November 21, 2013: Culture Shock got me down

So this post isn’t going to be a retelling of events in my life for this week (it’s too early for that! The interesting parts never come until the weekend!)  But yesterday was a bit rough for me in terms of culture shock and I kind of want to talk/ vent about it for a bit.  Feel free to skip this post, you probably won’t miss anything at all to be honest.  There are some things I really like about Germany, don’t get me wrong, it has been a wonderful place to live and study so far, but there are also just these very slight differences from America that have kind of been hiding in the background slowly creeping up on me.  And they really are little things that I either didn’t notice at first or I chose to ignore.  Just a couple:

1. The personal space bubble here tends to be smaller.  For those of you who don’t know, I am not a big fan of strangers or crowds, so this one is the big one that gets me.  It mostly consists of people generally standing closer together, whether it be in a more intimate setting like a one-on-one conversation, or in a crowd.  I often find myself taking a few steps back from people when they are talking to me, only to have them compensate by taking a few steps forward.  This leads to two possibilities, either I start doing the lean back, where I angle my upper body to be at a more comfortable distance thus causing me to look like I’m in a hurricane, or we end up doing this awkward shuffle as I continue to try the step back method, and it continues to fail.  At least no one has tried to greet me with cheek kisses yet.  I’m pretty sure I could handle it with close friends, but anyone else… um, no.  And this directly ties into…

2. Crowd etiquette is much different.  Because of the whole smaller personal space area, crowds are sort of handled differently here.  In America there is something like a two to three foot space between people waiting in lines, and unless it is really crowded, people tend to give each other plenty of personal space.  However, if you are standing two to three feet from the next person in line in Germany, be prepared for someone to swoop on in there and take your spot.  It doesn’t matter how obvious it is that you are waiting, if you are not pretty close to the person in front of you, it is going to happen.  Also, people don’t say, “excuse me”, as much as they do in America.  Which this may sound really petty, but it is kind of nice when you are getting in someone’s way and you just say, “excuse me”.  Not to give anyone the idea that Germans don’t ever say it, they do.  They just tend to reserve it for something more, like actually bumping into someone.

3. Nothing is free here.  In America we are given so many things complimentary that it is kind of off putting having to pay for every single thing here.  Bread at a restaurant.  Gotta pay for that.  Tap water.  Gotta pay for that.  Bags at the grocery store.  Gotta pay for that.  Using a public toilet.  Most of the time, gotta pay for that.  I mostly get around the paying for tap water thing though because I usually carry around a bottle of water which I fill up regularly.  I refuse to pay for tap water.  REFUSE.

4. We have different ideas of what sandwich bread should be.  Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to rolls and pastries, Germany is much better than America, especially with all of the bakeries around.  However, sandwich bread here is way different from the light, fluffy bread we have in America.  Granted I usually eat a lot of whole grain bread in America and I am not much for crappy white bread most people eat, but Germany just sort of took whole grain to the extreme.  I feel like I am chewing a big dirt clod most of the time, not to mention it has an almost meaty taste.  And it is dry and grainy.  While I have found a decent sandwich bread here, I really miss my Pepperidge Farm bread, or better yet, my bread machine in general.

Those have been the four big challenges so far and hopefully I will get through this second stage of Culture Shock pretty soon and these things won’t be as big of a deal (although I’m not sure I will ever completely adjust to the crowd thing…)  And just so I can end this on a positive note, I want to talk about a couple of things I really appreciate over here.

  • Germans are great at designing easy to open things.  I can’t even explain how ingenious opening things actually is.  Let’s just say I’ve never gotten a bag of cheese that didn’t open because the easy tear guide was not in the right place.
  • Basic food stuff is pretty cheap, even though that’s about it.
  • Beer is really cheap.
  • They are very dog friendly over here as well.

Yup, that’s about it until I get around to posting either Sunday or Monday.



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