Friday, January 24, 2014

You know you're German when...

I'm not claiming to have become completely German yet, and in fact I know I never will. I'm keeping my U.S. passport and citizenship, and I will always be an American with that undeniable accent ("You couldn't tell she's an American? Don't you hear the way she pronounces her Rs?"). But I do feel like I'm assimilating nicely into life here.

Yes, I know...those of you who received our Christmas letter already read some of my thoughts on this topic. In case you want to keep reading anyway, I'll add a few I've thought of since writing that list. It turns out that nearly every expat blogger has a list like this somewhere in his or her posts, but I assure you these are my own. I either do or have done all of these things, or aspire to them.

You know you're German when...

  1. you don't mind that stores - including grocery stores - are closed all day on every holiday and every Sunday, and that there is no such thing as a grocery store open 24 hours.

  2. you also don't mind the absence of the "no alcohol sales after 9:00 p.m." law, but remember that stores close by 10:00 p.m. if not earlier.

  3. you've gotten used garbage being collected only once per month (except the Biomüll - that's every two weeks).

  4. you have four garbage containers outside, and the one you are least likely to fill before collection day is the Restmüll - what would be considered the main garbage container in the U.S..

  5. you walk to the recycling center every few days with glass bottles to dispose of depending on their color, and you take crates and bags of plastic bottles to the "bottle return" at the grocery store to get your deposit back.

  6. you accept that a load of laundry takes five hours (from dirty to clean and dry), and you plan accordingly.

  7. you put considerable effort into not wasting anything - food, water, paper, electricity...

  8. in the past six months you have traveled many more miles on buses, trains, and the S-Bahn than in your own car.

  9. your car is clean and uncluttered, has no rust spots, scratches, dents, or duct tape, no coffee or ketchup stains, and every piece and part of the car is working. 

  10. you always have some kind of Hausschuhe (slippers or sandals) on your feet - you're never barefoot and rarely just wearing socks. And you've never had anything more comfortable on your feet than a pair of Birkenstocks!

  11. weather doesn't stop you from going anywhere. If it looks like rain, you bring an umbrella. If it's snowing, you put on a hat. If it's cold, you bundle up.

  12. you don't go anywhere without small change in your pocket (in case you need to use a public restroom unexpectedly) and a canvas shopping bag or two.

  13. you buy freshly baked bread from a bakery. You only use Toastbrot (packaged, industrially-produced bread with a shelf life of two weeks or so) for Toast Hawaii or emergencies. You would never use it for sandwiches.

  14. you know what Toast Hawaii is.

  15. you've gotten used to your husband opening the doors and windows every few days for five minutes or so in the dead of winter to exchange stale air for fresh. This is called "lüften".

  16. you wonder why All Saints' Day, Pentecost, Epiphany, Ascension Day, and Corpus Christi are not recognized holidays in the U.S., where there is such an emphasis on God & religion, though they are holidays here, where church services are sparsely attended.

  17. you also wonder why Sunday is not a quiet day of rest in the U.S., and why most stores are open, requiring employees to be away from their families.

  18. you are used to parking your car in a Parkhaus and walking to wherever you need to go, even if that means a 10-minute walk in the rain.

  19. you don't drink tap water. Not because it's not safe, but because it's flat (non-carbonated).

  20. you never cross the street when the Ampelmännchen ("little traffic light man") is red, and when someone near you does, you shake your head and snort in derision.

  21. you don't even raise an eyebrow in the spring when your local newspaper prints an article reminding residents to honor the Mittagsruhe  (mid-day quiet time) between noon and 2:00 p.m. by not mowing their lawns or using loud yard equipment.

  22. you wish Americans would start using the 24-hour clock - in which 14:00 is 2:00 p.m., for instance - because it's just a whole lot easier.

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