This post isn’t library-related, but I wanted to share some reflections on the things that I’ve found different here in Germany, compared to the UK. I’ve written before about some of the challenges for a Brit, so this post covers different points. And I’ll start with something at least book related!
- Independent bookshops. Naturally, I love these! Most of them are for German language material of course, and there are also many independent publishers based here: Germany still has fixed prices for books, and there’s a good read in the NY times if you want to find out more about this.
- Sensible shoes. This is something I approve of: you rarely see German women tottering around on ridiculously high, cheap plastic heels. There is a good reason for this: many pavements are made of tiny cobblestones which make going out in high fashion shoes into an extreme sport! Plus, I think many Germans aim for something high quality that will last a long time: if you’re going to invest a lot of cash and wear the shoes for many years then just you won’t put up with something less than comfortable.
- Good public transport. I can’t speak for the whole of Germany but here in Berlin it’s usually on time and many bus stops have a digital display to tell you when the next bus is coming. And if you get lost on foot, there’s usually a map at the bus stop, showing you where you are! The S-bahn is perhaps the least reliable option, but only because it’s so old that they’re always having to repair it.
- Two single duvets on your double bed. This idea is GENIUS! No more fights over who’s got too much/too little. ‘Nuff said!
- Wait for the green man. (I mentioned before that I always look 5 times when crossing. And I probably don’t need to mention the famous Ampelmann with his hat.) Lots more Germans than Brits will wait at pedestrian crossings when there are literally no moving cars around, for the green light to cross. There are also sometimes cars waiting to turn across your green light as they are allowed to make such turns. So why wait for the green light when the turning car is bound to show up? Strange!
- Main meal at lunchtime: bread and cheese/cold meat for dinner. The evening meal here is called “Abendbrot” which literally means “evening bread” and of course said bread is usually dark brown and full of nutrients, bought from one of the many bakeries of which the Germans seem so proud. I still like to cook at evening time since I work from home so my other half gets two proper meals a day now and has had to start watching his weight!
- Sunday closing. Not just Sundays either: fewer shops here are open late at night in my part of the German capital city than in a provincial town in the UK, and whilst museums are open on Sundays (and well visited since there’s not much else open!), they are closed on Mondays. Small business owners go on holiday and just put a sign on the door to say when they’re back, or open only at quirky times of the day. There is a rhythm to life here which is rather old-fashioned and sometimes a nuisance but it also feels highly civilised and respectful of life outside of business. You can still get milk & basics from a 24 hour petrol station if you’re desperate, and the shops at the main train station and airports will be open for those arriving on a Sunday. Bakeries will be open on Sunday mornings for your all-important daily bread, and you can eat in a cafe or restaurants on a Sunday. Florists are also open on Sundays so you can buy something to give to hosts/place on a gravestone. Quaint but civilised!
- Sausage as haute cuisine! Well, maybe not quite but it’s certainly something of which the Germans are proud. I can’t get a good British banger with all its breadcrumbs, chemical flavourings and unknown ingredients: the sausages here seem to be made of meat. And salt: there’s lots of salty, meaty food!
- Swimming pools close in summer months. Actually, this is not as bad as it sounds because the lifeguards have all gone to work at outdoor bathing sites (quite a few are nudist, another difference from Blighty), but it does make me wonder why they can’t take on more lifeguards as casual staff over the summer. Then I remembered that it probably takes 5 years at university to qualify as a lifeguard here in Germany (I exaggerate!) because every job here is treated like a profession, requiring hard-won qualifications. In a way this is also quaint but civilised.
- Plugs are smaller. Obviously the British 3-pin plug is superior (I jest!) but I like the neatness of the continental plug when travelling. I don’t like the fact that my products with 2 pins for the UK bathroom socket have to be plugged into first an adapter for 3 pins, and then an adapter for continental sockets. Apparently continental plug items can sometimes be plugged into UK bathroom sockets (I’m not recommending that you do this: sounds dodgy to me!), but it definitely doesn’t work the other way around.
- Knitters hold the yarn in the left hand, and knit much faster! (OK it’s not every day for every Brit, but that’s why it’s no. 11 on my list of 10!) I learnt to do this and it really fixed my problem with overly high tension. I now knit combination style and avoid repetitive strain problems, plus I’m trying out 2 colour fair-isle with a yarn in each hand. Not mastered that yet, but we’ll see…
So that’s my list, and you may have gleaned that I find Germany quite charming as well as confusing or frustrating at times. I wanted to mention the reliance on cash again, but I blogged that last time (it’s still annoying!). I don’t have children but from what I can tell, the support for parents is better here. Also, I haven’t touched on German bureaucracy: maybe I’ll write about that another day!