New York Reiseführer - | New York meets Germany | Basics 2/2

New York meets Germany

Basics 2/2

by Sascha Reinking

Smoking: Oh yeah…here we go. You will experience Germany as “heaven” or “hell”. This totally depends on if you are a smoker or a non-smoker. Smoking in Germany is allowed almost EVERYWHERE! And don’t you worry…that’s exactly what the Germans do! They smoke at home, in bars, restaurants, train station, hotels, offices, cars…everywhere.

In regards to this topic: Don’t be surprised to find cigarette machines hanging on every corner. You can buy cigarettes in every store and on the street.

00: If you are looking for the rest room in a restaurant or mall you will ask for the “TOILETTEN”. Germans might not know what you mean by “rest room” or “man’s/lady’s room”. In a private home you ask for the “bath room”. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find water up to the seat in the toilette. It doesn’t mean it’s broken. German “porcelain” just works a little bit different than Americans but is nevertheless equally functional.

Tap water: You can drink the tap water in Germany. The regulations in regards to the cleanliness of German tap water are more strict than the ones for baby food. You might even find it delicious as it isn’t enriched with chlorine.

Weather Weather: Let’s not fool ourselves. Germany is not necessarily vacation destination No.1 when it comes to the weather. Our summers can be nice or they can be wet, and so can our winters. Just be prepared that Germany is not Miami and you will have a great time. Every weather has it good points. And we Germans know how to party in sunshine and rain. Just do as we do and you will be fine.

Punctuality: Germans have a different understanding of “being on time” then the rest of the world. If we say: “The party starts at 8pm.”…we actually mean: “Be there at 8pm.” It doesn’t mean that you can show up somewhere between 8pm and 11pm. So if you set up a time to meet with someone make sure that you are there at that arranged time. Germans appreciate punctuality.

Military time: In Germany we count the hours of the day from 1 to 24. “am” and “pm” are not known. So it is easy in the morning until noon as we count the same way in Germany as people in the US. 9am is 9Uhr, 11am is 11Uhr and 3am is 3Uhr. But when Americans jump to pm…the Germans keep counting. 1pm is 13Uhr, 5pm is 17Uhr and 10pm is 22Uhr. People who served in the military should be familiar with this system. For anybody else: Just remember to keep on counting.

(Exception: Sometimes the Germans actually use for example 5Uhr for 5pm and not 17Uhr. That usually happens when it is obvious that you are talking about an appointment in the afternoon and it is clear that you don’t mean 5am.)

Pharmacies: In Germany you can’t buy any drugs from a shelf in a supermarket. Even pain killers (such as Advil or Aspirin) have to be bought directly from a pharmacist.

Business hours: I have to admit, I love the US when it comes to business hours. I like the idea of 24/7. In Germany business hours are regulated by the government. Regular business hours of stores are Mondays to Fridays from 8am to 6pm. Bigger stores and malls are open until 8pm. On Saturdays stores are allowed to be open until 8pm…but smaller stores usually close at 4pm. Everything is closed on Sundays. No exception. Only gas stations are allowed to be open.

A friendly German Friendliness: How can I put this? Germans are very friendly but sometimes appear to be “grumpy”. In most cases, this is just the shell. If we like something we don’t see the necessity to let the whole world now. If Germans like something they might find it “good” or “cool” but never “fantastic”, “awesome” or “magnificent”. Germans seem a little bit more reserved with their emotional expression but are nevertheless excited about things. Also, don’t be disappointed if a German doesn’t give you a hug at your first meeting. We usually like to get to know you better before we get physical. But hey…who knows?! It might happen.

What you also might wanna know: Germans are not familiar with the term “How are you doing?” If you ask a German “How are you doing?”, you might get an honest answer including their entire medical history of the last 6 months.

Straight up: Never ask a German for his/her opinion if you are not ready for the honest answer. Germans are direct rather than flattering.

Tolerance: There is a slight shift in tolerance between the US and Germany when it comes to violence and nudity. Where in the US you can see tons of violence in movies and on TV, the Germans have an aversion towards brutality. Movies are cut for TV unless they are shown on pay-TV channels. You also see less violence on the news or in commercials. What you WILL see in Germany, however, is a lot of naked skin. Germans, different from Americans, don’t have a problem to show a naked butt in a commercial, a boob in an advertisement or sex scenes in movies. I’m not sure where these differences come from but they are obvious.

Magic 18: 18 is an important age in Germany. You feel like your whole life starts/shifts actually at the age of 18. You are suddenly not under the protection of your parents anymore. If you commit a crime you (and not your parents) are liable. With 18 you are allowed to purchase alcohol in bars, restaurants and stores.(Beer even with the age of 16.) And, with the age of 18, you are allowed to drive a car.

Taxes: What you see is what you pay. Everywhere you go…taxes are always already included in the price. If you see the steak on the menu for €12.00 you will pay €12.00. The jeans in the store for €39.00 are really €39.00 and you will pay €15.00 for the CD at Media Markt (something like Best Buy) if it is labelled with €15.00 I think that makes shopping so much easier. Don’t you think?

DVDs: Don’t buy DVDs in Germany unless you have a DVD player that is region-free. Europe has a different region code than the US which means European DVDs will not work on your American DVD player. Unless, as I said, the DVD player is code-free.

Bag packing: If you buy your groceries in a supermarket be prepared to pack your own bags. Nobody will do it for you as this service is not included in the grocery price. Plus, Germans like to bring their own baskets/boxes to the store as this makes the transportation in the car easier. But maybe the truth is that we bring our own baskets because we have to pay for plastic bags in the supermarket. Usually 20 Cents per bag. No double bagging please!

Grocery Cart: Go to a supermarket and you will see that all carts are chained together and you can “free” one by putting 1 Euro in the coin slot. The idea is that you bring back the trolley from where you picked it up and don’t leave it in the middle of the store. Returning the trolley is the only way to get back your 1 Euro.

Weapons/drugs: Weapons are illegal in Germany, so are any kind of drugs.

Nuts: What the peanut has done for America the hazelnut has done for Germany. Ever had NUTELLA on a fresh warm slice of bread? Try it! You will love it.

The language: I admit that learning German is not easy. So I would suggest to learn some German phrases such as “Good morning”, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” and stick otherwise to the language you know: English. All Germans have to learn English in school. And even if it may be very rusty, a lot of Germans speak at least a little bit English. Or as we call it “School English”. Don’t be afraid to speak English with Germans. They may be shy at first but that will change after the 3rd beer. Just remember to speak slow and to repeat sentences from time to time.

Recycling: Germans recycle their trash. We separate into following categories: paper, plastic, metal and regular trash.

© 2000-2018 by Marion Reichwein & Thomas Reichwein
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