#59: No Fireworks!

Fireworks in the Street

Buying fireworks in Germany is largely impossible except for 4 days of the year.

In Britain from mid-October onward you can basically buy fireworks from a raft of sketchy looking stores, who have imported container loads of explosives from China for the local youth to buy and throw at each other.

In Germany however, fireworks are only sold at new years from December 28th to Jan 1st and it is not permitted to fire them on any other day than New Year’s. This excludes large festivals and professional displays of course.

In Britain you will begin hearing fireworks from mid-October onwards, because we have 2 main celebrations involving fireworks – Guy Fawkes night on November 5th and New Year’s eve. Stores however, will be open weeks in advance of this and as there are no laws protecting the peace and quiet like in Germany, so you have to spend much of October and November listening to a recreation of down town Baghdad circa 2003.

In Germany, this means a quiet year all round particularly for pets, but this prohibition means that come New Year’s eve, every man woman and child is expected to blow something up, meaning fireworks will be going for HOURS AND HOURS, a quick word of advice… since you can’t beat them, join them.

#60: Drinking with Breakfast

A tasty Sekt to go with breakfast is the best way to start a day.

The breakfast table is set, Ham? Check! Cheese? Check! Fresh Bread? Check! 2 bottles of sparkling wine? Check! wait… really?

Drinking with breakfast has a terrible connotation attached to it in Britain, wino’s and drunks will routinely frequent less, shall we say, classy establishments at 9am for a cheap breakfast and a pint of ale, but it’s not a certainly not a family affair.

Germans love to drink alcohol, but they do so in a far more responsible manner than Brits and maybe even Americans – yes, despite the fact Germans drink with breakfast. In Germany it is very popular to indulge with Sekt for breakfast it is a staple of many family events like Easter and Christmas, yet it doesn’t turn families into raging day/binge drinking alcoholics, as would certainly be the case in the UK.

Whilst a “Sekty” breakfast is the thing I am most familiar with, it is certainly not limited to this. Visit Munich at any time of the year and all over the city restaurants are serving a nice glass of Weizen (Yeast Beer) with peoples eggs at 7am.

I tend to join in this tradition whenever possible, before falling asleep in my soup at lunch time and waking up with a 2pm hangover.

#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!

#63: Sie and Du

Sie and Du

German is not an easy language to learn, anyone who has tried for longer than 5 minutes will know this. One of the main peculiarities is the Sie and Du. (YOU)

“Sie” is the formal version of “you” in German. You would use it when talking to authority figures, most strangers and people generally older than you. “Du” is the informal and you would use it with friends and family.

As an example – Woher kommst du? means: “Where do you come from?” using the informal “Du,” you would use this when talking to someone at a party or with a mutual friend. Whereas if you were asking a stranger, you would need to use Woher Kommen Sie? It means the exact same thing, which is mildly infuriating because you have to remember the different verb endings for EVERYTHING.

It is also still used a lot in German business. My wife had to address her old boss by the formal version “Sie.” Everyone else in the office she could use “Du” with, but her boss felt it necessary to stay “formal.”

In general, there comes a time in most relationships where the boss or the person you have been talking to will allow you to “Duzen” This is, they give you express permission to use “Du” with them and no longer the formal “Sie” – but you can only do it once you have been invited to use it, using it before the invite will see you corrected back to the “Sie” version – honestly!

I got approached by some kids in the street last night asking me about a football score, they used Sie to communicate with me, which firstly, made me feel a million years old and secondly meant I messed up my reply because I am so used to using Du, that I couldn;t remember the Sie responses.

Sometimes I want to give up! ARGH!

#64: Cigarette Advertising… in 2017?

Smoking Advertising Billboard
Smoking advertisements on the streets of Germany

Cigarette advertising died out in the UK many years ago and to see it so prevalent in such a forward thinking country is odd.

Walking through towns and cities you will see hundreds of advertising billboards some advertising radio stations, or shopping centres, or city events, the kinds of things you would expect to see on billboards. However, more often than not they will show a beautiful couple, with enormous smiles gazing longingly at one another whilst holding cigarettes.

To give you an idea of just how out of place this feels to a non-native, this kind of advertising has been banned in the USA since 1994 and in the UK adverts showing people smoking have been banned since 1986!

It’s such a peculiar juxtaposition because these advertisements are still forced to show the enormous warning labels, saying something menacing such as “Rauchen kann todlich sein” or “Smoking can be deadly” but the two sexy people in the adverts look like they are having the time of their lives!

Germany sits at number 33 in global cigarette consumption per capita, with an average of 1480 cigarettes per adult, per year. The USA sits at number 57 on the list, at an average of 1083 cigarettes and the UK fares much better at number 74 with 826 cigarettes per capita.

Germans actually consume far more American brands of cigarettes and this is all to do with the post-war period where cigarettes were a form of currency. American GI’s received a ration of cigarettes whether they smoked or not and they used these in exchange of goods and services in Germany. As a result it is still these brands today that dominate the advertising – Marlboro, L&M, Pall Mall and Lucky Strike to name a few.

I can’t see how this kind of advertisement still has a place? Are non-smokers going to think… hmm, that looks great, I think I’ll take up smoking? I honestly thought this kind of advertising died out with the Marlboro man… or is he still around?

#65: What the heck is Pfand?

Pfand Machine
German Pfand Machine

The German Pfand (pronounced “FUND”) system is a logistical marvel and newcomers nightmare.

Whenever you buy a drink, such as a bottle of cola, water, or beer you will pay a small deposit on the actual bottle or can each time. It’s commonly either €0.08 or €0.25 added to the listed price of your drink. Once you return the bottles to a machine like the one above, you get a little receipt for the value of your returned bottles to spend in the store, in my case normally on more beer.

It is not just limited to shops though, in many bars that have outdoor seating and festivals you will also pay a Pfand on your glasses, sometimes this is up to 3 euros per glass, returned to you when you return them. No matter how many times you visit a wine stand, it’s highly likely you will forget about this, clutching a €10 note for your two €5 glasses of wine only be told (in German that you probably don’t understand) that your order costs €14 because you have forgotten to add Pfand again!

Not only is this system a necessity for Germany to have any hope of meeting their environmental targets (it would be a lot of discarded plastic otherwise) it also encourages you to recycle. Given the amount of bottled water you will have to buy living in Germany the pfand will soon add up.

Because every bottle is worth a few cents, recycling also encourages cleaner streets. Many homeless (and sometimes not homeless people) will root through rubbish bins in the streets and on trains looking for discarded bottles and cans, to return in exchange for cash. Some rubbish bins even have holders on the outside of the bin to make it easier to collect.

Whilst overall it is an inconvenience to haul these returns around, my favourite part about it is, returning a shedload of bottles and getting enough Pfand back to cover the cost of my next crate of delicious German beer, it literally feels like free beer!

#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.

#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.

#70: Tea

Tea, but not as you know it

Being British, you tend to drink a lot of tea, because tea solves all your worldly woes, tea gets you up in the morning, gets you through work, takes you to bed at night, tastes delicious and is as traditional a part of being British, as moaning about the weather.

Germans also drink a lot of tea, but not tea as you know it. Drinking tea for a German is somewhat of an event. For example, just order a tea in a restaurant and you will not receive a cup of tea, first, you will be asked; “What kind of tea?”

“Roibush tea? Fenchel Tea? Apfel tea?” “No, no”, you’ll reply, “normal tea.” NOTE: You need to order “Schwarz Tea” (Black Tea) and then because you are not an animal, you will ask for milk and proceed to disgust your host -Germans drink normal tea, without milk. Monsters!

Even in an Irish bar (that I used to work at) you would prepare tea starting off with a “fancy” glass of hot water… not a mug…  and place the glass onto a little plate, then put another little plate on top of the glass, pick up a box FULL of assorted teas, walk over to the customer, place down the cup of water and present the box of tea to him as if you are presenting a box of riches to an Emporer and wait patiently whilst they sift through and invariably ask you for the one tea that the box does not contain.

But it’s not just the ceremony of tea, Germans seem to think that tea has healing properties akin to actual, real medicine. “Oh, I’m so sick” “oh dear” I reply to my wife, “can I get you some Lemsip?” No, it’s OK I’ll take some tea”

Despite you reiterating for the millionth time, that essentially you are just drinking slightly flavoured water… slightly badly flavoured water at that, German’s will not hear that their “Fenchel tea” is doing nothing that a cup of warm water could not.

In the time it has taken me to type this post, the UK will have drunk nearly half a million cups of real tea. If Germany drank tea to the same extent, they would believe themselves to be impervious to death.

#71: Translating Inlaws

11898690_10155957127410788_2751626023998599823_nIf you live in Germany and meet a beautiful Fräulein and marry her, then  you’re going to want to learn German. Whether you believe you need to or not. Not speaking German will create arguments between you and your in-laws forever. Fact.

Whether the argument be about how hard English is to learn as a German. Or the fact that I live in Germany, so I should automatically learn German, to just plain wanting to understand each other. It’s an argument that happens very, very often.

My wife dutifully serves as translator, whilst her father and I try as hard as we can, with the little English he has and the little German I have (which between us is still no where near enough for a conversation) until we are exhausted. Now the fights can begin over why I am still not learning German, why my wife (who is German) is not teaching me German and how much easier it would be for everyone if I just spoke German.

I do plan on learning more German, but I am a little worried as I understand very little of what’s said around the dinner table, so what happens when I do? What if it turns out that we don’t actually like each other?

The above picture, is actually me with my in-laws at a party in 2015

#72: Hating Bayern Munich

Muller – Loved in the national team, not so much in the Bayern team.

As is the right of every football fan in the UK to hate Manchester United… other than Manchester United fan’s of course, it is every German’s right to hate Bayern Munich.

One of Europe’s most successful ever clubs, they have dazzled in recent seasons with amazing football, under great leadership from the likes of Louis Van Gaal and Pep Guardiola. They have won all competitions multiple times and boast some of the greatest soccer players in world football, including  Muller, Robben, Ribery, and Neuer.

In fact, much like Manchester United winning many Premier League titles over the last 15 years, Bayern Munich’s domestic domination has been similar. 9 titles in 15 years and this has resulted in their success becoming a little predictable. Bayern Munich fans have become well, arrogant. They don’t just want to win, it’s assumed they will.

This is where the great German past time of “Schadenfreude” comes in. Meaning simply “pleasure in an others pain” everyone wants to see Bayern slip up, to lose a game they were not expecting, or to be dumped out of Europe. Unless of course, you are a Bayern Munich fan.

My advice? Don’t be that guy. Go for Borussia Dortmund instead, everyone likes them.

#73: Waiting Rooms

Waiting Room.

So, it seems that Germans greet each other in strange places, waiting rooms, elevators, and… sometimes toilets. But always in waiting rooms.

A small, sanitary white room with a cupboard for hanging coats in the corner. In the middle is a small table, full of German magazine publications that, even if I could speak the language, I would probably be unlikely to pick up to read anyway. The German equivalent of “Horse and Hound” I suspect.

Every few minutes, someone will enter and greet the whole room… “Guten Tag!” The whole room will respond in an echo “Guten Tag”

Apart from me, that is… I find the whole thing rather strange. They do not say anything else to each other, only hello and good bye. Sometimes the informal way of goodbye “Tchüss” is used.

The direct translation of Tchüss is “See you again” which, judging by the amount of time I have already spent waiting, may actually be on their follow up visit in a weeks time.

Tchüss!

#74: Weihnachtsmärkt

Beautiful.

Perhaps the single greatest thing that Germany EVER created, better than Porsche, better than Sausage, maybe even better than beer, is the Christmas Market.

Big words, but believe me Christmas markets are the greatest thing ever. Period. Only those that have never been to one would disagree with me.

By the end of November nearly every small town in Germany will begin burdening their small market places with little wooden huts, grand carousels and stages and lighting displays that are visible from space. The scene is set, all thats missing is the atmosphere.

Jam packed and open nightly from the beginning of December to Christmas eve, you can walk around these cute, kitsch little markets that offer gifts that you will not find anywhere else, meat from every animal  and the best part of every Christmas market, Glühwein.

This tasty winter drink is a real treat. It is the English equivalent of Mulled wine, but without all the fuss. Warmed spiced red wine, often with a shot of brandy or rum added to it, making the the perfect winter warmer for standing around on cold German nights.

Germans, incidentally also do wine festivals better than anywhere else and there are similarities between the two. For instance many of the same drinks are available at Christmas Markets, that you would find at the Summer markets, but just heated up. These may include: (and bear with me here, I have sampled most of these)

  • Weisser Glühwein (Hot White Wine)
  • Heisser Cider (Hot Cider)
  • Heisser Tequila (Hot Tequila Shots (GROSS))
  • Heisse Schokolade with Rum (Hot Chocolate)
  • Glühkirschbier (Hot Cherry Beer)

These are just to name a few, but if you find yourself passing through Germany in December, be sure to make it one of your stops, it will leave you full of christmas spirit and cheer before you head back to the misery that is England in December, or France in December, or anywhere that isn’t a small German town full of festiveness in December.

#75: I’m not sorry

I’m no longer sorry.

Sorry… Sorry, excuse me, sorry, could I just? Thank you.

A common word to an Englishman, “sorry” is the go to saying for excuse me, a genuine apology, a sentence starter, or just a plain old polite dismissal of a mishap. Sorry is multi-functional, well it is in England.

German people do not apologise anywhere near as much as English people. Or Americans for that matter. When I travel back to England now, I am actually amazed at just how much time we do spend apologising for things – our fault or not. When I first met my German wife, she told me off for apologising too much as “I did not mean it.” I advised that of course, I meant it. As an Englishman, I am pre-programmed to apologise all the time, but now, maybe I agree with her, perhaps we do apologise too much.

Nowadays I do say sorry less often, but still find myself apologising as a matter of course. If a German were to bump into you, cut you off, or disagree, you should not expect to hear a sorry and offering one will be met with complete indifference.

I am going to venture a guess as to why… maybe it is because the German word for sorry is so horrendously convoluted, ugly and long. “Entschuldigung!” is the word, but of course owing to the German language there are at least 97 variations of this depending on who you are talking too, what you are apologising for, whether it is being used as a verb etc. etc… ugh.

Sorry, but it seems that due to my Germanifaction, I am no longer as sorry.

#76: Dubbing

Germans do not like it either.

In many other European countries, western cinema is played in English and subtitled. This means that you can meet people from Sweden, Finland, The Netherlands etc. and they will speak remarkable English, albeit with an American accent owing to all the US TV shows they consume.

However, in Germany, they dub overall English language movies and TV with German actors and dub the film into German. What this does is potentially ruin great dialogue and movie scenes because the words may have no direct German translation and it also creates an annoying visual where the mouths never match the words and it actually dilutes German exposure to “British and American English”

I would be watching a film with my German girlfriend that starred an actor she had never seen in an original English film. Let’s say Bruce Willis for instance and she say’s “Oh my god, is that what he really sounds like?” Because in Germany you get used to the same voice actors playing the same people, there is a German Bruce Willis, a German Arnold Schwarzenegger, a German Scarlett Johanssen etc.

What a job that is, sitting around waiting for Arnie to make Terminator 5 so you can work again.

#77: The Movies

Cinema in Germany

Finally, I can go to a cinema and be treated like a grown up.

Germans do cinema’s right. Not only do they serve beer in the establishment but they also have things called “love seats” which are comfortable double seats without armrests in the middle, so you can cuddle with your significant other.

I have never understood why you can’t have a beer in UK cinema’s and why do I have to be separated by an armrest? Who are these people that ruined it for everyone? I can only assume that cinema bosses expect that alcohol and double seats would turn every movie screening into an orgy so steer well clear of any potential temptation.

Now, if only I could understand what any of these German films are talking about.

#78: Beer for the lads

Beer for the lady.

Ordering drinks on a night out is generally a straight forward affair. I normally allow my partner to order the drinks for us, due to my lousy German and quite regularly I will allow her to pay as well.

What I have found is Germany is the only country I’ve been to in the world where I can repeatedly order a couple of drinks, for instance, a  large beer and a white wine, that when the waiter brings your drinks back, he will stop and ask who the beer is for.

“Well sir, the litre of beer is clearly for my small lady here, whilst I sip on that tiny Chardonnay”.

Yes, it could be that way round and in Germany, it’s probably quite commonplace, but anywhere other than Germany, it is not particularly likely.

#79: Currywurst

Yummy….

I am a huge fan of German sausage, it’s right up there with my favourite things about Germany. One thing I am still not sure if I am very fond of though is Currywurst.

Served by street vendors the nation over, they take a sausage, slice it into small round pieces, cover it in a tomato based sweet curry sauce, sprinkle with a tasteless curry powder, place it on a small paper plate with a bread roll and “voila”. You enjoy your sausage with a small plastic fork and a small beer. Generally handing over around 5 Euros for the privilege.

It is difficult to say what makes a good Currywurst, as a lot of the sausage taste can be masked by the sauce so this part has to be good. I enjoy mine the most in the winter and would say that this German tradition needs to be tried when in Germany as you will not find this delicacy anywhere else in the world!

Guten Appetite!

#80: Toilets

Replace duck, with poop.

Toilets in many establishments I have frequented are sub par. Not only this but in most places, you also have to pay for the privilege of using the toilet, in anywhere from shopping centres, to restaurants and train stations.

I have always been of the opinion that you can gauge an establishment’s overall level of hygiene by the cleanliness of its toilets. If the toilets are immaculate, then likely so is the kitchen, but I digress.

When I’m not inspecting toilets for the cleanliness, I am normally making swift use of the facilities and the thing about a large number of toilet bowls in Germany is, that it’s very common for you to have to crap onto a shelf. Apparently, the way German toilets are designed is to allow you to poo onto a ledge in the bowl, so that prior to flushing the water away you can examine your poo. This is left over from the days where eating poorly refrigerated cold meats could leave you with worms or worse. Lovely.

Of course in the UK and for that matter, most places around the world, you crap into the water. This does a couple of things, it ensures that a particularly long poo remains relatively smell free, it also gives you some separation from your deposit when wiping.

My advice is to courtesy flush yourself half way through. Crapping onto a small shelf is not a pretty sight, smell, or experience.

#81: Gardening

Communal, out of town gardens

In the UK at least, we have communal gardens located in the centres of cities and towns (allotments). These remote gardens are extremely popular among people – generally, older people – who either do not have a garden, or only have a small garden, to give them somewhere to grow food.

Allotments were made popular during the war, particularly during rationing, when great swathes of land were put aside by the government so that people could “Dig for Victory”

In Germany, they have similar patches of land, generally in, or near busy cities but they are used slightly differently. In Germany, they are actual gardens. They will most likely have a small shed containing a mower and other gardening tools, maybe some decking, a trampoline, a swing set, an apple tree maybe, usually a flag pole and it is completely fenced off.

It’s funny to know that, when a German family would like to do something as simple as sit out in the garden, they are prepared to load the car and then drive several miles out of the city in order to do so.

#82: Die Autobahn

Approx 160 MPH

When I was young, the revelation that there were roads in Germany that had no speed limits was incredible to me.

I dreamt of this magical road in Germany that where I could drive as fast as I wanted and pledged one day I would find it. Little did I know at the time that there is actually over 12’000 km of Autobahn in Germany and a huge percentage of this is unrestricted and only carries an “advisory” speed limit of 130 KMH (81 MPH).

Someone should have told the Dutch guy I was driving with… It seems that (the bulk of) people from Germany will drive fast on the Autobahn, but incredibly vigilantly and carefully, they generally only pull out into the fast lane if sufficient room and are quick to move back into the slower lanes to allow the faster cars to go past. All very polite and efficient.

Recently, I travelled from Amsterdam to Frankfurt with a Dutch guy that was offering a ride on a popular car sharing website. He kindly collected me and the trip through the Netherlands was all fine and then we hit the Autobahn. This was his first time on the unrestricted roads in his brand new Audi A4, and he felt it was an opportune moment to put the car through its paces. What followed was a very, very uncomfortable and scary trip, with much braking and pant wetting, where we more than once topped 245 KMH (152 MPH). We were actually averaging over 200 KMH (120 MPH) for the majority of the journey and ended up getting from Amsterdam to Frankfurt (some 440 KM) in just under 3.5 hours.

That weekend I was actually coming back from Amsterdam having just parachuted for the first time and I honestly don’t know which was scarier the jump, or the drive. I think the general advice here is, just because you can drive as fast as you want on the Autobahn, does not mean that you should.

#83: Your Majesty

God Save the Queen.

I am learning German at the moment and it is not especially easy, so anything that makes my 3 hour lessons slightly more palatable is always welcome.

In one lesson, I came across something that stuck with me. So, there we were doing a speaking exercise from our course book when one of the people we needed to identify was Queen Elizabeth the Second, Or to the less worldly wise, The Queen of England.

I was startled to hear that in Germany, The Queen of England, is referred to as “THE Queen”. Let me give that some context, in a country where she has no function, authority, or relevance and with many other Queens worldwide, she is not referred to as “A Queen”, or “Queen Elizabeth”, or “The Queen of England” but simply “THE Queen”

Kind of makes you proud to be English.

#84: Schlaf Gut!

1 bed… 2 mattresses, 2 quilts!

It wakes you in the night, it takes you to that cold, dark, alarming space, you fumble around in vain for safety, there is none forthcoming, you expand your search to locate any shred of comfort and security, but it won’t come.

You grab something, you pull hard and frustrated by your impotence, you use all of your body’s leverage to heave the cotton armour back over your cold exposed body, only to stir the beast that lurks within and the inevitable battle commences. “you have stolen all the duvet!”

This argument takes place in households the world over, maybe it happened to you last night, maybe tonight is the night for the battle of the Duvet!

You can always count on the Germans to solve a problem and being as efficient as they are, they have of course come up with a remedy so simple, it could be considered as genius. So, behold the solution in all it’s glory!!!!!……. 1 bed, 2 Duvets.

How easy is this? I can’t believe it has not been adopted more widely, stay at many hotels in Germany and order a double room, you will find the double bed has 2 single duvet covers neatly folded at the bottom of the bed, the battle is over, you can relax now. Sleep well, or Schlaf Gut! as the Germans say.

#85: Ice, Ice Baby

Spaghetti Ice

If you are asked if you want to go and get “Ice” by a German, you may do exactly as I did, look vague and repeat with confusion “ICE?”

I am still not used to this word, every time I hear a German tell me “we get some Ice” I picture that we are about to go to a dark street corner to procure the latest class A street drug.

But of course, German’s mean ICE-CREAM! but have efficiently omitted the word “cream” to speed up the whole transaction. It is a big tradition in Germany to venture out for a walk that ends at a local Ice-cream shop, which you will find in pretty much every town, village and high street.

Lastly, when the German you are with asks for “spaghetti ice”, don’t be confused, it is merely ice cream that is pressed through a machine that makes it all stringy.

#86: Dude, Where’s My Cooker?

You must buy your kitchen, even in a rental.

A little something I was not prepared for and had never read anywhere prior to moving to Germany is that, when you rent or buy a place in Germany, the kitchen is generally not included.

Unless you have agreed to buy the kitchen (around €2000) from the previous owners/tenants, the likelihood is that you will be moving into an empty room with some pipes sticking out of the wall.

So, when negotiating your let remember to ask if the kitchen is included, or you may face an unexpected bill and a new best friend from the pizza delivery company.

#87: Spare any Change?

There are different types of beggars here, some will stop you in the street to ask you for money, some will wait at traffic lights and wash your windscreen and ask for money and others kneel on the street, their heads bowed and covered holding out their hands.

It’s the ones that stop you in the street that I am most discomforted by, not only because I don’t like to be stopped in the street, but also because I normally respond with my best English accent and advise that “I don’t understand, I don’t speak German” and try to move on, whereupon they immediately switch to English.

It says something about my school education when the vast majority of tramps in Germany speak more languages that I do.

#88: Oh! You’re English!?

Prepare to be accosted by drunks, random weirdo’s and colourful students whom, upon hearing you are native  English will spend the next 5 minutes earnestly practicing the only English they know with you.

You will have almost daily conversations that are exactly the same, as these people use up their high school English and then fumble around for sporadic words that make no intelligible conversation.

I complain, but seriously if they weren’t invariably drunk, or crazy, I would think it was cool that people so willingly dive into English and want to speak to you using it, they sometimes make you feel like a minor celebrity such is the rarity of the native Englishman in Germany.

I will certainly not be doing the same with my German, unless I am drunk, of course.