Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Impressions of Germany

Impressions of Germany

After a week in Hamburg, my daughter asked me what I thought of Germany.
The bullet point version is, it is quite pleasant here overall. Most people have been helpful and courteous. Many speak English, which is very convenient. I have picked up some German, but frankly, most Germans have better skill with English than I do with German so there is no point in my unintentionally butchering their language.

What follows is the extended version of my impressions.

Coming from the point of view of an American, Germany is not an exotic place. Sure, it's different, but in terms of day to day interactions with people and systems, the differences are often minimal though quirky.

The stores work largely the same way except they charge the customer for a sack.  Also apparently one does not purchase baby related items at the grocery. Baby food, diapers, baby wipes, etc are obtained at another store that is roughly analogous to an American drugstore. The major difference about this store is, one does not buy drugs there. Most drugs and medical related products are sold at an apoteka (think of the old time name for the druggist, apothecary). Also Germans don't care for big stores even when they have the space. Walmart, Costco, even an American grocery would be unimaginable to most Germans. One thing this old liberal, pro-worker, semi-socialist appreciated was that many cashiers are seated at their stations. In general, non-professional workers seem happier and better treated.

Other differences? Bicycles are ubiquitous. Cafes also. Bars? You bet, and perhaps only second in number to cafes, but they are rarely large. Think neighborhood corner bar.

Here is an observation. Germans get nervous if they are more than fifty paces from bread. This, one reasonably infers from the number of bakeries. Oddly, they feel the same way about ice cream. My million euro idea is (shhh, don't let this get out) a chain of bakery slash ice cream shops. My theory is that I merely need to mention bread and ice cream in the same name and I will control their hearts and minds. I scream, you scream, we all scream for bread & ice cream.

What other helpful/interesting information can I offer? The toilets and faucets all work similarly to ours, which is convenient.

in the do's and don'ts category let me address ones duties as a pedestrian. Cross at the green and not in between. Far from being a cute children's rhyme, they really mean it! Wait for the little green walk signal. Seriously. Wait for it. I'm not kidding. Unless you are trying to incur the glaring disapproving stares of your fellow pedestrians, not to mention panic stricken drivers, just wait. I know you will feel tempted. Perhaps you've carefully checked in every direction and seen no approaching traffic within a kilometer (a skosh over a half mile) and you are thinking- surely they can't possibly mean wait even now. Save any rebellious I-go-my-own-way thoughts for some other outlet because I can assure you that, yes, they do.

There is more to come in the next installment. I need a bread and/or ice cream break.

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