50 SOUTHERN GERMANY OBSERVATIONS

I HAVE ONLY been here for about ten weeks now, but have already been able to curate quite a long list of things I’ve noticed about Southern Germany. Are you ready? Here is what I know:

1. Germany has designated parking spots for women. This could be seen as either extremely chivalrous or borderline sexist, but proves to be especially useful in parking structures, either way.

2. Water in Germany is quite expensive, and they charge for it at restaurants. This is mainly because sparkling water is the popular go-to when dining out, despite the high quality tap water.

3. Germans are the kings of mixed drinks and have names for practically every drinkable combination of liquids. Examples: Apfelschorle (apple juice + sparkling water), Hugo (Prosecco + sparkling water + elder flower syrup), and Spezi (Coke + orange Fanta). Plus, why stop at just a white wine spritzer when in Germany you can order red?

4. In keeping with this, Germans even enjoy mixing beer with fruits such as lemon and banana, and cola (Radler, Bananenweizen and Colaweizen). For a country known for its superior beer production and purity law, this is a bit unexpected.

5. German public bathrooms, or WC, are famously clean – even at Oktoberfest. This is often due to the fact that patrons must pay (usually up to 1€) to use a public restroom.

6. Germans love Helene Fischer and think she is überragend, or outstanding. (And, contrary to popular belief, they aren’t huge fans of David Hasselhoff.)

7. Female nudity is, apparently, no big deal in Germany. Though jaywalking in front of children is a big no-no, openly displaying adult magazines or boobie calendars at the book store is quite alright.

8. Germans have this thing about privacy on social media, and rarely will you see their full names on Facebook. It is common to break up their first name into two parts (like Fel Ix or Wern Er), or change their last name to an inanimate object  (example: Clara Ketchup or Dennis Twostones).

9. Contrary to the belief that Germans are serious people, they are actually quite excitable – especially while watching sports or singing songs. In fact, it is rare that you’ll attend a birthday party or Besenwirtschaft without someone playing an accordian or singing a Lied. I’ve even heard songs about parsley. (Yes, the herb.)

10. “Have you been on the Autobahn?!?” Sigh. This does not mean fast road. The word Autobahn just means highway, so I’m sure the answer to this question is often, yes ( – though, it’s very true that some stretches of highway do not have a speed limit).

11. Speaking of the Autobahn, Germany has a frustrating amount of speed traps, known as Blitzer. And they aren’t painted an obviously bright neon orange, either, so visitors shouldn’t get used to driving too fast in the Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, or other amazing German brand car that they’ve rented for the trip.

12. There are at least 30 holidays that German employees must take off from work. This includes many spring holidays like Easter Monday, May Day, Corpus Christi, Whit Monday, and Ascention Day (which is called Christi Himmelfahrt there and translates directly to Jesus Sky Drive – awesome!).

13. Sales tax in Germany is a whopping 19%, but is conveniently included before checkout to avoid any surprises.

14. At restaurants, patrons pay for their meal at the table when finished (which can be a bit awkward when declaring how much tip money a server may keep). Also, because servers earn minimum wage they aren’t so motivated by tips, making service very leisurely. If you’re eating alone, be sure to bring a good book – it might be 15 minutes before someone takes your drink order. ;)

15. Bakeries. There are bakeries on nearly every corner, in every town, each offering pretzels, croissants, sandwiches, cakes, muesli, and more. It’s heavenly, really. And some even open for a few hours on Sundays in case, like me, you haven’t anything to eat at home.

16. Swabians (or southwest Germans) prefer to make their own noodles known as Spätzle. These can be smothered in gravy, topped with butter and breadcrumbs, stirred together with melted cheese, or even added to soup (like Gaisburger Marsch). It’s hard to find a Swabian who doesn’t know how to make Spätzle from scratch.

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17. Germans love to paint pictures on buildings – murals of pigs, murals of people, murals of men sawing a log in half…you get the idea. And the typical concrete walls of German buildings provide a perfectly smooth canvas.

18. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you will most likely hear the sound of a train and/or the ringing of church bells at any point during the day, with the exception of 1-3 pm, (Germany’s quiet time), when church bells are prohibited from ringing.

19. Germans bottle a majority of their 0.5 liter sodas in glass bottles. It reminds me of the 1950s (though I didn’t live through them), and it tastes better.

20. Germany is densely populated and the houses are typically very close together. Unless you live out in the country, or on a farm – in which case, you might have a broom on your porch indicating that you are a Besenwirtschaft and we should step inside from some wine!

21. It is common for home owners (especially elders) to grow their own produce in a garden. Not all families do, but compared to the neighbors of mine in Michigan which have only a tomato trellis in their yard, I’d say the ratio is a bit higher.

22. In the case that a German does not have a garden, but desires one, they can rent a small plot of land called a Kleingarten. Here, they may cultivate a garden and enjoy the fruits of their labor by resting in a small hut, which is also located on the land.

23. German windows were engineered by geniuses. Seriously. The cute mullions seen in American windows are missing, but they are so versatile it almost makes it worth it. With a quarter turn of the handle you can swing the windowpane wide open, shake out your rug, or hollar “hello” to the neighbors; turn it 180 degrees and the window will tilt downward, venting only a few inches at the top. The upside: cleaning both sides of the glass is a breeze. The downside: the windows are typically without screens – and the bugs know it.

24. I am sad to report that Germans do not import or produce Ranch Dressing (I don’t think Lidl’s CEO understands how much money he would earn in this area of the market) and are also not huge fans of peanut butter flavoring. Finding a Reeses in a shopping market here is like finding a needle in a haystack.

25. Speaking of snacks, Germans have some strange ones – including Nic Nac’s (peanuts coated in a crunchy, barbecue-like shell); Paprika chips (their snack market is truly in love with paprika); and Erdnußflips (think cheese puffs, only peanut flavored).

26. Germans do not fancy drying their clothes in a dryer, so you’ll often enjoy the smell of laundry detergent wafting through the air. (After a while, you get used to the neighbors seeing your panties on the line.)

27. Germans are known for being very punctual, or pünktlich. And what I find amusing is how some Germans will look up schedules on the Deutsche Bahn train website, so it’s not even, ‘Hey, let’s meet around 6,’ but rather, ‘Hey, let’s meet at exactly 18:07.’ (The sad thing is, Deutsche Bahn is at least five minutes late 50% of the time.)

28. Germans really know how to eat – fork in the left hand, knife in the right – and never seem to drip sauce or dressing on themselves, even when their meal is nearly swimming in it.

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29. The Swabians have many Sprichwörter, or phrases, that they seem to live by. Example? “Schaffe, schaffe, Häusle bauen”, (basically meaning work hard and build a house), and don’t procrastinate (“Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen”)!

30. The Swabians use the word genau in nearly every other sentence. It means ‘exactly’ – which leads me to also believe that they are very precise speakers.

31. Germans are stubbornly proud of their states, districts, villages, regions, dialects, entirely different vocabularies, traditions, festivals, and basically the fact that they are entirely different from a village that is 1 kilometer away.

32. Germans value their bread and have hundreds of types. One of those types happens to be American sandwich bread; however, this is simply referred to as ‘American Toast’ on some packages. I don’t think it’s good enough to be considered actual bread. :)

33. Germans love their leather shoes. Leather tennis shoes, leather boots, leather sandals, and even leather ‘house shoes’. Their boot game in winter is also seriously strong.

34. Lunch is the equivalent of an American dinner, and usually consists of something warm. Vesper, a meal of bread, meats, and cheeses, is often ate in lieu of an evening dinner.

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35. Germans largely adhere to the regulations that exist and love a good rule. They rarely jaywalk and are sure to give you a judgemental stare if you do this – especially if in front of Kinder.

36. They love Schnapps of all flavors, from crème brûlée to the traditional pear. It is also customary to receive a round of schnapps after a meal, or after praising the Christmas tree. “Gee, your Tannenbaum is very schön!” “Dankeschön! Would you like a taste of Williams?”

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37. Despite the German’s usually fit physique, the candy aisle at most grocery stores is huge – imagine an entire wall filled with cookies, Haribo, marzipan, and dozens of brands of chocolate. (Fun fact: Germans also like to hide things in their chocolates, like toys or shots of liquor.)

38. It’s mere speculation, but I think the Germans struggle with the concept of naked feet – they usually prefer to wear their sandals with socks, and my mother-in-law is often asking if I’d like to borrow some.

39. Germans enjoy American T.V., and dub everything from “The Big Bang Theory” to “Storage Wars”. I am also fairly certain that you can find “Scrubs” on at least one channel at any time of day (dubbed, of course).

40. Germans love meat in all its incarnations: fried, canned, and dripping in gravy. They even eat meat as a salad (Wurstsalat), but their favorite has to be the loveable meat that has been processed and stuff into stomach lining. Germany has over 1,000 types of sausage.

41. The Germans love to recycle and divide their trash in many different categories. For example, to ensure that glass is not thrown in the wrong bin, you must pay a deposit fee, or Pfand, at a bar or concession stand when purchasing a bottled drink. It is extremely rare to see a German throw out a recyclable bottle and, if they do, a passerby will most likely pull it out and return it themselves.

42. Dozens of TV channels play “Dinner for One” on New Year’s Eve, and everyone seems to gather around the Fernseher to watch it. What’s funny is not only the national obsession with a 1960s British comedy, but also the fact that it has nothing to do with New Year’s Eve, and that it is the one film on TV that they don’t dub.

43. Germans can open a beer bottle with just about anything – the couch, a cell phone, a lighter, or even another beer bottle. It’s as if they are all taught in school, in preparation for a lifetime of beer consumption.

44. Stores are never open on Sundays. So if you’re hungry after church and your refrigerator looks like mine usually did in college, you better hope your neighbors are willing to share more than a cup of sugar.

45. Most German cities were built around a wide, open space at the town’s center, known as the Marktplatz. In history, Marktplätze were used as a meeting place to sell products and goods – today they are used for outdoor seating at restaurants, weekend markets, and as the setting for a local Weinachtsmarkt or other festival.

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46. Germans do not believe in having one single bed comforter. Rather, each larger bed gets two small comforters, with the purpose that each sleeper gets their own blanket. This practicality is not so romantic, but nor is the fact that a full bed is often just two twin matresses pushed together.

47. Germans love their hobbies. A favorite hobby seems to be nordic walking, as I see many people walking trails wearing Jack Wolfskin jackets and carrying what appear to be ski poles. It looks silly, but it seems to be working in the weightloss department.

48. Generally speaking, Germans love celebrating. Runder Geburtstag, or round birthdays like the 50th, are commonly celebrated in most western countries, but the Germans celebrate every single birthday in their lifetime with a dinner party, and gifts are normally expected. They also love beer stalls, singing, french fry stands, wagons full of gingerbread hearts, singing, candied nuts and crepes. And singing. Did I already mention singing?

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49. Germans can have entire conversations that consist solely of the word doch. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit – but it is a good word to use when arguing, and basically means: “Yeah-huh, I’m right.”

50. Germans are often more reserved when it comes to forming friendships, and may not accept you into their circle of friends right away. But they are loyal, and once you have made a true German friend, it is likely that you will have them for life.

 

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