A Second Look at Cultural Differences

Hello! Happy Thursday! Thursdays are my favorite days. The promise of a weekend is so close I can taste it!

Today is going to be a day of fewer pictures, and on some of the things I’m going to say, you will be glad of this (and you may express your thanks in the comments below). I promise. Having now lived in Deutschland for nearly 7 weeks (can you believe it), I thought I’d take a second look at some of the cultural differences we’ve experienced so far…

1. Holidays. Holidays are somewhat confusing to me, to tell you the truth. Only German Unity Day is a national holiday in Germany, every other holiday is determined by the local state (including widely observed holidays like Christmas or New Year’s). Here in Aschaffenburg, we live in Bayern (Bavaria), but Frankfurt is in Hesse. Lucky us, I suppose, as this means that our state observes Epiphany as a state holiday! The other tricky (ish) aspect of holidays is that they aren’t really all that big on announcing them. As an example, 2 of the other families who are here have children in schools, and despite asking several times for a school calendar, they were unaware of the fact that the kids have ALL of next week off from school until a couple of weeks ago. In our German language class (a separate post unto its own), we didn’t find out that we were also out of school next week until this past Monday. Mike found out yesterday that most of his (read:  every German employee falls into this category) coworkers would not be at work for the holidays that are next week. Upon doing research (this morning), I note that Bayern observes both Reformation Day and All Saints’ Day next week. There are a total of 16 possible state/federal holidays, of which Bayern (as a whole) observes 12. The schools observe two other holidays beyond these twelve (Assumption Day and the Day of Repentance and Prayer), and there is districts that observes one other holiday beyond any of these (Augsburg observes Peace Festival Day). Keeping track of these is an exercise in calendar management, for sure. Especially given my (formerly held) expectation that people actually discuss holiday plans in advance…

2. In spite of eating ice cream on a day so chilly that it required flannel, Mike doesn’t feel German yet (that I know of, and if this isn’t correct, I really don’t want or need to know about it). I know. So sad. It turns out that it is both commonplace and accepted that men can (and will) relieve themselves almost anywhere. I have lost count of the number of people I have seen using the bathroom on the side of the roads, and even off to the side of the grocery store… yep… I really can’t dwell on this long. As we were leaving the grocery store yesterday, Mike suddenly said, “Maybe I should go use the bathroom over there.” I said, “Oh, do you need to go? Should we hurry home?” His reply, “No, I’m fine, I just feel like it’s the German thing to do.” WWWWWWHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAA????? (see, aren’t you glad I’m not using photos to illustrate every point? Me too!)

3. Rules. Rules are good. Rules are important. Rules make life easier. But… Good grief! I’m honestly still adjusting to the rules about the trash (which I am in favor of, to be clear, but they are a wee bit complicated made more so by the lack of space to sort), but there really are rules for everything and anything. And (with the exception of speed limits), my experience is that Germans hold a relatively high regard for rules (again, I am pro-rule, most of the time). It is the kind of regard, though, that upholds the letter of the law far more so than the spirit of the law. As an example: pedestrians. Pedestrian lifestyles are the norm (alongside cars and bikes), and there are really lovely spaces for walking just about everywhere. And the pedestrian cross-walks are very well-marked and maintained (when there is a button to push requesting a walk sign, not only does the button work, it makes a difference! And it gives you a little light on the push button letting you know that it has received your request! Brilliant!!), and cars will definitely stop for you if you are in the cross walk. Pedestrians have the right of way. This is the letter of the law. However, if you are approaching a cross walk, the spirit of the law would dictate that the automobile would slow, as if to give the pedestrian their due right of passage, right? THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN. Cars will zoom past right up until you actually put your little toe on the street. It is amazing. The difference half an inch can make. I’d love to tell you that all of my math studying (in preparation for the GRE) had yielded a mind that could tell you the force of the energy that half an inch could bring to a stand still, but… I have a mind for letters and ideas, people, not numbers and calculations. That is also something I’ve learned in blazing clarity…

4. Lunch is serious business here. I knew that lunch is typically the largest meal of the day even before we got here (and for the most part, I’m good with that). I’ll give you an example, though, to make the point more precisely. Yesterday, at Mike’s work (you remember the glamour and shine of his place of work, right?), he had beef tenderloin (not jealous yet) with plum chutney (umm, yes please!), a noodle creation, and vegetables. AT HIS WORK CAFETERIA. He said it was all really quite elegant (well, he meant that, although he didn’t use those exact words). And to think that I had been pretty darn pleased with my lunch of leek and carrot soup (which was amazing and lovely and special all unto its own, but… )! It’s just a Wednesday at the factory cafeteria…

That’s all I’ve got for today. Not that there aren’t 1,000s of other things that are a wee bit different, but we’ll save those for another day. Tchüss!

9 thoughts on “A Second Look at Cultural Differences

    • No, not all next week; he thinks, actually, that he will be the only one at work (or the Americans will be the only ones at work; although some of the Americans are taking next week off as the schools have next week off) on Thursday. That would have been REALLY bad timing…

  1. Wow, intense lunches at Mike’s work. Lucky! Plum chutney sounds delicious…

    Really, thank you for not providing images for all points. I do really appreciate it.

  2. LOL! I’ve seen all those 4 points you’ve mentioned here in Czech too. As for big lunches, here in Czech, it is a requirement to ALWAYS have soup before the main course….plus, wine is a regular in all three meals (that is, if you don’t have to drive of course) 🙂

    • In the winter time (as chilly as it is), soup seems like a pretty darn good idea. I can imagine getting tired of it, but right now, that seems like a good idea! Of course, wine seems like an even better idea?! 🙂 How long have your lived in the Czech Republic?

  3. Jaywalking is bad… especially in Bavaria! I often must remind myself of this when I continue walking through a red only to find my gf still standing stiff at the corner. Ha!

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