Monday, 8 July 2013

Who's the German?

There are some things that still surprise me when going between my country of living and that of origin.
  • At supermarkets, you need to weigh the produce yourself. I'm so used to the untrusting way of the Tesco that I keep forgetting.
  • At the breakfast table, in a restaurant etc, there is often no option of tap water. In fact nobody drinks it. At all. It's the land of Sprudel (carbonated water), which comes in glass bottles. We don't like carbonated water, in fact, my tonsillitis throat doesn't like any type of carbonated drink, so just as well we brought our refillable bottles. The restaurant owner wasn't happy, because it's really really rude not to order bottled water (carbonated) with your meal.
  • People take condensed milk in their coffee. The oddity of this is striking. I don't think I know another country that does this, although borderland Belgium also offers condensed milk and no normal milk. On the plus, the coffee itself is good. And there's my favourite incarnation of coffee, the Latte Macchiato, which is painfully missed in the UK.
  • As a consequence of the above, many places do not have plain milk available, the drink of choice for the kids, and the stuff I, unlike most of my compatriots, put in my tea.
  • When you ask for tea, you are presented with a choice of about 50 teas, only one of which is what is commonly referred to as "tea" in the UK. Even my description of "black tea" (which used to work) rendered a Blackberry flavoured black tea.
  • Right before left. I totally get why my beloved doesn't get it. It is rather hard to get, really, The UK traffic system is much more intuitive, and I have to actively remind myself so as not to cause an accident.
  • People are so in you face direct. I mean, I've known this for a while, and I know that I've been described likewise. But but but, I'd never dare to moan to a stranger or complain in the right on fashion that I overhear on a constant basis and that makes me blush just for hearing it. On the good side, I found it rather sweet that the hotel staff shared her rather horrid day with me with absolutely no intention of implying that I was part of making it a hard day.
  • Homeopathic medicine. I'm not a great fan of "alternative" medicine because in my mind it either is medicine (i.e. has a proven clinical effect) or it isn't. I'm happy to take plant based products of course, but that stuff they gave me for my throat is most clearly absolutely not doing anything and the price tag for this placebo was rather high. It would also be nice to tell me it was homeopathic before I bought it so that I could make an informed choice and say no thanks.
  • Paracetamol however is the devil incarnate here and will kill you for sure, and I've already overdosed and just waiting for my liver to pack it in. But of course, I'm not allowed any other painkillers because, shock horror, I'm breastfeeding (for a total of 10 minutes a day only, surely I can have something to help me through the day???? Something that's a real medicine???? Please????)
  • German school satchels (that term doesn't actually cut it, they are called "Ranzen" and are square boxes on a child's back, usually obscuring most of the body mass of a first year child) are even bigger now than they were in my day. My notion that it would be nice to totally label my child the odd German one out for the sake of satisfying my sentimentality came to a sudden halt at the price tag of, wait till you hear, Euro 150. For a school bag. Yes, it's well made, branded and lasts for the full 4 years of German primary school, but come on, that's still 30 quid a year?! And of course British kids don't have to carry all their school books and exercise jotters around with them so there's no bloody point anyway to Cubling having one of them. "But I want to look like a German school girl so that everyone sees I'm German!" She protests, and I'm not sure if I should be happy or deeply concerned by this sudden portrayal of German patriotism, kindled by what I'm sure is usually better known as consumerism.
Clearly, I've become a stranger here.


Sarah from Goodreads said...

Hi there :)

I visited Germany for the first time last year and as I was pregnant and trying to cut diwn on coffee became a tea drinker for the first time in my life...the choice baffled me, I just asked for earl grey everywhere because it was the only tea I knew!

How long have you lived in the uk?

cartside said...

Hi Sarah Anne! Been in the UK since 1997, and before that split my time between Ireland, Spain, UK and Germany between 1990 and 1997. Which in total probably means that I'm close to having spent about as much time outside of Germany as in Germany

herald said...

Another thing you forgot: paying with a (UK) credit/debit card! In soooo many places our Visa or Mastercard visa/debit card were refused and they only accepted EC Card....I was so surprised as as pay here mostly with plastic these days. It caused some embarrassment when wanting to invite people to a meal in a restaurant and I had to be invited myself!!! It once took us an hour (driving!!) to find an ATM where we could get money out!

sansserif said...

Hahaha! My eldest has been in Berlin for the last year (au pairing it...) - and has regaled me with tales of 'the differences between Germans and Scots'.
She has been told off by old German ladies for not wearing her cardigan (it was 20C - positively tropical for a Scot) and for not having a hat on her 8 yr old charge's head (15C - again, positively tropical to a Scot). She talks about 'the staring'. Apparently Germans 'stare' - and they don't mind that you know that they are staring at you...
She's now a sprudel convert and also a spargel addict... Spargel being BIG big big...
She RAVES about the public transport system and dreads coming back to the old Strathclyde crap.
Love your blog!

sansserif said...

ooops! Forgot to add - she said:
- Germans are 'very practical people, Mum'. Everything is 'practical'. 'Nobody really wears fancy clothes here or gets dressed up too much to go out or wears make-up or too-high heels.'
'I have bought Birkenstocks, Mum. They are really practical and comfy. Oh God Mum - think I must be turning German. And I really really like it'



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