Happy New Year! I have, on occasion, written a post about differences between Germany and life in the States. This is my 4th such post and seems a fitting start for the year.
1. Fahrrad. Everyone rides a bike. And I do mean, EVERYONE. Even right now in the dead of winter. You see bankers (male and female) in their €500 suits riding bikes to work, you see elderly people riding bikes to and fro. Moms and dads, with their kids strapped into attached seats. There is nothing uncool about riding your bike in Germany.
2. Hund. Dogs go everywhere in Germany. They ride on the trains, street trams, underground trains etc. They go inside restaurants, and shops. Everywhere the owner goes, the dog goes.
3. Butter. Insignificant and random observation that it is, you don’t see butter packaged the same way. It’s different enough that my butter dish isn’t quite right for the job.
4. Sonne. When the sun is out, so is everyone in Germany. The winters are long and dark because of how far north we are. So when spring finally starts showing its colors, the sun peaks out from the clouds and we start seeing blue skies again, people take notice. It is this way through spring, through summer, and through Autumn until it just isn’t warm enough to sit outside any longer.
Sitting in the grass on your jacket with a bottle of wine and friends outdoors is a super common way to spend your evening any day of the week, so long as the sun is there. In the Autumn, places that have outdoor seating kindly supply fleece blankets
5. Formality. Germans are generally more formal. If you speak with anyone you don’t know, you should default to a more formal manner of speaking. I am always addressed as Frau Fuqua by my medical practitioners and customer service representatives in any situation until I give the indication for a less formal speak. This formality is not just in tone or attitude: it is actually built into the German language. There are two forms of speaking to another person. An informal pronoun (du=you) with informal verb conjugations and a formal pronoun (Sie=you) with its own formal verb conjugations. Here is an example:
Haben Sie einen großen Hund gesehen? = Have you (formal speak) seen a big dog?
Hast du einen großen Hund gesehen? = Have you (informal speak) seen a big dog?
German is not the only language that has formality fully embedded in the language. Spanish does this as well (and I suspect many other languages).
6. Elternzeit. Parental leave. What’s that you ask? Right, if you live in the states you have zero frame of reference to help you define this term (snark snark). But seriously, most first world countries have it, and it means that when women have babies they get paid, job-secured, time off at home with their babies. In Germany this system is set up in a way that the father can take time off as well, hence the word parental leave and not maternity leave. I’m going to brag a bit here about Germany, because frankly they deserve it.
For the first 12 months after a baby is born into your family, regardless of your nationality, you are eligible for this awesome benefit. One parent can take up to 12 months time off from work, paid. Or the parents can share the time off in monthly increments: i.e. mom take the first 3 months, then dad take the next 3, then mom the next 3, then dad again the next 3. In this paid time off the government pays your earnings, not your company, at a rate of 70% your normal income up to a cap of 1,800€ monthly.
You do not have to take the full amount of time, however by law your employer has to secure the job for you if you chose to do this. Mothers can take up to 3 years off from their employer, the last two years being unpaid. The employer has to hold the position for the Mother up to 2 years, and if she takes 3, the 3rd year the employer has to provide a position, though it may not be the same as she had before, on her return.
No doubt this is a personal choice for all families, and there are of course downsides as well. But since I said I’d brag-not analyze-I’m leaving it at that.
7. Zahlen. Numbers, they use comma’s where we use decimal points. Where we use decimal points they use comma’s. For example:
$1,000.00 = one thousand dollars
€1.000,00 = one thousand euros
On top of that, they say the numbers in reverse order to english. For example we say ‘twenty-one’ and ‘twenty-two’, in german you say ‘one-and-twenty'(ein-und-zwanzig) and ‘two-and-twenty’ (zwei-und-zwanzig).
And lastly, when they hand-write a 7, they cross it like a lowercase t. This to avoid the potential mixup of an uncrossed 7 being mistaken for a 1. Compare:
8. Eggs come by the…10…not the dozen and are not refrigerated. Apparently this is because the industry vaccinates its hens against salmonella instead of giving the eggs a hot shampoo bath. Read here for more explanation-its short and interesting!
8. Escalator etiquette. Yes, this is a thing. The rule is if you are simply going to stand and ride you stay to the right, if your in a hurry and stepping along with the ride you move to the left. It is appropriate and should be expected if you are standing in the left ‘lane’ for you to be asked to move aside. See the parallel here with driving cars on the highway?
9. Fenster. While windows on houses and buildings in the states generally open by sliding them upwards, their German engineered cousins here open in two ways. Check it out:
10. Rollerblade city night. Haha. I doubt this is just a German thing, so if you are reading and this happens in your city or you know a city it happens in, write a comment, let me know! Every Tuesday night from spring through summer hundreds of rollerbladers flock together and blade through our city, complete with police escorts! I recorded them blading from my bus window:
vergleichen = to compare
Fahrrad = bicycle
Hund = dog
Bier = beer
Sonne = sun
Elternzeit = parental leave
Eier = eggs
Zahlen = numbers
Fenster = window
Frohes Neues Jahr! = Happy New Year!