Different Is As Different Does

My neighbors left on a train to Paris yesterday. People do that here. Like it’s no biggy. (I hope I never think it’s no biggy.)

While they’re gone, I’m keeping their little ball of fluff, Sophie.

Sophie is a 7 year old Wirehaired Fox Terrier. She thinks she’s a human appendage and that other dogs are freaky monsters out to take over her world.

We’ve visited with Sophie a lot, but this is the first time she’s come to stay. A few moments after she was dropped off, she was doing her best to display her dominance over Woody’s territory by peeing on my rugs 4 times and pooping once in the kitchen.

She was nervous. It’s what dogs do sometimes. Actually, it was no worse than I expected considering Sophie doesn’t get out with other doggies much. After she got that out of her system she was fine to just follow me around everywhere.

Her sole purpose in life is to be a lap dog. Woody’s sole purpose in life is to love people and dogs, sometimes to his detriment.

Taking them on their first walk together found me full of giggles. Woody–who is only 1 and thinks he’s a hunter–believes he’s out for an adventure, likes to stop every few feet and sniff out small critters like grasshoppers. Sophie, on the other hand, does her business within a few minutes and then, if the direction we are headed is not back home, she plants her feet with all her force. So then I carry her until we’re headed back home. It’s that or I drag the poor thing for the next 15 minutes.

Sophie eventually realized she’s a welcomed guest. And by the end of the day, I could tell she and Woody maxed out their friendship at the level of “Tolerate”.

The difference in these two dogs reminds me of the things we found to be “different” here in Germany that are now seeming normal.

Like grocery shopping.

Shopping “on the economy” is fun, but I still can’t leave the store without at least one moment of awkwardness. Like the time we got to the check out and found out we were supposed to weigh our produce and slap the printed bar code stickers on the bagged items. With a line of people behind us who only had hands full of items.

We’ve learned that we can’t shop like our American selves, buying two weeks of groceries at payday.

The economy stores don’t have baggers. They don’t have a stack of plastic bags at the end of the counter either. They have reusable bags you can buy from them. (IKEA?) When you get to the checkout (where the checker is always seated, by the way), you unload your basket quickly then race to the end of the counter where a conveyor belt or series of rollers have sent your goods on their merry way. You pull out your reusable bags, stuff them as quickly as possible while the person behind you has already paid for their 5 items and is looking at you like you’re an idiot.

The last few times we’ve loaded our basket, we bagged the bagging and just put everything back in our cart. After we paid, we pushed the basket to the side and then loaded our bags.

Stupid Americans.

This is the way the locals do it:

1. Do NOT fill the cart.

2. Take a carrier on wheels (like a suitcase, but not) and only buy what will fit in that. Or buy a week’s or a few days worth of only what you need.

3. At the checkout, after the items are scanned, put the groceries either in your cute tote basket (gotta get me one!) or back in the cart.

4. If the items are back in the cart, wheel the cart to your car.

5. Open the hatchback on your 4-door car and load your plastic bins that remain in the back of your car just for grocery shopping.

6. Put your cart back with the other stack of carts so you can get your 1 euro deposit back.

If you don’t do as the locals do, your reusable bags are overloaded, heavy, and cumbersome, like this:

And you’ll be lucky if your small refrigerator holds all the cold items you bought. (Even a lot of non-Mini Hauses have small refrigerators.)

Another “difference” is the German toilette?

They’re attached to the wall. Often, there’s no tank with the  flusher also on the wall (although ours is outdated; updated ones come with two buttons–little flush, big flush). I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me to clean this toilet over the kind that are attached to the floor. That is, when I need to clean it (maid service).

And see that toilet paper dispenser? The one above the garbage can? Yeah, that thing. That metal outer contraption keeps the toilet paper from getting away from itself. It also makes for precise tearing.

Genius, I say.

(It takes so little for me. Maybe I should have titled this post “Arts and Entertainment II”.)


And speaking of toilets–when Alan and I went on our weekend getaway a few weeks ago, we stopped at a service station along the way to use their WC (water closet–>toilette–>restroom, but don’t ask where their rest room is). You pay to use most public restrooms here. Those you pay for are very clean. This was our first experience with a Sanifair though.

You walk up to a machine, deposit 70 cents, it shoots out a ticket, you walk through the turnstile, use the facilities, watch the toilet seat turn while it’s sanitized, walk back out and use your ticket (worth 50 cents) to buy something in the store.

The videos on the above Sanifair link are as humorously cheesy as I find all German advertisements to be, but to see the magical toilet seat, watch this Youtube video.

Some things are “different” here. Some things are just better.

Woody and Sophie are both lovable, but different. Better, in this case, is just a bias.

4 thoughts on “Different Is As Different Does

  1. I LOVE YOUR BLOGS!! Stuff I’ve experienced having lived here for a few years–OK, 8 years–and by now have totally overlooked as being different. Thanks for reminding me that I am still a “Stupid American.” And by the way, I invented that phrase several years ago (with a dope slap to the head) while in the Black Forest with my friend looking or the Bahnhof up to Triberg. We ended up at a model train exhibit. The folks in the lobby must still be laughing at us.

Your comments are the butter to my bread.

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