I just returned from a few weeks in Germany. Just for fun, I wrote down some of the things that are particularly deutsch to me. It’s a partial list, of course, and I’m posting it in two parts. Please feel free to comment and add your own items to the list!
I know I’m in Germany when
- I sit down at a communal table in a restaurant and feel fur against my bare leg – it’s a dog accompanying her owner for dinner.
- I’m sharing the sauna with naked men and women and everyone feels at ease.
- the fitness studio has only one, all-sex dressing room and people change into their stretchy gear with ease. No one stares or hesitates because for Germans, there’s a difference between nudity and sexuality.
- Everyone – politicians, teachers, farmers, techies, even children - knows that climate change is real.
- I visit my mother in the hospital and the windows in her room are wide open to let the fresh air in.
- Every bakery – and there’s one on every block - has at least a dozen different kinds of rolls. Depending on the region, the rolls are called Brötchen, Semmeln, Schrippen or Wecken and they come in different shapes, sizes and flour and seed combinations (flax, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat and more).
- The construction worker whose legs are dangling off the scaffolding is washing down his sandwich with a mid-day beer. The ease with alcoholic beverages has historic roots: in medieval German towns, the primitive sewage systems contaminated much of the fresh water supply, so people were forced to quench their thirst with beer and wine. In Germany, it’s okay to walk around with an open beer. A “Wegebier” is literally a beer to be imbibed en route– by pedestrians.
- There’s zero alcohol tolerance for anyone driving any kind of vehicle.
- I’m greeted with a friendly Guten Tag as soon as I step inside a small shop. Whether I’m buying a single breakfast roll or a winter coat, there’s a sing-song of Dankeschön (thank you) and Bitteschön (you’re welcome) that closes with an exchanged Auf Wiedersehen.
- Trains have special compartments for adults traveling with children.
- News reports are truly international and even the weather report broadens my perspective on things by mentioning temperatures in every European capital city.
- The favorite street food is German sausage and Turkish döner.
- Pharmacies only carry medicine, remedies and cosmetics and they are never part of a larger store that sells alcohol and shoe polish.
- I don’t automatically get a glass of tap water at a restaurant and when I ask for it, the waitress eyes me like I’m trying to get away with something.
- I see a stack of newspapers and magazines in cafes. Sometimes these are clamped onto a long wooden stick so the pages stay in place and the newspapers stay in the café.
- People pay for groceries and most other things in cash.
- The windows of apartments and houses, shops and cafes are sparkling clean. For Germans, Fensterputzen – washing windows – is part of routine cleaning. Grimy panes suggest an unkempt interior and even more importantly, spotless windows allow the light to flow in.
- Drivers don’t stop for pedestrians.
- Customers bag their own groceries, always. The cashier – who sits in a chair instead of standing up for an entire shift - wouldn’t think of helping out.
- I walk home from a concert or a party at midnight and don’t worry about my safety – even after midnight. Crime exists in Germany, but it hasn’t confined behavior for women the same it does in US cities.
More to come...