Things the Germans do not get

Before I start cataloging some experiences, I thought I’d at least get this out of the way. I love all cultures I’ve experienced, and Germany was no exception. However, in my confined, two week sample of Swabia (Southwestern Germany, centered on the Reutlingen-Tübingen area, and incorporating the much larger city of Stuttgart), I learned a few things about the culture that they just don’t get.

First, a little background: Swabia (or Schwaben, to be all linguistically correct about it) is kind of like the South is to most Americans. We make fun of them a lot for a certain set of behaviors that we find exotic and/or ridiculous. Only, the behaviors are different and they don’t make amazing bbq. Schwäben folk are very clean. They pressure wash everything (more on that later) and they like to clean their windows and look all nice and trim. They’re obsessive about their houses. They are, most of all, very diligent and hard working. Also, the rest of Germany mocks them relentlessly. We found ourselves making up “you might be a Swabian” jokes several times during the trip.

Anyway, maybe it’s just this subset of Germans who I’m ragging on right now, or maybe it’s all of them. I haven’t seen enough of Germany to know. But here goes. Things Germans just do not get:

  • Showers. I won’t go too deep in this, because another connoisseur of German culture, Oh God, My Wife is German, already has. But suffice it to say that I agree. My shower at the hostel was a bit bigger, but the hot water and ventilation problems were totally accurate. Especially when someone in the bathroom next door flushed the toilet. I’m surprised I don’t have blisters from the lava that spewed forth from that shower head. Also, while this was a full bathtub, they decided to mount that handle on middle of the wide side of the shower, and then run a hose from the bottom of the tap, located in its normal place on then end, diagonally up to the handle in the middle, effectively cutting off about 30% of the usable space. I have no clue how such a culture of engineers and builders could go so wrong. Be thankful for your giant, awesome, American shower.
  • Toilet Paper. It’s made of a substance more akin to cardboard than paper, and it’s got fewer perforations. It’s like using legal-size copy-stock in a place where you really don’t want to be doing that.
  • Vegetables. This goes hand-in-hand with the toilet paper issues, and I won’t get into any further graphic detail. I ate meat and spätzle for most of the trip, because that’s what there was. Meat and spätzle (and beer).
  • Ventilation. Not only were the showers (and bathrooms) not ventilated, but the Germans have no concept of forced air heating/cooling systems. Everywhere you go, if the windows are not open, the air is totally stagnant. You know what it’s like to walk into a room full of teenage boys who have been doing god-knows-what in a closed room for a while? That’s like every room in Germany. There is NO forced air, and no fans anywhere, either. So, it’s windows-open, or else stifling, stale, horrid air. Which brings me to my next subject…
  • Windows. Windows in Swabia open two directions, which is pretty neat: they tilt inward from the top, or they swing horizontally from the side, depending on which way you twist the handle. Classic German overengineering, but totally cool. Only one thing: because the Swabians are so fanatical about cleaning, all these giant windows swing inward so they can clean both sides… I’m pretty sure the real reason is to hit you on the back of the head while you’re in class, or knock over your water bottle on your desk (this happened not less than three times). Further, even though they could totally have them, there are NO DAMN SCREENS on the windows. I didn’t see a single screen the entire time I was there. Hooray for getting eaten alive by mosquitos while you sleep!

So, I loved my time in Deutschland, along with every single person I met there, (ok, every single German, anyway). I’ll write something positive next, I promise, because it’s a damn cool place. Also, I just realized that I accidentally did that list in alphabetical order, so that’s cool, too.

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~ by gribbit1 on July 9, 2013.

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