My bus was an entire four minutes late today. A distant memory tells me that once upon a time when I lived in England, four whole minutes was not unreasonable to sit and wait for delayed public transport, but alas, after five months of living in Germany, (efficiency capital of the world) it turns out that four minutes is actually, a very long time. Over here, the roads are gritted before it even snows, potholes are filled before your Volvo even feels the bump, and the buses are (apart from this heinously uncoordinated occurrence) seldom four minutes late. So, in honour of this carefully crafted land, and as a resident myself, I give you five stereotypes which you may or may not be aware of about Germany, which have hit the nail right on the head.
1. The Fast and the Furious
I will hold my hands up and admit, it’s true. Germany is a well-oiled, impeccably clean and ferociously quick country. The buses are not late. If the buses are late, there are problems, and should there be a problem, the problem will be fixed within the exact time specified by the attendant who has been hired specifically to tell you that there is a problem. An apologetic conductor once let me on the bus free of charge because my beer had gone cold.
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2. Shoe Swap
It’s been a long day at work. You want to relax, sit in front of the television and kick off your… put your house shoes on. The German people are notoriously known for their absolute refusal to go barefoot. Visits to a friend’s house without my ‘Hausschuhe’ have led to me being asked to wear a new pair of socks. Forty euros over here will get you a beautiful, new, never been worn pair of sheep skin lined Crocs. Get them on your Christmas list.
3. Dress for all seasons, all at the same time
If Crocs weren’t enough, the amount of North Face and Regatta clothing I see on an average day surpasses what Edmund Hillary has worn in a lifetime. The German people, terrified of a sudden and drastic weather change, will quite literally wear every piece of clothing available to them. They also like to coordinate their clothes, a lot. Not two days ago I saw a man walking down the high street, dressed head to toe in traffic cone orange. It takes courage to brave such an outfit, but he pulled it off with style only a German ever could. People also actually make use of the nightclub coatroom (which in fairness is a shit load more sensible than the scantily clad seventeen year olds trotting down Brighton seafront during a hurricane), although most people, girls notwithstanding, seem to enjoy the warmth of their coat in a sweaty room, and wear it the whole night.
4. Get away from the faucet
Germans cannot imagine the thought of drinking water from a tap. A major form of exercise over here seems to be trying to carry as many bottles of Vittel home with you as you can. Twenty bottles is the average, it seems, for a four year old. Ordering a glass of cold tap water in a restaurant probably won’t even earn you a smile; upon ordering, you’re immediately recommended an expensive bottle of sparkling water (I can’t blame them for this; there is nothing more fun than bubbles). Not owning a water filter generally seems to mean your German guest would rather shrivel and prune on your floor before they drink straight from the faucet. I should also mention that they also cannot get enough of Apfelschorle (I’d probably go as far to say they are completely obsessed with it, it makes them wild), which is basically watered down apple juice that tastes neither of apple juice nor of water, and more of a diluted hybrid of rubbish left in the sun, and sugar.
5. Never cross until the green man flashes
I left the most important till last. If you ever plan on travelling to Germany, wait for the green man. Seriously, when you are stood at a traffic light, do not cross until you have been told to (or at least until the oldest person there has started walking). I have seen sporty pensioners literally chase young and devious J-walkers down the street for crossing when the red man is showing. You will be beeped at, people will scream and should die Polizei see you, you will be fined. I tried to play the dumb tourist card, but there really isn’t any sympathy for those of us that choose to risk our lives when we walk across a silent one way street at two in the morning (if the traffic light says otherwise).
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So there you have it, the fiercely quick, barefoot hating, all clothes wearing, Vittel drinking, green man flashing German race. It’s 100% worth a visit, just follow the rules, keep a straight face, and most importantly… be very, very sensible.