Enjoy the Silence

It used to annoy me that I couldn’t do any shopping on Sundays and that our Saturdays were so hectic racing from one shop to the next when I first moved to Germany. Like anything in life, I got used to it. In fact, I started to like the fact that there was some time without the claws of commercialism, although that was never a major concern in southwest rural Germany.

The same goes for Hausordnung (house rules). Coming from the land of the free, it takes Americans some getting used to not only be able to run out to the grocery store or Walmart at 2 a.m. but also that running a load of laundry at a similarly unconventional hour in your apartment building is forbidden. After five years, I found that my mind and soul got used to having silence midday and roughly between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

When I came back to America, I found myself getting slightly irked that the landscaper of the house we were renting called me on Saturday to come by on Sunday. Then I found myself getting very irked when my neighbor habitually mowed her lawn at eight in the evening and sometimes close to midnight. And what made me mad was when I found out that there was nothing I could really do about it! I summoned enough “Germanness” in me to complain about it; I spoke to my neighbor who could care less that her nocturnal lawn mowing and weed whacking bothered anyone else. (Apparently she has been doing this for the last eleven years.) There were also no laws to protect me from the fact that she was running her weed-whacker and potentially waking up my children. After talking about my options our city council office, I was advised to call the police in case she was doing it after ten at night and maybe they could come.

As experienced expats who have ridden out the bumps of the culture shock highs and lows know, we need to learn to appreciate the good and the bad. Now in the Wild West, I’ll finish my grocery shopping at my local Vons at whatever time I want to. But I’ll also look forward to enjoying the silence between dinnertime until breakfast whenever we go back to Germany.