That’s it!! My brain has reached it’s uploading capacity. It’s time download some of it.
And, furthermore, I really don’t care if it is a Mini Haus, I’m ready to be home. I just unpacked–again–and I’ve had it! Can we just stay put?
OK. Rant over. I feel better.
Besides the coming and going of my dwellings over the past, well, year–this is why I’m at my whit’s end today…do you see all of this:
All of that is from the past week and most of it from the past few days. Those folders? They have lots of papers in them. That orange book is the driver’s test booklet. That folder with the Army dudes on it? It includes the booklet on speaking German. I started formal lessons today. Talk about information overload!
Today was my second of a four-day German culture class put on by the Army Community Services (ACS). Besides feeling overwhelmed, I’ve come away wondering how in the world anyone lives in another country without the help of something like the ACS. There are a few people in my class who have already been living here for 2 years and they’re still confused about a lot. Of course, much of that confusion is caused by the military. But that could be a whole other blog post.
Before coming to Germany, I didn’t learn much about Germans or get very far in the Rosetta Stone language lessons. Alan explained some things he learned, but thinking back on that now, he might as well have been speaking German. Part of the reason I didn’t learn much was because I was busy trying to wrap up life in Utah. But the other part of me wanted to just jump in the ice cold lake-so to speak. I learn better in context.
And today, I’m feeling the jolt of the frigid deep water.
In an effort to swim to the surface and process as well as retain the information, here is my spillage about some things I have found to be interesting.
1. The Roller Shades
The second thing I remember noticing about Germans (the “no personal space” lesson mentioned previously was the first) was that the businesses and houses all had many of their windows covered by shades on the outside. It looked to me like they were shielding themselves from nuclear fallout. Alan’s barracks room didn’t have these so he didn’t know what they were. It wasn’t until we moved into our apartment that we learned what their purpose is.
For one thing, the Summer days are very long here. The sun rises around 4:30 a.m. and it doesn’t get dark until 11:00 p.m. I like that they keep me from waking up at 4:30 with the sun and block it out when I’m ready to sleep.
Another thing is, most people don’t have air conditioners here. The shades protect the windows from the elements of rain and snow keeping the windows in good condition longer. They also keep the heat inside the home during the winter or cooler air in during summer. The thick walls insulate from the heat, but temperatures are fairly mild with some scattered days of slightly muggy mid-80’s weather. Between the shades and opening the windows to circulate the air, it’s an essential system.
2. Germans are a Formal People
On initial observation, they don’t appear to be very friendly, but that’s not necessarily so. They are simply formal and private people.
The “Old Dears” (as my ACS instructor calls them) are best known for setting everyone straight with their canes.
I have taken Woody for a walk two to four times a day since arriving and have been amazed at how quiet it is and see that people really keep to themselves. When I took him for a walk Sunday evening, however, I heard cheering through the open windows of the many apartments–behind me, ahead of me, above me. I had cheering in surround sound. The Women’s Soccer World Cup was on television. Suddenly Germany was lively. And I thought, “Well I’ll be…” And they were cheering for the Americans. In my class today, my instructor Havi said that it’s when they go inside their homes and on holiday that German’s let loose.
If you say “Hallo” to someone on the street as you pass, they look at you expecting you to ask them a question because they think you were just trying to get their attention. A better greeting would be to say, “Guten Tag” which mean’s “Good Day”. It’s not they are rude, in fact it’s the opposite. They do not want to intrude on your privacy.
They are ruled by the clock. Their lunch hours are taken at the same time very day and if they’re at work after 5:00 p.m. it’s frowned upon. They are very punctual. If they tell you dinner is at 7:00, you should not arrive early, but if you do you should wait in the car and then ring the door bell right at 7:00.
To greet someone, you shake their hand. Kids shake each others hands. You don’t call someone by their first name until you’re considered a friend. You don’t wait for them to come welcome you to the neighborhood, but they are hoping and expecting you to introduce yourself to them. They are happy to help you in any way because they feel it their duty to keep you in line, to help you learn the rules. And there are many rules!
3. Keeping the Sabbath
It’s not really called “Keeping the Sabbath” but I love this law because it encourages just that. Get this. It is illegal to do any labor outside your homes on Sunday such as weeding the yard, mowing the lawn, hanging the laundry on the clothes line, etc. The polizei can and will fine you for breaking these laws. Some restaurants, bars, grocery stores and gas stations are usually open, but for the most part businesses are closed on Sundays. I noticed this and was so impressed by how quiet our village is (yes, they call it a village which I love).
4. Agriculture vs. Sky Rises
At first I wondered why, when they have so much surrounding land, do they still build high rising apartment buildings instead of homes.
But if you really study the view of the area you can see that the land is used as efficiently as possible. No excess land is just open pasture. It all has a purpose. The country is smaller than the state of Alabama. Germany’s population is around 82 million people. Alabama’s is almost 5 million. Germany must make good use of their land.
5. Living on Organic
We’ve heard a lot about organic foods for several years now in the States, and whether you feel like it’s all a government conspiracy or a wonderful way to live if you can afford it, it’s the way of life here. I’m not an all or nothing kind of person and we couldn’t always afford it, but I ate organically enough to notice a difference in the way I felt. Germans have perfected the art. So far my favorites are the rolls, eggs, yogurt, pudding, Nutella and Coca-Cola. I even like Coca-Cola Light. They don’t sweeten anything with corn syrup. Their flour is different depending on what you’re baking, but it all has had less gluten than Stateside flours for many years.
There is so very much to share, but that’s all I have the energy for today. My brain may be on overload at the moment, but it’s all been very fascinating. Though it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, what I’ve learned I can tell I’m gonna like it here.