Hanging out with Andy can be beneficial for my eyes. He looks at things here differently than I do for many reasons, one of which is the fact that he hasn’t spent as much time in Germany as I have. He makes some really amazing observations and we’ve definitely made a game of finding the most obscurely German things to laugh at together. Apparently, we aren’t the only ones, because one of our friends here (who also writes a blog*****LINKto Brooke’s Blog*****) plays what she calls Berlin Bingo. She gave me permission to play along, so hopefully soon I can contribute some good ones.
This entry, however, will be of a different ilk. Andy’s astonishment at a few things has reminded me of things that used to be really amazing and interesting to me that no longer surprise me. For the record, I was reminded of them the last time I was in Germany with my Mother who had never been here before, and somehow I forgot to document them.
A very short list for your perusal:
1.German Windows—They do not have screens at all, which is not so much fun in the summer time when the bugs are all over. Interestingly, I don’t ever really remember getting eaten alive by bugs here before. We’ll see how it is this summer. These windows also open 2 different ways, neither of which are like typical American windows that go up &/or down. German windows have a handle that will turn 180 degrees. Turn it 90 degrees and the window will swing open from one side as it is hinged like a door. Turn it the full 180 degrees and you can tilt the window open about 10-15 degrees from the top. I LOVE this idea, and it makes letting the fresh air into your house so much easier than hoisting up the windows at home. Bonus, they can’t ever slam down on your fingers, like old American windows can!
2. Milk & Eggs NOT in the refrigerator—Eggs aren’t really THAT surprising in the first place; I’ve always wondered why they were chilled at home anyway. The milk and many milk products that are not chilled here are all heated up super high when they’re pasteurized, so they don’t need to be chilled and you can keep them for longer. I never fully appreciated this before, but now that we have 2 kids who go through a liter+ of milk a day I am soo thankful that we can buy milk by the case and not have to figure out how to keep it in our little German refrigerator.
3. Ticket Checkers—In Berlin (and other major German cities I’ve visited), all of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains (redundant if you speak German btw, I know that) are run on the honesty policy. You are obligated to purchase a ticket, but you do not have to pass through a turnstile or anything that checks your ticket before you can get on the train. They have people whose entire job is to ride on the train to “randomly” check the tickets of riders. Some of them are uniformed, but some of them are “undercover” agents. What happens is the doors to the train close, and then they announce “Fahrkarte Bitte” (Tickets Please). They show you their official ID card and then look at your ticket to make sure it is valid and that you aren’t a “Schwarz Fahrer” (Literally Black Rider, but really illegal rider [please laugh at the implicit racism of the German language here btw!]). If you are caught riding black you have to pay a €40 fine right there on the spot. They will actually take you to the ATM if you don’t have the money on you. What I find hilarious about this, is that despite the fact that I ALWAYS have a valid ticket, I STILL get nervous when they ask to see it. Sometimes I even feel bad for the people who get caught, but only sometimes.
4. 18 Shades of red hair, none of which look natural—I don’t know what it is, but German women (and apparently Austrian women too) LOVE to dye their hair ridiculous shades from deep burgundy to fluorescent pink, or from magenta to royal purple. I’m not talking about kids that are in high school dying their hair with manic panic for fun; I’m talking about ladies between the ages of 30-70 primarily. This is the oddest phenomenon and I neither understand the trend nor comprehend how in the world they think this looks good.
5. Kids out in the middle of the day—The German school system is still a bit of an enigma to me, but after many years of studying it, I might actually have started to form a vague picture of how it works. What I DO know, is that many times kids are sent home to eat lunch and many times they are allowed to leave school when they have a free period or class is cancelled for any reason. There is a great emphasis on personal responsibility and individual motivation in the German system as well, which I will not critique here, but this is at least part of the reasoning behind letting kids out on their own part of the day. I’m speaking of middle school and high school aged kids. It doesn’t even surprise me to be sitting at a café at 1pm and have a group of teenagers sipping cappuccinos and checking their facebook pages next to me anymore. I also see teenagers walking to school at 9:45am. When do these kids go to school? How much homework do they have? Are all schools on different time schedules? I WILL solve this mystery soon, as my research population is this exact demographic.