I’ve now spent a grand total of four months of my life living in Germany, and almost a year working with the people of this great nation (not all of them obviously. That’s quite a lot of people to be working with) Don’t get me wrong, a year isn’t that much time but it’s time enough to have made a few observations of this strange place I find myself in.
Germans never cross the road unless there is a green man light showing.
I’ve heard conflicting reports about the legality of jaywalking (some say it’s illegal, others say this is an urban myth created in order to back up the anti-rule-breakers). But one thing I do know for sure is that sometimes this red man/green man thing is really full on baffling…I have stood in pouring, torrential rain with a bunch of Germans for up to five minutes in the past, while zero cars have gone by and clearly zero cars will go by- as the empty road stretches each way into the horizon as far as the eye can see. Absolutely soaked to the skin. Just standing there. I have stood in a blizzard with exactly the same amount of cars zooming by (zero), risking hypothermia in order to not be tutted by the German folk who are also patiently risking hypothermia on either side of me. I just don’t get it, you guys!
The word ‘ear-worm.’
I just really like this word, because it so perfectly describes the type of song that gets stuck in your head and won’t leave. As far as I can tell, there’s no real word for that in English, so I’m adopting the translation ‘ear-worm’ into my own vocabulary.
People say exactly what they think
And sometimes this can come as quite a shocker, being at best just matter-of-fact (e.g. ‘No I cannot take those vital papers I need from you right now, even though it would be easy as you have them right there in front of me. I want to eat my sandwich.’) to just plain borderline rude (e.g. ‘When you pull that face it makes you look extremely ugly’). But fret not, pals, although this level of bluntness does take some getting used to, it helps to realise that most of the time it’s not meant in a rude way, and sometimes can even be quite refreshing to hear just the truth with no dressing-it-up-to-soften-the-blow.
Beer for breakfast
That’s right you lot, it is completely and utterly totally 100% normal to have beer as early as 6am if that’s what time you’re up and about. Beer in general is consumed in large amounts in Germany, but this traditional breakfast (called Frühschoppen, if you want to get technical about it), really blows my mind. It consists of sausages, pretzels and as much beer as you feel like. Make of that what you will. On Hamburg’s Reeperbahn it’s pretty normal to see people skip the sausage and pretzel and just walk around chugging from a bottle of beer at 9am, however I’ve got a feeling this is more of a Hamburg thing than a general German one.
I really don’t know how I can successfully describe schlager as a genre without saying basically just go and listen to some. I would say it’s something along the lines of an updated and terrible Euro-trash-pop version of traditional folk music; think Eurovision. Schlager songs are always extremely catchy and simple, and often feature a section at the end where the tempo starts to get faster and faster and everyone has a jolly good time finding it hilarious that the song is so fast but they can still join in because it’s very catchy and simple and they can jump up and down to it and clap on the counts of 1 and 3 instead of 2 and 4.
Everything is closed on Sundays
I so appreciate this. England needs to take note: everything does not need to be open 24/7! The streets here as a result have barely any cars on on Sundays, and seem instead to feature families going for leisurely strolls just like they did in the olden days. How very lovely, I tell you.
Dogs roaming around like nobody’s business
I think this might be specific to the Hamburg area, but dogs strut around these streets lead- and sometimes owner- free, which is quite a strange sight once I started to notice it. Apparently dogs in Hamburg can take a test to decide whether or not they have to wear a lead in public, A-level style. Nice one, dogs.
Prostitution is legal
It’s a bonafide actual real-life job here in Germany, and not only is it legal but prostitutes also pay taxes, have workers unions, and health insurance. Some of the bigger brothels even have loyalty cards for customers, Starbucks style. The sight of an apartment block with naked ladies hanging out every window and a collection of gormless-looking men standing on the grass in front is admittedly a stranger sight than the leadless dogs.
A rule is a rule, even if it makes no sense
Germans really love rules. Making rules. Following rules. Knowing the rules. It gets frustrating after a while. If it’s quicker, easier and basically better for everyone to not follow a rule? Doesn’t matter. A rule’s a rule.
For some reason still water doesn’t seem to be a thing round these parts, so if you’re ever in a restaurant and ask for water, it’s best to specify that you want still not sparkling. Even though it might get you a few odd looks.
They are never late
Ever. The trains are not late. The buses are not late. The people are not late. To be fair, I’ve also never known them to be early. EVERYTHING RUNS LIKE CLOCKWORK. And so God help the poor soul who is not on time when meeting a German, as that kind of shoddy punctuality is just not acceptable in Deutschland.
I just mainly like the fact that Krankenwagon sounds very like what an ambulance is. That’s all.
They don’t put milk in the fridge
I mean, that’s just not ok, is it!!? Milk just sits on the counter in the carton for days on end, no refrigeration wanted or needed. In all honesty I found that alarming, but I guess all German milk must be long-life-not-really-real-milk or something as it never seems to go sour. Weird.
They don’t queue
For all their many rules, queuing is a system that they are very unfamiliar with. No, in Deutschland it’s all about casually pushing forward until you reach the front, with complete disregard for anyone’s personal space. It’s just how they do things round here.
A strange form of partner dancing, which involves 3 steps making you think it should be danced only to a 3/4 beat, waltz style but quickly. Maybe more like the cha cha. But no, this dance is danced to any beat or tempo, they just bloody love it I tell you. An odd and very old German mayor once tried to teach me to discofox and it was the most uncomfortable five minutes of my life.