{20} Sandals with socks? More on what's distinct about Germany.

Thank you for sending your ideas for the list “You know you’re in Germany when…” I’ve also thought of a few more things:

 You know you’re in Germany when

- There are no SUV’s in the streets and police sirens are rarely heard, even in big cities like Berlin or Frankfurt.

- Municipal swimming pools have a special diving pool featuring 1,3,5 and 10 meter diving boards and anyone who dares can take the leap. Ten meters is thirty feet!

- You see men wearing sandals with socks.



- You see a Kiosk. This is a stall or a small bodega – you can buy everything from newspapers butter to canned tomatoes. It also serves as an outside bar, with people standing at a tall table to have a beer and socialize, also called "Wasserhäuschen" in earlier times, because the working class people went there to have a "Feierabendbier" (a quick beer after work).

- You see Balkonkästen (balcony flower boxes) on almost every balcony, especially in cities or towns where people don`t have a garden of their own. They are planted with the most colorful arrangements of flowers and herbs. Taking care of them is like a meditative activity to the owners occupying themselves with nature and its beauty in the midst of tightly built living quarters.


- Parking garages have spaces reserved for women close to the exit or the agent’s booth.

 - People bag their own groceries at lightning speed.

 - Everyone says hello when you come into a waiting room or a small store, and they say goodbye when you leave.

 - People you meet on a path in the woods don’t say anything as they pass you. 

 - There’s a little box with dials and lights on the wall in the bath, and that’s the efficient water heater!  (WHY doesn’t America switch to these?  Just to get more closet space alone! )

 - Voting happens on Sunday, almost like a religious duty.

 - You can’t congratulate someone on his or her birthday until the actual date they were born, or afterwards.  To say “Happy Birthday” even one day earlier is considered bad luck, holding a party a day earlier, say Sunday, when the birthday is on Monday, is out of the question. 

 - Cars are passing you going 100 mph and the train you’re on is going 140+ mph.  This works because the roads and train tracks are flawless, very well-maintained, the cars are some of the best on earth and they are, by law, inspected regularly, and all licensed drivers have passed a difficult exam after completing mandatory rigorous driver’s education.

 - There is a serious, lengthy, detailed discussion of a political/social issue on TV.


- When you’re in a hurry and ask a railway official (the guy with the red peaked cap) from which platform the train to Frankfurt  is leaving, he will lead you to a large display and will instruct you how to read the timetable posted there. He knows the answer but his mission is to teach you self sufficiency. Your train might be gone by the time you get to the platform, but you will be wiser than before.


- When your window is also a door…or the other way around. Just turn the handle up and the window opens at an angle. Turn the handle to the side and it opens like a door.


- When the bus driver drives away even though he sees your running to catch the bus.

- When people are pushing to get into a movie or subway instead of standing in line.

- When you see people leaning out their open windows, their elbows propped up by a pillow, just watching the world go by.

- Most people live in apartments their entire lives.


- When you think you’re in a fairy tale (in Southern Bavaria).


- When the cashiers in supermarkets sit on chairs instead of standing up. The power of trade unions!


- When there’s lots of bureaucracy. For example, it turned out to be quite complicated to buy a seat reservation to add to my train ticket after I had already bought the ticket.

- You see lots of solar panels on roofs and solar parks and windmills everywhere.

- Organic groceries are widely available, even in small towns.

- People eating and drinking outside at sidewalk cafes and beer gardens enjoying the summer weather. This is very pleasant. Why don't we do this more at home?

- There are red tile roofs, giving an entire village or even a cityscape an earthy, beautifully textured roofline.


- The public transport system is full at all hours of day and night

- People coming home from the symphony on the bus talk in detail about the music with each other.


- People drink Glühwein (mulled wine) at Christmas


- University fees are around 300 Euros per Semester, mainly to cover a discounted public transportation pass for the school year. 

- When museums are free once a month or more, they are packed with people of all ages.