Learning is a constant in life. It is especially easy to learn the further you venture from home. Being somewhere new always teaches me so much about the world, people and myself, and my time in Germany has been no different. Maybe you already knew this stuff, but I didn’t…
- The Autobahn
I was always under the assumption that the infamous German Autobahn was one specific stretch of road. It’s not. The Autobahn is actually over 8,000 miles of what us Americans know as a freeway, stretching up, down and across Germany. Construction for the road system started slowly in the 1920s, but it did not get into full swing until the late 1930s, under Hitler’s rule. And yes, it is very fun to drive on.
- The Pharmacy
Got a headache and need some Advil? Got an itchy something and want some cream? Need cough syrup or nasal decongestant? Pretty much everything medical is bought over the counter at a pharmacy. Meaning you have to actually talk to the pharmacist and tell them your problems. If you’re not used to this system, be prepared to feel embarrassed. And guess what, it is not less embarrassing when you don’t speak the language. A mix of sign language, poorly pronounced words and saying them louder in English just draws even more attention to you. On the plus side, pharmacists in Germany are like mini-doctors, so if your ailment is minimal they can point you in the right direction without the hassle of having to see a physician.
Stores are closed on Sundays. This means grocery stores, shopping malls, pharmacies, almost everything. Everyone is encouraged to spend time at home with friends and family. What a wonderful concept! Until it is Sunday afternoon and you realize you ran out of milk, or that itch relief cream…
Many men sit down to pee. This is in an attempt to avoid splatter. I heard a rumor about this before I came to Germany, but I didn’t take it very seriously. But it is true. And I know it shouldn’t matter, but it makes me feel weird. I am slowly getting over it, because it just means I don’t have to have that age old argument about if the toilet seat should be left up or down.
Personally I think the German school system is crazy. I won’t dive too far into details, but after grade 4 there are basically three tracks a student can take based on grades, ability and attitude. This means that around the age of 9 or 10 a child is sent towards the path of college, vocational training or neither. Germans are ever the masters of sufficiency, and this system is a prime example. I just feel like age 10 is a little early to be pushing kids into their future.
- Grocery Stores
Speaking of sufficiency, if you want to feel super unorganized and inadequate, just go grocery shopping. I am a fairly orderly person, I have my shit together, but the first time I went grocery shopping in Germany I nearly cried from the anxiety. I won’t even talk about the fact that all the labels are in a foreign language (duh. But thank goodness for the Google Translate App) or that the eggs are kept in an aisle, not a cooler. Or that everything is in grams and Euros. Let’s just talk about what happens once you get to the check out line. The check out lady will wait until you have everything on the belt, and then she will whip your food across the barcode scanner and down the other side as fast as she can. Seriously, they go to training to be as efficient as possible. If you are not there ready, with your canvas bags brought from home, to catch your food, you will piss off everyone. So you had better pack your shit as quickly as possible and give the lady exact change so you don’t cause a riot at register #4.
Want to loose weight almost without trying? Move to Germany. Seriously. This is a land flowing with beer, bread and sweets, but somehow I have managed not to gain, but to lose weight. I totally attribute this to the bicycling and walking lifestyle here. Everyone bikes everywhere, in all weather.
7 ½ . Bread
I knew from the Germans I met in South Africa, that they love their bread. But wow, was that an understatement. Even my tiny village has like five locations where you can get fresh rolls, bread loafs, croissants, pretzels, doughnuts and delicious morsels I have never even seen before. It is heavenly. Bakeries are even open on Sunday, because eating old bread is a bigger sin than working on the Sabbath.