I have been living in England for five years now and although Germany still feels like home, it also has become a bit alien to me.
Things changed in my absence, my memories become blurred and I know I sometimes idealise my home country. However, I always enjoy to return to Germany for the holidays. I enjoy the cleanliness, the punctuality of trains and smile about the culture of complaining and a patronizing know-it-all attitude.
Today I really felt like a foreigner.
I went into a coffee shop to buy a skinny latte. While I was in the queue, I realized, I had no idea what a skinny latte was called in German!
I think I have ordered this more than a hundred times in English, but never in German!
So what’s a skinny latte in German?
Ok, ‘latte’ is no problem, we just call it Latte Macchiato in Germany, but skinny?
I’m sure I would confuse the waitress a lot if I would ask for a slim coffee.
Skinny = skimmed = low fat
Alright I have to hurry up know it’s only one more customer in front of me…
Ok, skinny means skimmed milk. But we don’t really have skimmed milk in Germany, I think we only have semi skimmed milk.
Semi skimmed would be ‘halbfett’ (halve the fat).
Just in time! It’s my turn: I ask for a “halbfetten Latte Macchiato” and – the waitress laughs.
Damn! It must be called differently. Confused and slightly embarrassed do I ask the waitress if it wasn’t called that way.
She replied, it was correct but I had said it in a funny way. Well, that makes it only slightly better…
I forgot to write about the most important thing concerning opening hours. On Sundays shops are closed altogether.
No supermarket, no department store, no hairdresser – nothing apart from bars and restaurants are allowed to open on a Sunday.
There are exceptions. For example on the advent Sundays, the state may allow shops to open.
However there has just been a ruling by the high court that it was unlawful for them to open on all four of the advent Sundays.
The judge found it was important to secure the Sunday as a day of rest and a day for the family.
Given that I still manage to be late to do my shopping in England, with superstores open till 11pm, I don’t mind the German opening hours. (Apart from the lunch break perhaps.)
If you know you can’t do your shopping on a Sunday you just arrange with it.
I think it’s something unique and Germany should keep it that way.
Today, a real classic happened.
I waited ages for the green light at a pelican crossing. After something that felt like five minutes, the green light came up and I was able to cross the road.
Only to be standing at the next red traffic light. A small street, no car in sight.
I had used up all my patience at the first traffic light, so I crossed that road without waiting for the green light.
And that’s something you just don’t do in Germany.
I was told off!
I was immediately told off by a man (about the same age as myself!) at the other side of the road for not waiting for the traffic light to turn green.
Gosh, that was embarrassing!
I still have to get used to the habits in this country! 😉
At school we were taught that Britons are extremely polite. I don’t quite know what my teachers meant, but probably the excessive use of ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’.
You knock someone over who’s blocking your way, you say ‘Excuse me!’. You push the lady aside, who tries to reach the seat in the tube before you and you say ‘Sorry!’.
That’s not really politeness, is it?
However, I apparently adapted this behavior. And I seem to confuse people by apologizing for bumping into them.
It seems that in Germany you just say nothing in these situations.
So every time I bump into someone I can’t help but say “Entschuldigung!” and people look puzzled! You can hear the surprise in their voice when they reply “No problem!”.