#67: Nudity

The German attitude to nudity is pretty liberal. The British attitude to nudity is not.

Ok, so let’s be fair, it’s not like you are going to turn up in Germany and start seeing boobs and dicks everywhere. It’s not that extreme. But journey to a beach, or to one of the many swimming lakes dotted around the country and you are likely to see a “Freikörperkultur” (FKK) or “free body culture” area. A nude beach essentially.

This relaxed attitude to nudity is developed from a young age, nudity is not something to be ashamed of or hidden. As a result, when German children grow older, they are far more comfortable with nudity than the British, including me.

So, my wife being German wants to take me to an enormous spa/sauna complex, with outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzis and numerous saunas of various temperatures and sizes. It is the middle of winter and is snowing, (which is all part of the experience) so curiosity gets the better of me and I agree to go, despite knowing I will have to be nude at various points.

When I arrived, I was pretty nervous, especially when you have no bathing suit or swimming trunks – they are left in the locker, you only take a towel and a robe and that’s it. We haven’t even left the changing rooms and I must have seen 5 pairs of breasts and at least 24 pairs of balls. Excluding my own.

Walking into a room full of naked people for the first time in your life, in your mid-thirties, is peculiar. Germans will make eye contact with you, they will say hello and like it or not, they will cop an eyeful. It seems to be accepted that everyone will look at everyone else – in fact hiding your modesty can cause grumbles amongst the unclothed, better to just go along with it. Initially, I sat with a towel covering my modesty, but after a few hours of being there, it does feel quite comfortable and natural… kind of.

But! People attend these kinds of places with their friends, colleagues and families! My reluctance to be naked in a room was balanced out by the fact that I would be in a room full of strangers, I couldn’t imagine going to a place like this with friends – and friends wives and partners, that would be too weird for my prudish ways.

Then on an even higher level, the one thing that surprised me the most was when a family walked in with 2 children. A girl aged around 14-15 and a younger boy maybe around 10. I am pretty sure by the age of 10 I was already aware of my nudity and would be horrified if my parents caught me nude, and my parents horrified if I caught them nude. I could not imagine ANY scenario where a self-conscious British 14-year-old, would follow their naked parents, into a room full of other naked people.

German FKK – does take some getting used too.

#68: Qualifications

5 Years experience? Sorry, you have no degree.

If you want to move to and work in Germany, you had better be qualified. German’s take qualifications VERY seriously and as a result, their whole education system is set up differently from that of the UK, or the USA.

Here in Germany you either get a degree or work as an apprentice in your chosen field in order to gain certification for almost all jobs. This even includes general administrative jobs, like bank clerks, or car dealership workers, it’s not just formal trades like plumbing or carpentry as is popular in the UK.

Without these qualifications, you will find it nearly impossible to be hired for a job. If you did somehow get a job without a qualification, but at a later stage want to go for a promotion, it is highly unlikely you would ever get the job over someone who has a relevant qualification – even if they had little, to no experience.

So how is it different in the UK at least? Well if you have 5 years experience in Estate Agency, versus a University graduate with a relevant degree, your experience is pretty likely to be regarded by the employer as worth as much, if not more, than the degree. In Germany, the person with the qualification would get it.

The disadvantage I see to this, given my very diverse work history, is if you did an apprenticeship in something like Tax advising, then after 5 years want to do something else, essentially, you can’t. You would first have to study and get qualified in order to move fields. I find the whole balance toward education frighteningly restrictive. But then I would, seeing as I am a dumbass college dropout.

#69: Crowds

Orderly.

Germans may not ever master standing in line, but they are undoubtedly masters of the “general melee”.

Whether you are patiently lining up at a bank, or store, a German will wander straight past the three or so of you, stood orderly and patiently up to the general area of a desk and destroy all notion of a line.

It is actually similar to being in a crowd at a music gig. I have been to hard rock, punk rock, indie rock and electro rock gigs all over Germany and my experience is largely the same, everyone stands in a general melee, facing the stage (well, obviously) and between songs, they will clap. But, save for a TINY portion of the crowd, Germans at gigs are largely motionless and spread out. It’s like they are applying similar ideas to that they apply to queuing.

To be honest, I am still not used to it, being in a rock concert venue that holds 2500 people and getting more order and room than if the same amount of people were in the post office.