Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Ten Odd German Things

Every American….after a while….has a list of ten odd things that you can always bring up in a discussion and rangle some Germans or amuse them. Germans do the same thing to Americans after a visit to the US. Here is my list.

First, this winter-summer car thing. Older Germans, who have a bit of space in the garage and a bit of extra cash…..have this winter and summer car episode. There’s this beat-up ten-year old car in the garage with a license tag display for Oct-Mar. When winter comes….they roll the older car out (complete with winter tires), and drive until April, and then they roll out this really nice newer car (perhaps a convertible type). The sense here is that they didn’t really want to trade in the older car and it was front-wheel drive. So they keep the older car around for another ten years…..driving it with lesser tax…..until the other car is the one for the garage. There is a logic to this system…..but it’s one of those odd things that an American would shake his head at.

Second. Fruity-tasting beer. It’s an odd feeling to walk into a German pub and look over the beer menu, and they have cherry-tasting beer, and at least five or six other such fruit beers. I admit, it’s not at most pubs….but after you’ve tried one or two… kinda start thinking over the option of fruity beer. You’d rather not bring up the topic with the small quiet pub you normally attend, but you eventually have a thing about fruity beer.

Third. This east west thing. I know it’s been two decades since the Berlin Wall came down and Germany now exists as one nation….but you continually have these little episodes to occur where one group makes a comment over the other group, and you can feel a bit of frustration over the Wall coming down. It’s like a majority of folks over the age of forty wished the Wall had never come down.

Fourth. This Maut business. It’s been around a decade since Maut started up around the country on the autobahns. Truckers were forced into the black box technology and pay per-km a fee. The general feeling back in 2005 was that all car drivers would be next on the Maut group. Well….it hasn’t happened. And when this generally comes up as a conversation item….it’s about a ninety-percent against opinion that comes out. The government would really like to bring Maut to every single German….but I just have this odd opinion that it’ll never happen.

Fifth. Dogs in restaurants. Frankly, in the beginning….I was acceptable of the idea. I didn’t any big issue with Germans bringing their dogs into a food service atmosphere. Well….as I’ve come to realize…..fleas naturally follow, and this really isn’t that great of a sanitary idea.

Sixth. This German obsession about how much something costs. You go out and buy something… an unusual picnic table unit for your back patio. The German neighbor comes over one afternoon, and makes a number of observations…..and eventually asks how much it costs. That big bottle of Jack Daniels? Same story. The new car? Same story. Everything comes with a question over the cost involved.

Seventh. This anti-Google-street-view thing. Germans have an absolute dislike of having their house shown on Google map imagery. Plus they don’t like the idea of a street view of their house. Politicians got involved and eventually made a rule that if you complained….your house view was out-of-focus.

Eighth. Just my humble opinion, but if you had to pick a society who really dislikes foreigners living in their country….this would be the all-time winner. I’d be guessing that eighty percent of the population has some issue with at least one foreign society in Germany. It might be Russians, Greeks, Turks, Africans, or even Americans. They usually won’t be confrontational, but as you get to know a German….they will spout off on occasion about this one group they really hate. The odd thing is that the news media will come on and tell everyone how wonderful Germans are at accepting such-and-such society and there will be these wonderful stories told by political figures, but the truth is…..things just aren’t that wonderful.

Ninth. This dramatic discussion which will arise over winter tire and chains. Every year….some TV show will feature a twelve-minute piece to discuss the argument. You might bring it up with the neighbor who then gives you his life experience. People will actually talk over the blizzard of 81 or the terrible ice storm of 1992. Every single German male over the age of forty will have a definite opinion over the chain versus winter tire discussion.

Tenth. That Bahn toilet paper. In 1978, I came to confront my first big trip (two hours) on a German train, and had to use the toilet. The paper offered? It was a number seven sand-paper quality toilet-paper. A guy could bleed from regular use of the Bahn toilet-paper. I admit….over the past decade, there’s been a fifty percent improvement on the paper….but it’s still some pretty tough paper. I’d hate to suggest to folks to carry around a roll with them when they travel via the German railway…..but you might come to feel aggravated over each trip to relieve yourself.

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