Thursday, March 09, 2006

Interesting tidbits about Germany

I have some interesting tibits of information about Germany that you probably do not know, unless you live in Germany:

1. Almost ALL homes/apartments/condos in Germany do NOT have closets.
Yes, it is true. I do not understand it, but there must be a reason for it. Of course, everyone must own an armoire in this country.

2. If you buy a home or even rent an apartment in Germany, it may not have a kitchen!
Yes, hard to believe, but true. Of course there's a room where you must install your kitchen. When someone owns a home in Germany and if/when they move, they take their kitchen with them. They take the cabinetry, the appliances and even the kitch sink.

3. Recycling your garbarge is not an option, you must recyle and sort the items by type.
For example: green glass, brown glass, paper and organic waste. Otherwise, the garbarge collectors will not pick up your refuse.

4. Germans will share a table with strangers in a restaurant.
As an American, I find it a bit unnerving, but I have gotten use to it.

5. You must bring your own bags to the grocery store or you have to pay for them.

6. In order to use a shopping cart you must insert a 1 Euro coin into the slot to release the cart.
I guess it is a good idea beause everyone returns the carts where they belong and they're not rolling around the parking lot denting and scraping all the cars.

While I am on the subject, I read a very interesting book titled: "Germany-Unraveling an Enigma," by Greg Nees. (ISBN 1-877864-75-7) I read on page 92 about the Germans' sense of distance. Gree Nees writes,

"Because Germans dislike spectacles and prefer to remain formal and reserved in public, they will usually wait until they are in close proximity before greeting someone on the street. Hollering or waving to catch a distant person's attention is something only younger or impolite Germans do. If fact, loud foreigners irritate the more traditional Germans, which causes considerable resentment and social tension."

No wonder I got some stares on the streetcar yesterday after class. My German language classmate (she's from Barcelona, Spain) and I were riding home and there was an announcement on the streetcar, obviously in German. She and I both looked at each other because the announcement sounded ominous. We both started laughing and of course we got the stare down from this elderly man seating across from us. The situation made me think of the movie, "Speed" with Kenau Reeves. Remember, if the bus had slowed down it would explode. Well, we went on to make up a story that if we got out of our seats the streetcar would explode. The story just snowballed from there and we laughed all the way home. I guess the announcement had nothing to do with an explosion because when we exited at the Hauptbahnhof we all lived to tell about it.

If you have any other interesting tidbits about Germany feel free to use the comments section. I am sure there are more things I am forgetting right now.

22 Comments:

Blogger christina said...

Wow, you covered all the bases! :-)

I was thinking of doing a "there are no closets in Germany" post some time because we found a creative way to get around that.

When I was taking German courses, a lot of us used to ride home on the same tram and we were usually very loud. One guy always yelled "Mahlzeit!" (the greeting you use when you see someone going to eat or eating a meal already) and people would just stare and roll their eyes. Lots of fun.

Another tidbit - if you live in a house and it snows, you are required to be out there by 7 a.m. to clear (as in shovel, sweep and sand) your walkway AND a 1 meter wide strip of the sidewalk along your property. If the mailman slips and falls in the snow or ice you can get into big trouble.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Tongue in Cheek Antiques said...

Ah so much of this is true in France too!!

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

I watched somebody shovel their walk at 03:30 last night.

Random Request: Could you get rid of the pop-up / pop-over advertisements on the blog. They are quite annoying. I'm trying to diagnose which script they are so that I can permanately block them, but... on the other hand, it would be faster for you to do it...

1:21 AM  
Blogger James said...

Adam,
I noticed something weird like that was happening...but I dont know how to do that. Can you email me and help me out a little....THANKS!

7:51 AM  
Blogger Haddock said...

In the UK we dont have closets either - maybe its just a North American thing. We have wardrobes for our hanging clothes and chest of drawers for our folded clothes.

Closets are much more practicles but the words Wardrobe & Chest of Drawers do sound grander :)

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Ryan Carney aus Mönchengladbach said...

If you live in an apartment in Germany you have to mop the stairs every other week. I hate that rule.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

Hmmm. In our apartment here in Hannover, the landlords have someone come every Wednesday to mop the stairs. So glad we don't have to do it.

I laughed almost all the way through this, James!

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Adam said...

James... I emailed your gmail... I don't have any answers for your ad problem, but i had some ideas.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Ahhhh... I thought I was going to be left out but I just remembered one. I've been told, in Germany if you live in a stone house (which a bunch of folks do) you must open your windows for so many minutes every day to let it air out or else you invite mold. If your Wohnung should develop mold while you live in it, it's considered damage, and the landlord can recover money from you for cleaning it up. (where did I hear that? Christina?)

Another one - in Germany there are no screens in the windows. They're made to tilt inward from the top and have a locking system that takes a few tries to learn. If you do it incorrectly the window practically falls out of the frame and on your head. I almost brained myself a few times trying to work those suckers out the first couple months I was here.

Ooooo... one more. I'm on a role. In Germany the bugs are *very* small and fast, and the birds are usually skinny. :D Okay, that last part was poetic license, but the bugs (spiders, flies, beetles and whatnot) are *nothing* compared to the monsters that lurked in dark corners where I came from.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Hamish said...

Have you noticed there are people who refuse to cross the street unless they see the green guy? There isn't a car to be seen or heard anywhere, and people will wait patiently on the curb to cross. I always thought that was pretty wild.

7:53 PM  
Blogger James said...

Hamish: I COMPLETELY agree! It drives me NUTS everyday. Back in San Francisco I never waited and resent waiting...now here I feel like a criminal for crossing on red....crazy.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous megan said...

Same here, In Berkeley it was considered a potential way to pay off your student loans, cross and see who dares hit you!

Here I had an old woman smack her hand over her granddaughter's eyes to protect her from the image of me breaking the rules...over a completely empty street.

You'll see signs around Munich saying "be a rolemodel for children, cross on the green".

11:20 PM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

It's the same in Switzerland too! And there are some of those things that happen in Canada too, but really it isn't as common.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Schwelmo said...

Loved it! I think I can explain the closet thing. (Here in Aotearoa they have closets as well so its not just North America). I guess it the way they houses are build.In Germany houses are usually build with stones and also the walls between rooms are made of bricks. So it would not very easy to move your closet if you want to have somewhere else. It is probably just not that practicle. And in Europe there is probably a different valuation/culture/history for a nice piece of furniture which stand out and you can see. Even nowadays everybody gets it from Ikea.
I usually crossed red traffic lights when the streets are empty and no kids around (I didn't want them to follow me and get driven over the next time when they cross it some where else with more traffic).
There is something I do not understand. Why are most (all I met) foreigners so amazed by the recycling thing. I can't see what is wrong with reducing rubbish. Even if it is in a very organized "German Way".

11:34 PM  
Blogger jon said...

In Vienna it is not a crime to let your dog piss and shit all over the city's streets and buildings (even in the parks which expressly prohibit the little Wieners). This is a huge problem and has caused me to forever look down at my feet while walking out of fear of a nasty surprise.

Also, leave Hochdeutsch at the border if coming to Austria. Before adopting Wienerisch (disclaimer: I'm from Texas), it was a real toss up between using English and standard German to communicate to the Viennese. It just seems that the Austrians don't like the Germans very much (sure it has something to do with all of those Germans flooding the law faculty at the University of Vienna).

8:50 PM  
Anonymous mikey said...

Hi,

We just moved to Düsseldorf too! Though from the other coast--DC. We just found your blog today. It is funny to see how we've gone through many of the same experiences getting settled here.

Germans are completely law abiding (the crosswalk thing is funny) EXCEPT for smoking. They'll smoke right under a no-smoking sign all of the time. Some friends here mentioned that every German has one law they'll break, but they'll follow all the others. So if they'll only smoke in designated places, then maybe they sneak some glass into their trash...

I read an article recently about how the German language might be somewhat responsible for the dour expressions you see around here--try smiling while pronouncing vowels with umlauts. Ist nicht leicht!

mike

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to "there are no closets in Germany". I lived there for two years and someone told me that for a very long time they have taxed you on every room in your house, and their definition of a room is four walls and a door. So, there you go, the birth of the "shrunk".

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guten Tag! Ich wohne Gabi! My England speaking is no so gut. but i can say this . mp3's were made in Deutschland!

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Rose said...

Hey, I like the blog. I'm doing an essay on Germany and its quirks and the blog really helped. That sucks about not having closets. I never realized Germany was that weird. Of course when I lived there a few years ago I lived on post in Baumholder so having more Americans around helps.

Crosswalks suck in general. I'll take my luck playing chicken with an oncoming bus that cross when the sign says I should. But I grew up in Kansas where we believe in jaywalking and such.

4:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 1 euro coin for the shopping carts drives me nuts. Several times I have gone to the grocery store without a coin and cursed loudly at the stupidity of this requirement (and I have to shop almost every other day due to our tiny refrigerator here in Berlin). I am totally on board with the armoire thing though. American closets have a door but they almost never have any organizational components (shelves, etc.) so everyone's closet ends up a huge mess unless you spend a weekend to kit it out yourself. Much rather buy a huge, easily configurable armoire from IKEA.

The amount of smoking is driving me nuts too though. I find myself holding my breath every time I walk past a sidewalk café.

3:55 PM  
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