My Thoughts On Germany So Far
I thought it’s time to do a blog which isn’t just about ‘what have I been up to?’ (the answer being not too much, other than seeing the new James Bond film, having a day trip to Lüneburg where I did my exchange nearly three years ago, and going on a night out and getting an awfully painful hangover in Hannover – such an awesome/awful, however you see it, play on words, I know).
Instead, this is going to be another ‘take a step back’ blog, and this time I’ll talk about my general thoughts of certain things I’ve experienced in Germany. For the past three and a half months, I’ve been writing bits and bobs down which I’ve realised about Germany which aren’t too obvious at first (either be it something I love, something just interesting, or something I really can’t stand), and I’m going to pick the main ones to write down here. So here are my thoughts on Germany so far.
And I just want to say, these are definitely generalisations which I’ve experienced in Germany. There are obviously some people I know or have seen who don’t do the below things, so those Germans reading this now – please don’t be offended, as chances are it doesn’t apply to you!
- When is the last time you had ice cubes in your drink? I was shocked at this question, and I know about 80% of other people on their year abroads who I asked were also shocked. Germans just don’t ‘do’ ice in drinks. In England, you mostly either get given it, or at least get asked if you want it. Not here, however (though there are a few places who do do it, I admit. It’s very rare I’ve found though!)
- Out-of-date schools. By which I mean most of the classrooms have blackboards. Not smart boards, not even white boards – black boards. It does feel very old-tech when the teacher drags in a projector with transparent sheets. There are admittedly a few smart boards in about 2 of the hundreds of classrooms in my school, but it’s still annoying when you get chalk all over you.
- Queues. One word the Germans do not seem to understand. What do you do when you’re stood at the bus stop and the bus comes? You queue. What do you do when you go to the bank to take some money out of a cash machine? You queue. Not here. They charge for the buses, charge for the trams, and forming a queue for about 5 cash machines is a nightmare, with some people thinking you’re supposed to queue for individual cash machines, and others thinking, like I would, you queue for all of them. I’ve got seriously angry sometimes at Germans who push in, especially yesterday when I witnessed someone push in front of two deaf people who didn’t realise there was a free cash machine. Get in damn line – Es gibt ‘ne Schlange!
- We all scream for ice cream. And the Germans would scream pretty loud for it. They absolutely love ice cream here. When I came in August, they all were eating it, which I thought was fair enough, but the day I saw a queue (a rare sight, yes) for ice cream on a cold September day was interesting. They’re still eating ice cream now. In November. Not that I’m complaining, I must admit.
- Deutsche Bahn. Two words which may strike fear into any year abroader. I have rarely had a nice swift journey with Deutsche Bahn. From trains being delayed for about 5 minutes, to me actually being kicked off a train because ‘the train is unable to travel any further’. On the way back from Cologne last week, I saw on the train departures sign that there was one train which was delayed 1440 minutes. 24 hours. I’m not sure if it was just a technical fault with the sign, but I did find it pretty funny.
- Excuse me? I’ve generally found that I rarely hear an ‘Entschuldigung’ (‘excuse me’) when someone tries to get past me. In England, if you were trying to get past someone whilst walking along a train, or perhaps you bump into someone in the street by accident, you’d say ‘sorry’. I’ve had a lot of experiences here where someone has walked into me, yet not said anything at all, not even just a quick ‘sorry’ (‘sorry’ being something they do actually literally say in Germany). But on the flip side, this could be that us Brits are perhaps too polite.
- Behave your bloody self. Behaviour in schools here seems to be a problem, in that there’s no punishment. I’ve witnessed so many children be naughty in class, from constant chattering, to throwing stuff around the room, to literally not doing the work set because “ich hab’ kein Bock” or “es macht kein Spaß” (“I can’t be bothered” or “It’s not fun”). In England, you’d get a detention, a trip to the headmaster’s office, a letter home, or something similarly terrifying. Here, you seem to get a quick ‘please be quiet’ which results in the kids chatting again about 2 minutes after. There have been times I want to actually tell a child off due to them just being little pains in the bum, but with me not being the main teacher I feel it’s not my place to do so. I am dreading the day I flip.
- Shut the f*ck up. Wait, what? Did a German just say the f-word? Chances are they did. I’ve heard some Germans say the f-word before (and I actually mean the English form of it), and they just don’t care. I once saw someone on a quiz show say it, and it was about 3pm. I’ve had to actually tell a student once to stop saying it when she was speaking English – it’s just they don’t realise how terrible it actually is. In German, you have the word ‘Scheiße’. At first, you may think this to be our equivalent of ‘Sh*t’, but it’s by far not as bad. Little kids are allowed to say it. I guess the best translation would be ‘damn’, and this just makes them think that ‘f*ck’ and ‘sh*t’ (which I’ve also heard a few time) aren’t that bad to say.
- Currywurst. Something quite positive now – Currywurst is absolutely divine. The day I go home and am unable to just pop into town for a Currywurst will be a sad one. I don’t know why Currywurst isn’t as easily available in England, because it would most definitely do amazingly.
- English. I mentioned this in my last ‘Reflections’ post, and I’m just going to add to the idea of English here in Germany. I’ve now been told that English is actually ‘cool’ here, and that’s why it’s used in advertisements and other things. They even speak English in the Hollister here (unexpectedly proved when I went in the other week and received a massive ‘HEY GUYS WHAT’S UP?!’ by a German guy that worked there. Very odd. Next time I’ll try and have a chat with someone who works there and put them fully to the test). But the whole ‘cool’ thing gives me an image of me and other English-speaking assistants walking through Hannover looking tremendously cool because we’re speaking English. I know this probably won’t be the case, but it’s nice to dream.
- Euros. This isn’t German-specific. I still haven’t got used to euro coins, which makes me think I never will do. As said before, notes are easy. 1 euro coins and 2 euro coins and now distinguishable for me, but as soon as we hit the others I’m lost. I know there are different engravings along the edge of each type of coin, but this seems to be so difficult when rummaging through my wallet when the damn woman at the till asks if I have the extra 15 cent to make it easier for her to give me change.
- Little dogs. They are everywhere. The Germans seem to love little dogs, and you see at least one every time you go into town. That is all.
- Spare 5 seconds? Snog my face off! The amount of people I’ve seen making out in public here is unbelievable. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, in that at least they’re brave enough to show their love for one another, but… really? I’ve witnessed people snogging in a variety of places, including when they have a spare 5 seconds before the man turns green so they can cross the road, to on an escalator when they have a few seconds before they reach the end.
- Who needs a bottle opener? The Germans can open bottles with anything. It’s actually quite an amazing ability. An example being when I was sat on the tram the other day – there was a man sat opposite me who got a bottle of beer out of his bag, then went for his pocket – I knew he was going to get something to open the bottle, but also could bet it wasn’t going to be a bottle opener. And I was right – it was a lighter. He opened the bottle with a lighter. I sometimes have trouble opening a bottle with a bottle opener.
- Om nom nom. They do quite like to eat a lot here, which I thought was initially just a false stereotype. Whenever I’m in school and there’s a 5 minute break in the middle of a double period, there’s a good chance that at least half the class get something out to eat, more often than not something with bread. The teachers in the staff room seem to eat a lot too, even when it’s not the dinnertime break.
And those are my general thoughts on Germany so far, 3 and a half months in. As I said, most are generalisations, in that not every single German likes snogging people faces off in public, nor do they all own a little dog, nor do they all not enjoy standing in queues. It’s just interesting to see these small differences to England, and made me realise it isn’t always easy to spot the differences after just a short time here – it apparently takes at least a few months to spot the little things!