Adapting to an entirely new culture requires that you first recognize the differences and some differences are not hard to miss. Upon arriving in Raunheim we began to notice the differences right away. Jet lagged and dehydrated we stumbled to the drink machine to discover old favorites like Coca-Cola and Snickers, but as our dry eyes cleared we locked our gaze on something odd… beer.
Beer in a vending machine, was it even possible? At first we thought it must be a mirage, but sure enough, it was a reality. Needless to say, a smile crossed my face and I knew what my late night snack would include as I relaxed on the balcony facing the Main River that first evening.
As the day continued the differences became more apparent, like paying to use the bathroom in public areas. The cleanliness of these paid facilities was something to be admired. Everything was in its place. As my wife puts it, the days of checking the bottom of my shoes for the strand of toilet paper that would often hitch an unwelcome ride was over. It was strange at first to be greeted by the friendly bathroom attendant that sits just outside the door with their plate of change, but the friendly greeting of “Hallo” (Hello), soon became a perk of the culture I enjoy. Oh, and the gratuity expected was usually .50 cent. A small price to pay to prevent the embarrassment of the rouge toilet paper hitchhiker.
The first 18 days in Germany also presented other strange observations, like the bedding. As my wife and I laid down on the queen size hotel bed to rest from our over the pond flight, we made a discovery that I think would save many a marriage from the nightly fight of stealing the covers.
You see, Germans in their infinite wisdom, ended the age-old battle of fighting for cover superiority. This glorious country uses individual duvet covers. Oh, the glory of this! Although, learning to make the bed took a moment, making one side at a time is the best solution. There really isn’t a wrong way. Have fun with it. After all, it is your own personal cover.
The oddest discovery I observed was the use of jackets or coats in off-season months. I am a native of Florida so in my experience coats have a season, are worn during that season and then retried until the following season. Not in Germany apparently. It was mid-May, and as I meandered around, I saw large groups on individuals wearing what I would consider a fall jacket or coat. I thought, “Oh my God they are going to have a heat stroke. Don’t they know its hot out here?”. It was in the mid to upper seventies after all. I am still baffled at this discovery and the only explanation I was ever given was, “In Germany you will experience all four seasons in one day.” I guess this is called being prepared, but with my internal thermostat that is always set to inferno. This is not something I see in my future.
The next discovery of my short 18 days was something I enjoy immensely. In Germany, planning is key to life. This includes planning your shopping schedule. In the U.S.A., 24/7 means 24 hours a day seven days a week. Although you may see this posted on the large glass windows of grocery stores in Germany, this is not the case. The one thing you learn quickly here are most things are closed on Sundays except for the occasional restaurant or gas station and some other odds and ends. As far a grocery stores go, they are sealed up tighter than Ft. Knox. No one is getting in. The 24/7 you come to learn is either a fallacy or applies to online shopping in some cases. I have learned to love this age-old tradition that is country wide. Sundays in Germany are a day of rest and quiet. A day to enjoy family and friends, the great outdoors, or exercise. The options are endless. Germans place value on what is important in life. Value lies in relationships, health, and enjoying creation. Hats off to you Germany. You have my respect.