Houses in Germany look like the houses you will find all over Continental Europe, but different to those commonly found in the UK. There, the houses and villages could be described as quaint, or cute. In Germany, you can describe them as functional, or bomb proof.
I live in an apartment built most likely in the 1950’s and structurally it would survive everything but a direct hit from a 10 megaton blast. To keep out the sun and heat in the summer many German households have metal shutters on the outside of their windows, these also double as curtains. These shutters roll down like the security doors you see on the front windows of shops and obscure every particle of light from the outside. Coupled with this many apartments will have bars across the windows, to keep bad guys out in the summer.
My rear door, for instance, has a double glazed door, a fly net, a metal roller shutter and THEN iron bars with a lock. So, no one is getting in, but in a fire, how am I getting out??
Still, should WWIII ever happen, I probably won’t even hear it.
Germans do like beer, which is perhaps one of my favourite things ever and when coupled with sausage I am in Bavarian heaven! Germany has a great tradition of great beer and it is generally of a higher quality, with a much larger choice than other countries I have visited. Wheat beer (Weizen) in particular is delicious.
It is very usual to toast, as it is in the UK, with “Prost” replacing “Cheers” however there is one marked difference. In Germany according to tradition, you are supposed to look the person in the eye when you “chink” your glass with that person, lest ye face 7 years of bad sex, Germans will often toast several times throughout the drink, so it can be a fairly time-consuming process.
It is particularly uncomfortable to “Prost” your girlfriend’s father, whilst he demands you look him in the eye, I know that he does not wish himself to have bad sex, but in a roundabout way he is ensuring his daughter doesn’t either… CHEERS!
Breakfast on the weekend is a big deal in Germany, and man it is good.
Breakfast – well brunch really – is where the whole family/friends etc. will sit together and enjoy a breakfast of rolls, cheese, cooked meats, salmon, eggs, good coffee and other delights for around 2 hours. It may also include 1 or 2 bottles of Sekt (fizzy wine) which leaves you feeling like you want to go straight back to bed after having it. However, it is usually followed by a group walk around the village/town/city.
I think it is the equivalent of the English Sunday roast, but with fewer calories and effort. Cooking chicken, roast potatoes etc. is a 3-hour hour marathon, placing lots of fresh cheeses and meats on a table takes a lot less effort overall.
Schönen Feierabend is rapidly becoming one of my favourite German sayings. It has no direct translation to English though roughly means “Have a nice evening”
In fact, Feireabend is the period of time after leaving work. For instance, you leave work at 5 and head to the pub for a beer with colleagues before going home, this is your Feierabend. You may be asked for a Feierabend Bier, by your colleagues, which is the English equivalent of “a quick pint”
Driving through a city such as Frankfurt can be a both harrowing and exhilarating experience as lanes merge and disappear, traffic appears from your right and expects you to stop, flashy motors both over and undertake you simultaneously.
If you dare to change lanes at an inappropriate time or hesitate at a green light you will most likely experience the German equivalent of road rage.
Instead of hurling abuse, names, and finger gestures – as is widely accepted in towns and cities across the UK – Germans are more likely to pull up along side you at traffic lights and discuss the inadequacy of your last lane change or point out how you could drive better. Of course, this is often delivered through a heated debate but rarely does it descend into childish name calling and fighting. It remains as a direct conversation, something one will surely be indulging in whilst I learn the roads!
In contrast to the UK, where drinking in the street can likely end up in a police officer disposing of said alcohol, in Germany, it is largely OK to drink in public.
A German friend of mine was enjoying a nice beer on the tube in London last year to round off a splendid Feierabend (the period between finishing work and getting home – there is no direct English translation) only to be accosted by the British Transport Police and told to dispose of the contents. Imagine his surprise as only Two weeks earlier he had been doing the exact same thing in Germany with no problem whatsoever.
Drinking on the tube and on the streets is largely acceptable in Germany, just watch out for Saturday afternoons where local supporters of football clubs will be celebrating victory – with a beer, or drowning their sorrows after a loss – with a beer.
German’s have a love affair with Das Auto, Fact. But, why not? They make the finest cars in the world – BMW, Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche are all designed and manufactured in Deutschland and with many families having reasonable disposable income, they can and do, buy nice cars.
What this means is an array of normal saloon looking cars, with enormous engines underneath, V8’s rumble from under the bonnet of an otherwise discreet Mercedes Estate car, mundane looking Golfs are actually hyper tuned cars designed for the race circuit.
Particularly in Frankfurt – a wealthy city – you will find these cars at almost every set of traffic lights, eagerly awaiting the green signal, whereupon you would think that they have just been given the green light on the Nürburgring as all hell breaks loose, with Audi’s, Porsches, Range Rovers (and the occasional Smart car) roaring off the line into the city.
Please be aware that a slow start is not an option though, even a micro second of hesitance at a red light turned green, will invoke honks of fury, as if in that moment you are holding up the entire German economy. So as a rule, if you are at the front at a green light? it is time to test your start line timing, foot to the floor, Go Go Go!
German’s take Sunday rest very seriously, you will not find any supermarkets open and 99% of all retail shops are closed. It is better you stock up on all the things you think you might need on the Saturday.
Sunday’s are used for long lazy breakfasts and walks in the country side with no particular destination in mind, you will find some restaurants and bars may be open but don’t plan on buying any DIY equipment, or Food on a Sunday.
Stood at a red light on a cross walk once all the cars are gone is an interesting spectacle.
10’s of Germans will gather at an empty road, devoid of cars or any other traffic clearly indicating nothing is coming, but as opposed to using their own common sense, or survival instinct as a means to safely get across the road they will stand at the red crossing light until it turns green.
Attempting to cross the road on red will create looks of astonishment and bemusement as the Germans repeatedly look at you, then the light to confirm it is still red, then back at you, nonchalantly using your own common sense to traverse an empty road.
There are loads of examples of this but here is one from me, I asked for an extra shot of Espresso in my Latte at a small local coffee shop. Reply was “No, I am sorry, this is not allowed” Perhaps it is not like this in the major chain stores, but I guess I am used to the small local coffee shops being more flexible, not less.
Just to clarify, I didn’t say I wanted a free shot, I said I wanted an extra shot – but Dass ist verboten (forbidden)