Thursday, 18 July 2013

Part 3: the Good, the Bad, and the... I don't get it.

('cuz he totally reads my blog. better believe it.) 

So, part three of our impressions of Germany. I've described the good and the bad, but there are also some things that we can't figure out. This post would be a whole lot longer if I'd written it in the first two weeks here, but we've figured out a lot. But still, after years of growing up with certain things as the norm, we find a few things strange here. 

1. The paprika obsession
There are other flavours out there, but it's mostly paprika. You've heard me lament this before. After a Google search, I've realised that many foreigners here find this odd. 

2. Fruity nationalities
Do people really care if their apples come from Australia and their tomatoes from Spain? I've never really considered it important to know, but I guess here it is. Most fruit and veggies have their country of origin proudly printed.

3. Bedding
Please, on my behalf, enjoy your double-duvets. It's the norm here for two single beds to be pushed together, and for there to be two single duvets. Fortunately, I've noticed that one can get double beds easily enough (ours is a double bed frame, with two single mattresses), but double duvets? I hunted and I cannot find a double duvet/comforter or a double duvet cover. Go figure. 

4. The "Crime Machine" 
I was researching library membership here, and while doing so I came across this "Krimiautomat". It's essentially a vending machine for borrowing crime novels, located in one of the stations.
German library crime machine

5. Traffic-light-obedience
So this is probably a good thing, but it's really uncommon for people to jay-walk (have you seen eShowe on the Saturday after pay-day?). If that little man isn't green, you're not going anywhere. Malcolm has noticed that if one gets to a light and traffic is clear and there's nobody else waiting, then sometimes people will cross on red. But if there's already somebody else waiting there, you join the group and wait. It doesn't matter if you see your tram pulling in, filling up, and pulling off. You wait. 

6. This particular cigarette-vending-machine
I understand the reason behind vending machines that sell cigarettes. But I don't understand why this one is where it is. It's about 20metres and across a road from a bus-stop, on a grassy pavement outside somebody's house. All by itself.
It's really close to where we live, and in all the times I've passed it, I've never seen anybody use it.
Germany smoking

7. German engineering: toilets
We all know how brilliant German-engineering is, right? 
So they developed these toilets with a rather disconcerting "shelf". While our apartment has a "normal" loo, I came across one of these on our first day here and wasn't really sure about it, but after some internet-research, I have discovered it's so that you can take Dr Oz's advice and, well, inspect your digestive health. 
german engineering brilliance weird
However, while the brilliant engineers who designed this do a wonderful job at helping users monitor their health, they usually bury the rest of the toilet (the part that fills up with water and all that plumbing stuff that I know nothing about) in the wall. I have no idea what happens if you need to fix anything, but that makes sense, hide that disgusting plumbing away, but put a ledge there so that you can see... other things. 
Yeah, perfect sense. 

8. TV
I cannot understand how they choose what to show on TV here, but it's generally a documentary about a farm of some mundane nature, or a really badly acted "reality show" that attempts to give legal advice for if you find out that you're pregnant with your boyfriend's child and he's not interested and then you find out it's not his child but in fact he has a twin brother and it's his baby and neither brother wants the baby. Ya, I watched that one. 
And seriously, I won't complain about the length of ad-breaks on SABC again. 

9. Milk products
I really love milk and yogurt and ice-cream and many things dairy, but I've been avoiding the dairy-section of supermarkets because I cannot figure out what everything is. There is SO much variety and and so many flavours. I found this really helpful diagram here.
german dairy products explanation
Once I've studied it and feel brave enough, I look forward and going forth to buy something other than 1.5% milk. Or I'll just go in there and grab something off a shelf, bring it home and test it. That could be a small-scale adventure ;)

So, there you have it; a small insight into our impression of Germany and the way things work here. I was given the advice to "savour and note all the differences and cultural quirks and experiences before they become commonplace" (thanks, Frances!), and making this list was just one way to do that :) 


  1. Hi Erica,

    I've never seen those Krimiautomaten, but I think the idea is so fun! The reason why the country of origin is printed on all fruit and vegetables is simply that most people prefer to buy stuff that's both regional and in season. If something comes from a country far away and isn't an exotic fruit like Pineapple that means it's probably not in season and therefore lots of people will buy something else, because it's more environmental-conscious.

    You probably have a bigger variety of fruit and vegetables throughtout the year in SA, but you might notice soon that certain fruit will only be available for a limited time frame (strawberries won't be around so much longer), so people try to make the most out of it while they're still reasonably priced! :)

    Hope that explains something! :)


  2. That makes a lot of sense... my cousin also mentioned that it's so you know about pesticides and if you want to boycott a country for some reason you can. Makes sense....
    I better get my dose of strawberries soon before they're out of season!

  3. Haha! Loved your post about the toilet! I stayed in Wales for a few weeks once, and the apartment had a similarly designed toilet and I never understood why someone would choose to design a room with a toilet that didn't accomplish the task. haha

    And on beds, when I lived in China we were so surprised to find that they didn't sell fitted by the time I woke up every morning the sheet was in a wad on the floor and I was on the mattress. Yuck!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. What is it about toilets in strange countries?!
      It's amazing the things we take for granted without realising it though, like those fitted sheets, or double-duvets... I think I like that about travelling; it shows us that there are alternatives and other ideas of "normal", and although we might still think we're right or our way is better, we get a better understanding of others. :)