It also shows a certain love for symmetry,” she said.
I store sleep like a camel stores water
When asked where she gets the strength to cope with the sometimes marathon negotiations, she came up with a surprisingly creative concept of sleep-storage. “I have camel-like abilities, an ability to save things up – and afterwards I have to fill up again,” she said.
She said her Christian beliefs were good support for her work – in order to prevent her from taking herself too seriously, and to enable her to admit that she also made mistakes.
Should she retain her position as chancellor after September’s general election, she said she would try to tackle the problems posed by Germany’s aging population.
And when asked whether the mother of small children could become chancellor, she said, “It would certainly not be simple. As chancellor one is duty-bound to be available in certain situations – and the same is true for mothers. But fathers of small children were chancellor.”
And although she has never been keen to identify as a feminist, when asked what characterised a modern woman, she said, “She does not follow supposed role models. She is free in her decision-making.
“It is not a fully developed society when entire areas are staffed only by men,” she said.