Friday, April 13, 2018

Germany | the weird and the wonderful

I had my first ever houseguests this month!

Of course, I helped my mom host guests throughout my childhood, and several friends visited while I was in college. But this was different: my dear friends Bryn and Angela flew ACROSS THE ATLANTIC to come spend a week with me.

We rode on countless trains, hiked in the alps, enjoyed world-class art museums. In the evenings we played bananagrams, danced, and talked endlessly about faith and post-college life and books and ideas. (And we introduced Bryn to Lizzy Bennet Diaries.)

It was pure joy to have them.

Something I really enjoyed was hearing their impressions of Germany. I've lived here so long that I'm accustomed to most quirks of the place and don't notice them anymore.

As Bryn and Angela commented on things that they found amusing, confusing, and wonderful about Germany, I kept a running list on my phone. Here are some of them.

Water fountains are not a thing in Germany. I don’t know why this is, but I have never seen a water fountain here. It used to be that most tap water in public bathrooms was not potable, so if you wanted water you had to buy it. Now you can usually fill up at a bathroom sink.

But to get into that bathroom you probably had to pay. A 50 cent charge is typical to use a public bathroom, which makes complete sense to me. I’d much rather pay to use a clean bathroom than be grossed out for free. But it's also a bummer when you desperately need to use a bathroom and don't have any change on you.

Speaking of things you have to pay for, you can't order free tap water at restaurants. Beer is often literally cheaper than water.

Stoplights here turn yellow before they turn green.

Roads are very narrow. That said, sidewalks are very wide. Bryn commented that the sidewalks are so wide she would have thought they were driving lanes. This is a perfect example of how much Germans value walking, biking, or taking public transit above driving. 

You can’t pay at the pump at German gas stations. I have no idea why.

There are no billboards along the roads. (Well done, Germany!) 

The color palate is brighter. It's common to see buildings painted in bright, bold colors.

Mailmen ride bikes, not vans. And they contribute to the bright color palate: they have yellow bikes, jackets, and mailbags.

There are lots and lots of flower shops, and they are usually not connected to grocery stores like they are in the States.

Mistletoe grows in huge clumps on trees

When German families move, they take their kitchens with them. Cupboards, sink, counters, dishwasher, fridge and freezer - it all comes out of the old place and into the new. So it's not uncommon that when you look at a German home for rent or sale, the kitchen area will be a gutted room with connections to plumbing but no actual kitchen. 

German homes do not have built-in closets. People keep their clothing in dressers and wardrobes. My parents explained to us that this is because closets are taxed like rooms. So homes are more affordable if they do not include closets. Go figure.

Woodpiles are standard. A lot of German homes still have wood-burning stoves (of course, they also have modern heating and cooking, just to be clear), and they have a lot of wood stacked up to feed those stoves.

Of course, this is only a handful of the things that stick out to a newcomer in Germany. If you're curious about more, or if you're familiar with Germany and want a good laugh, check out this Buzzfeed article. (Heads up for some vulgar language.)

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