#61: Winter Tyres

Germany has a reputation for being a bit of a nanny state – in that you must conform to various rules and laws in order that you are protected from yourself. Whilst these rules and laws are -in general- a good idea, sometimes they can seem a little intrusive.

Rules like not trusting you to cross the road by yourself, so making it law that you must wait for the green man before walking. But also something that I was completely unaware was even a thing before I moved here is, they do not trust you to be able to navigate the treacherous German roads of Hamburg without exchanging your tyres twice yearly for M + S (mud and snow) tyres.

Whilst there are such things as “all weather tyres” it is far more likely that you will have 2 sets of not only tyres – but wheels.  from October to Easter (Oster) so “O to O” you have to adorn winter tyres and in the other month’s – summer tyres. Down in the south of Germany, this does make sense, their weather is far more extreme than say Dusseldorf or Hamburg. But the German government, not wanting anyone to feel left out created a blanket law/rule that applies to all Germans.

There are a few rumours around whether or not it is not LAW to have winter tyres on your car between October and Easter and after some research, it is actually not the law to do it by season, but by weather condition. Thus, if in the event of an accident you did not have Winter tyres in bad weather conditions you would be automatically held responsible for the accident, even if you were driving a hire car. So in extreme weather conditions be sure to check your tyres have an M + S mark (Mud and Snow)

So for every car there are two sets of wheels that you either have to store yourself, or pay a garage to store for you, not everyone will pony up to afford two very nice pairs of wheels, so often in the winter you will see very expensive cars rolling around on horrid steel wheels as opposed to the “fly” 22″ alloys that came with the car. Which is exactly the case for me, urgh.

More information on the actual law can be found here

#62: Opening a Beer with Anything.

Beer Bottles
Delicious German Beer

You have probably been there – hot summers day, nice picnic spread and a couple of bottles of beer, but then, uh oh, no beer opener! 

This will normally lead to you trying to open the beer on trees, walls, or anything else hard within reach, resulting in you chipping the bottle and risking death or serious injury from consuming your cold, refreshing beer with added glass shards… or you might just give up altogether.

Well, this is literally never going to be a problem if you are with a German. You see Germans can open bottles of beer with ANYTHING. I have seen beers opened with lighters, keys, credit cards, coins, horns, back scratchers, saws, hammers and even ANOTHER BEER. I think this was the pinnacle of my German integration, the day I successfully learned how to open a bottle of beer, with another bottle of beer and it’s now my party trick.

For the curious, – here’s how it is done:

  1. Grasp the beer you want open around the neck, with your knuckle right up near to the bottle cap
  2. Take the other beer and hold it in your right hand around the middle and turn it upside down
  3. Place the beer caps together and using your left index finger hold the bottle tops together
  4. Squeeze tightly and lever the beer in your right hand down, using your knuckle as a fulcrum
  5. If you are holding it tightly enough, the lever action will pop open the beer in your left hand, leaving the lid of the beer in your right hand intact
  6. Enjoy the feeling of being ALL MAN
  7. Consume delicious beer

You’re welcome!

#66: Never Tap Water

Scientist Tests Water
Testing Water, Germany

Despite the fact that German tap water goes through more rigorous checks and testing for quality than bottled water, Germans seem to be obsessed with buying their water.

If you are someone who has spent your life grabbing a glass and filling it to the brim with cold water from the tap and taking a big gulp, then in Germany you could land yourself in hot water, because nearly everyone here drinks bottled water.

If you are a guest at a restaurant, asking for a glass of tap water with your meal is pretty outrageous, as in DON’T EVER DO THIS. However you will find that this is not limited to dining, it also extends to being a guest at someone’s home. Nearly every household will be able to offer you chilled bottled water, both still and fizzy, to not have these on hand would be similar to going to a house in the UK and them having no tea!

Culturally in Germany, bottled water used to be a way of displaying wealth and over the years has simply become culturally ingrained, so what this means as a citizen of Germany is that every week, I have to schlep 12x 1.5-litre bottles (18kg) of water through a supermarket, out to the car, then from the car up to my 5th-floor apartment, despite having a ready supply of perfectly healthy, fresh drinking water in my kitchen.

I have to admit though, I am now on board with the whole drinking bottled water thing – not still water, that will always be odd for me, but I have become addicted to fizzy water (Wasser mit Sprudel) . Flat water doesn’t  do it for me anymore and I blame Germany.

Fizzy water used to taste gross, probably because you are waiting for that hit of sugar that you associate with a fizzy drink, but don’t get, it was bottled disappointment.  Now though, it is my nectar, on a hot summers day an ice cold fizzy water is like heaven on your palate… All that plastic though, is not heaven for the environment, hence the German Pfand system – read more about that in my Pfand blog.