Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a few things about my surroundings, as well as Germany and Germans in general, so I thought I’d share them. I think most Germans would admit to the truth of most of these descriptions, but don’t take my word as gospel. Enjoy!
Food and Drink
- Mealtime is sacred. If you’re in the house during noon or 6pm, you are expected at the table.
- Pork, pork, everywhere, but not a proper slice of bacon to be found.
- Do you like bread? Good, because the Germans do too. Fresh baked bread. And always, always, always these little rolls called brötchen. It’s like a crisp hamburger roll that actually tastes good.
- Some people accuse Germans of neglecting vegetables in their diet in favor of bread, meat, and cheese, but that’s an unfair accusation. Why, in just the last few days I’ve had mashed potatoes, Knödel, and fried potatoes. Potatoes are plants, so they count as a vegetable, right?
- Lunch is the big meal, not dinner. This one threw me for quite a while.
- Everything you drink has bubbles. Breakfast juice, apple juice, water, punch, beer, Fanta, cola, and wine all can be, and often are, carbonated.
- Only foreigners drink tap water. To Germans, Wasser ist zum Waschen Da (Water is for washing!)
- Every time I drink with a German, they are more than happy to explain how German beer is the best beer in the world, and that all other countries’ beers are awful (especially American beer.)
- You do not use your hands to eat. You always use a fork and knife. And if you’re a real German, you never put your knife down. Exception: soup.
- German chocolate is fantastic.
- Sausages. Every meal. Every occasion.
Manners and Social Customs
- In my experience, Germans are far less obsessed with punctuality than I’d been taught to expect. Or maybe I’m just really punctual?
- Many people will casually greet you with a “Hallo” or “Guten Tag” on the street, which I did not expect at all. It may be simply because I live in a small town. However, this phenomenon is less common among people with no or white hair, so it’s possible that 20 years ago, greeting each other on the street was not so common.
- “And on the seventh day the Germans rested, and no shop was open, and no person left the house, and the people did rest, and a feast was made in preparation for Tatort, an unfathomably popular crime-investigation show (or Krimi). And the Germans saw that it was good and said ‘Alles klar.’”
- Everyone wears scarves, all the time, and they are certainly not doing it to be hipsters.
- If someone invites you to do something, and you say “yeah, maybe I’ll come,” it means “until my last dying breath, until I am beaten to the ground by all foes, until the sky rains fire and the seas boil, I will not forsake our plans,” and NOT “I don’t really want to go, and I probably won’t come.”
- Everyone does their job, and no one does more than their job. Whether it’s a store, a business, or a school, if you want help, you better ask for it. Multiple times. And then you have to hope that the person is in a good mood. Seriously, the attitude of “the customer is always right” does not exist here. Everyone treats you like an adult that can take care of themselves. At first I was offended by this, as well as completely confused and lost, but I’ve grown to appreciate it. The world doesn’t revolve around you, and Germans will be very happy to remind you of this fact.
Beliefs, Values, Opinions
- Germans think Americans have too loose of a gun policy, and even before the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook, I had many questions from students and adults about whether or not I owned a gun, who could buy a gun, how, where, etc. EDIT 12/27: Recent German Cartoon (rough translation: “Oh look, an assault rifle”)
- Germans almost unanimously love Barack Obama. During election time, I saw a survey among Germans about who they would vote for, if they could: 90% Obama, 8% Romney, 2% Other.
- Germans also tend to be, as measured by the American political spectrum, fairly liberal. They take great pride in their social programs for healthcare, job loss, as well as a host of other work-related benefits (parents of a newborn can take a whole year off from work to raise the child, the government will pay them a percentage of their salary, and they have a guaranteed place at their old job).
- There is no such thing as a free restroom. If you need the toilet, you’re paying.
- The “Pfand” system is used at many restaurants or bars. If you get your drink in a glass, you pay an extra euro for it, and you get it back when you bring your glass back.
- The public transport system is amazingly well developed. Even little towns like Enkenbach have their own train station, and the trains run on time for the most part. Their ubiquity and usefulness far outweighs the occasional inconvenience of a missed connection… though if you heard Germans talk about it, you might think Deutsche Bahn makes their trains late on purpose.
- Germans, and many Europeans, have the best windows. If you turn the handle up, you can crack the window like this. If you turn it sideways, it opens on the opposite side’s axis. And then turning it down closes it. It’s simple, efficient, and I love it.
- Germans cannot play the blues/jazz. They cannot do it. And when they try, it is hilarious.
That’s all for now. This one was fun to write, so I may do another “Observations” post later… but definitely not until next year 😀
Happy New Year and Prosit Neujahr!