Monday, November 20, 2006

What's different about being here?
Besides the doorknobs (usually a horizontal lever instead), everything closed on Sunday and the bewildering array of toilet methodologies?
There's no way to address the culture without addressing its trappings.
First of all, Germans are always prepared. They all learn first aid in high school, and are required to keep first aid kits in their cars and render aid on the highways.
In keeping with local culture, I saved a little bit of sidewalk salt from last year, or maybe I just had it left over... An early snow made me glad I had! We came back from a mostly sunny Halloween trip to Cesky Krumlov through fairly thick, wet snow. No need to shovel, but the salt was a Good Thing.
Most of our neighbors have built up stacks of wood a beaver would envy. As in the US, Christmas schlock is already up. Formally, the winter festival here does not begin until the beginning of Advent. I can't explain Advent to you because I was never Catholic, and it's a Catholic thing.
I've settled into German culture comfortably enough to know to greet my elders first and respectfully, carry my own basket and/or bags to the grocery, and how to complain when the price rings up incorrectly. Sometimes I even keep my front walk swept, but honestly we are not interested in trying to compete with German standards of house and/or yard keeping. It is the law that anyone living on a property must clear a path to their door so that anyone who may need to come to the house may do so without injury. This can be a chore in snow season, but we've learned to keep after it.
In Germany, you can't put mail in your box for the postman to pick up. You can GET mail in your box, and tons of adverts from kids who make a little money from stuffing boxes with them. But you have to go to the box to get your mail sent anywhere. Don't try to go to the post office. It won't be open. Not on Wednesday afternoons, not over lunch (11-2) and CERTAINLY not after 4pm. It makes me wonder who actually works on the mail? Even the Germans can't be that "fleissig" (industrious).
Incidentally, "fleissig" is a great compliment, but to call someone "faul", or lazy, is a deadly insult. I recently taught the Germans who work at the gym the word "malingerer" and they love it.
On our way into the Czech Republic for cheap shopping thrills, a Nuremburger tried to slam into the border crossing line ahead of us. I told my hubbie to roll down the window and tell them it cost 25 Euro for that place in line. It resulted in the usual conversation about how they made a mistake and didn't see that the line was single file, bla, bla, bla. I used the word "unfreundlich" loud enough to let them know I thought they were rude. They quit trying for a new paint job, and horned in on someone else.
This may well be my shodan in German culture. It made the whole thing funnier, cut the tension, and made our young American newbie (okay, 2 years here) friends collapse laughing in the back seat.
"More civilized than Thou" leads the charge here, in a big way.

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