It’s been a busy and interesting week for me. My laptop died, and it took me way longer than I wanted to get it to the Apple Store in Stuttgart (there isn’t one here in Tübingen) so I apologize for not being able to get back to you guys for a little bit. Thankfully, it’s finally fixed! It was definitely interesting talking to an Apple employee in a mix of German and English about what was wrong with my macbook. (Also, the Apple employees here wear red, not blue!)
I wanted to talk to you guys this week about observing the world around you and thinking about things you may normally not critically consider. I’ve noticed lots of little things about my daily life here that strike me as very German, and after discussing them with my floor mates we’ve decided they are! (Most of my floor mates are German, but a few are from other countries.) We had a fun discussion about habits that are typical of Germans.
One of the greatest things about being in another country is seeing how the local people live their daily lives. There are a lot of things about life in America that are easy to take for granted until you see things done differently! As you read these, think about things you do in your daily life or see that may be typically American.
To illustrate what I mean by looking critically, here’s an example from me and some of my friends from PSU. We decided to take a weekend, and watch how much time we all spent on our cell phones, laptops, with headphones in, etc. We noted when we were with other friends how frequently we checked our text messages. After the weekend, we were all shocked at how much time we spend on them! There were times where we would all be ‘hanging out’ but all of us would be on our phones. How weird is that?
That was something we never really thought about until we stopped and really looked at our actions. Now I notice when people are on their phones all the time!
Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.
Pizza in Germany doesn’t usually come in slices. Instead each person buys a whole pizza that’s smaller. Most people eat it with a fork and a knife.
The best place to get pizza in town, just 5 Euros!
A German post office is more than just a place to mail letters. They are also a phone company and a bank. Also, the phone booths and mail boxes are all yellow.
Some restrooms in the larger cities cost a fee to get in of about 50 cents. There are some in the train stations that cost 50 cents as well, and they’re incredibly clean!
Business hours are structured a bit differently. In Germany businesses and shops can’t be open as long as they please. There are strict regulations set up on the hours they can be opened. Before 9 or 10 am almost the only shops that are open are Bakery’s. (So you can pick up fresh bread for breakfast) Many businesses close for an hour or two during lunch in order for families to go home and have lunch with one another. They reopen at about 1 or 2 and remain open until about 6. Restaurants and different eating establishments are allowed to be open for a longer time. And, pubs and disco’s usually close at 3 or 4am, but some clubs are open until dawn! Saturdays are usually half days and so things close up early. And on Sunday there is almost nothing open.
In Germany it’s rare to find door knobs. Instead there are door handles.
When I first came to Germany I started to think that all Germans like to be by themselves or that they are very private people. While it’s not an overall fact that they like to be by themselves all of the time, they do greatly value their privacy. They show this in a few different ways.
At first glance inside a German home you might notice that all of the doors are closed, even in the in the bathroom when no one is using it. A door being closed in Germany is a statement of keeping things in order, and doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t go in.
Almost all private homes in Germany have a fence or a hedge around it to keep out the noise and outside world. They also keep the drapes drawn at night.
Professors keep their office doors closed, even during office hours. It makes it easier for them to work (with less noise from the halls) and if someone wants to come in, they just have to knock! I have seen a few students sitting outside an office waiting for the door to open, because they thought there was someone else in a meeting inside already, but the teacher was waiting for them.
Sharing a table in Germany isn’t uncommon. The lack of space makes it acceptable to eat with complete strangers. Although don’t expect them to start up a conversation with you. It’s typical just to ask if you can sit there, and then when their food arrives to say “Guten Appitite” and that’s all. This happens to me all the time with my floor mates in my kitchen in my dorm. Outdoor eating in Germany is very popular, and it’s not unusual or unacceptable to find someone’s dog that they’ve brought along, lying underneath their table.
German waiters and waitresses aren’t bothered with everyone at the table to have separate checks. It’s common practice (when out with friends) to pay for yourself.
It’s rare to get a check at a German Restaurant. Instead, after they have taken your plate, the waiter or waitress will ask you what you ate, and then you pay right there. They carry a money pouch with them to accept your money and to make change.
Have you visited somewhere that you noticed interesting habits or customs? What do you think Portland or the United States does that other places don’t? What sort of customs have you noticed in your own community?
Thanks a bunch for reading!