Notes on Germans and Germany:

  • They really, truly expect you to walk in a perfectly straight line. Nowhere else have I had bump-ins because someone was trying to pass by me very narrowly from behind and I’ve made a step to the left just at that same moment. Even when we don’t collide it’s unnerving how closely they pass. I’ve been scared shitless a number of times to find someone walking silently beside me just over my shoulder.

 

  • Wow. The socks with Birkenstocks or jandals. It’s horrific. It’s only observable on older men though, as if it’s their way of saying “no way should I have to care anymore!”

 

  • They are afraid of being fined for jaywalking, except for those in Berlin as there are so many parts of the city that have absolutely no arrangements for pedestrians. Sometimes no arrangements even for cars! Ah to see people co-operating because they have no other choice… a strange romance in that. A couple of Germans know of someone who happened to be fined by the police one evening on an empty street when they made a start towards the red man… Possibly the only place in the world where police make formal road-crossing a priority?

 

  • The children here are incredibly free. Some in a cute way, some in a bratty way. I wonder if this is a reflection of the changing mores of German society or if it’s much later on that they are taught to be reserved. Examples of freedom include dancing and playing in fountains for a long time; dancing and clapping their hands to the music of street musicians – unless the act is especially unique or bizarre the adults tended not to stop or glance much at the musicians; bashing flowers meant to beautify the city with their balloons; running around unhooking the velvet rope in queues. Kids are kids everywhere, but I dunno, many kids in Germany seemed to live with a comprehensive and unquestioned abandon.

 

  • I got a lot of freebies in Germany. Unexpectedly. And I actually wondered if I was going crazy and was engaging in a self-serving delusion – “Oh they all love me so much they give it to me for free!” -, that I was only a step away from hearing the aliens speaking through light fixtures. But no, I’ve checked receipts. I’ve gotten some public transport for free, not so spectacular since Germany like many European countries works on an honour system so I suppose it’s not the biggest care that they have (and yet crossing the road according to a light is…). More cool however is that I’ve gotten drinks either reduced or for free. By drinks I mean of the non-alcoholic variety, like tea or juice, and ordered in the daytime. It was mainly women I was interacting with in these instances furthermore. So there are no words said about it, no wink wink nudge nudge, it just happens, I accept it and say goodbye. Maybe this is more an indication of commonplace incompetence in the German hospitality industry but I do have a suspicion that it was done deliberately. I wonder if it is compassion or pity for my being alone?

 

  • They like their PDA (Public Displays of Affection) very very much. Very much. Snogging, ass grabbing and stroking. Face-stroking. Not exactly what you imagine when you think Germany huh? And yes, this is across the years too, not just the crazy youth.

 

  • Düsseldorf is the smiliest place I’ve been to. Frankfurt the leeriest. And as I’ve alluded to, Munich the coolest. Berlin the most interesting.

 

  • There are a billion kebab shops. In all the cities I went to at the very least.

 

  • There are also a lot of sex megastores, though they are fewer in number than kebab stores, and these blast music onto the streets that you think must be able to induce seizures. I couldn’t stay in any sort of shop and concentrate on their wares with this sort of music invading my brain at the same time, so I’m a little perplexed as to what it is that turns Germans on. To be explicit, think hyper-electronica with vocals provided by a tinny teen voice singing in non-native English about how she knows you’re the one. Hmmmmm. Sets one hell of a mood.

 

  • German beggars are by and large very unobtrusive. They sit there and hold their cup. They don’t try to get you in the eyes with their own stare, they don’t make any movement in your direction, they don’t open their mouths to implore, seek or explain. It’s convenient, more effective for them I suppose in some sense, and yet there’s something disturbing about it. Evokes something like animals silenced through abuse. I mean, I’m not saying that’s what’s going on but it’s like…. They are in the beggar job. The beggar job in Germany means not being an imposition on anyone by expressing yourself in any way. I have no answer for this however… I don’t tend to give to beggars, probably a habit that comes from being in African countries. I’ve recently begun to question this habit, but I still don’t know. I think the fear is more within myself, with feeling like I will be caving in to the guilt trip seeing each one takes me on. But maybe it’s not always guilt, maybe it can be compassion some of the time.

 

  • In a similar vein, a great many of the homeless, or at least extremely poor people, still dress in a very standard way and you wouldn’t guess that they had any difficulties until you saw them bent over into a rubbish bin. I’ve been surprised by that a number of times, these aren’t the stereotyped drunk, smelly, dishevelled, face darkened with dirt older men and women. They look entirely middle class.

     

The odd thing I have to say after this hodgepodge of observations is that I very much enjoyed my time in Germany. It feels casual and unpretentious. I felt it an accepting place. Straightforward acceptance, rather than a coddling acceptance.

 

Germany is… normal western cities. Which can be quite dirty. Which can be incredibly culturally and ethnically diverse. Which can favour cars and commercial buildings over charm and community. But as far as western countries go, it’s seems a country that is easy to slip into and hang out in, like the most non-exclusive club you could have. (Though people have whispered fears to me about the future and behaviour of conservative Bavaria.) I’m not someone to only want to join clubs that won’t have me, so my plebian-self likes Germany back.

 

Plus spaghetti ice-cream is the utter bomb. The different texture it has as spaghetti takes ice-cream to a whole other level in my opinion.

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One thought on “Notes on Germans and Germany:

  1. Hi Susi, I’m sorry, I just now remembered the existence of your blog. But I promptly found your spaghetti ice-cream praise – way to go! Spread the word!
    Your comments about Germany are well observed and some hit pretty close to home, like the straight walking or the jaywalking fear (which, by the way, really can be justified – did I tell you about me having been fined 25 euros for crossing a red light on an absolutely deserted street at 3 a.m.? That was on a bike, though.)

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