Americans, Canadians, and other English-speaking expats living in Germany (and Austria, Switzerland) suddenly discover one fine day that something they take for granted in their homeland is not found in Germany at all. Or it may be almost impossible to find. As the German saying goes: “Other lands, other customs.” (Andere Länder, andere Sitten.)
No added sales tax (VAT). It’s included. The price you see is the price you pay. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo
Sometimes it may be a favorite food item (Cheerios, real salsa). Other times it may be a service (toll-free calls, Uber) or a medication (cough syrup). One day it dawns on you: I’ve never seen an in-sink garbage disposal in Germany! (Against the law or discouraged in most of Germany.) Or comes the day when you realize something you use all the time costs more in Germany than back home: contact lens fluid (only available from the Optiker, for a pretty price). Below are some examples of common things NOT found in Germany, divided into three categories: 1. Never or Almost Never; 2. Rarely, Once in a Blue Moon; and 3. Sometimes, Depending on Your Location. Okay, here we go, starting with things you’ll never or almost never find in Germany. Continue reading →
When thinking about what to blog about this time round, I came back to one of my seeming favorite topics, punctuality. I had forgotten that I blogged about it in October, but something is calling me back again. I had been speaking to a colleague who had worked for the Irish arm of my former German company, and she mentioned that her boyfriend was always teasing her for being German (she is Irish) after being at a German company for a couple of years. She also expects people to be on time for meetings, follow through, and generally be on time. Her patience is as tested as mine is in many of these areas, although I do admit that my blog posts are almost never on time!
A recent poll done by Reader’s Digest and quoted in a video on the Deutsche Welle website indicates that, despite the trend in lateness when it comes to German trains (they said that only 1 in 5 was in time in recent months), Germans still place high value on punctuality. As the saying goes, five minutes early is considered “on time” by Germans. Thirty-two percent of those polled were willing to wait five minutes for someone, 36% were willing to wait 15 minutes, 6% were willing to wait 30 minutes, and a mere 2% would wait 60 minutes for a person they were meeting. As a recent expat in Ireland, where punctuality is not geschätzt or even expected, I have found that I even have to mention to people that they can expect me to be on time so as not to throw them off in their preparations for a party or evening out. Continue reading →
OK, maybe it is not really a fad. Not here in Germany that is. But almost 6000 years ago the Kosher food “movement” (everything is a movement now) started. It still exists but has a big brother, Halal. The two dietary systems have much in common which shouldn’t be surprising considering the shared roots of Jews and Muslims (and Christians). Funnily enough, following these food customs is something that can bring Jews and Muslims together in a place like Central and Northern Europe that barely acknowledges non-pork fare in most restaurants.
I recently had an encounter with some Americans who worked closely with German colleagues — not very well. They felt that their hard work and efforts were under-appreciated by the Germans and that they were regarded as a bunch of cowboys. They felt that compared to their Asian and European counterparts in the same company, they were the only ones following the rules. Meanwhile, the colleagues back at the German headquarters thought that these Americans were making up their own rules. I couldn’t have found a better example of the stereotypical cavalier American butting heads with straight-laced, humorless Germans. This seemed to be a clear case of intercultural communication problems.
Today’s blog is inspired by two recent events in Germany: (1) The vehement opposition to Google Street View from some Germans and Austrians, and (2) the March 2, 2010 German Federal Constitutional Court decision that overturned a law that allowed government authorities to store telephone call and email data for up to six months, for possible use by the police and security agencies. The court ruled that the law was a “grave intrusion” of personal privacy rights.
One day not so long ago in Berlin I learned how seriously some Germans take their personal privacy. I was walking around shooting some photos of typical everyday, non-tourist scenes of life in Berlin, when I saw a new wing of a hospital that looked architecturally interesting. There was also a small courtyard with trees and benches where patients and visitors could get some fresh air. I was on a public sidewalk, far enough away so that any people in the scene would really not be recognizable. About a split second after taking my first shot, some guy in a robe sitting on one of the benches stands up and starts screaming and cursing at me in English with a German accent. (All photographers are Ausländer?) Continue reading →
Since coming to Germany as a permanent resident about 3 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to experience healthcare here in its varied forms. Just so you get a good idea of what I’m talking about I’ll give you a short rundown of healthcare events that have occurred to me and within my family (minus graphic descriptions):
physical examinations as part of healthcare insurance checks
If you are looking for me to pass judgement on healthcare here, I can’t fully satisfy you.