Monday, September 22, 2008
German Culture Lesson #1
A few different people have told me since moving to Germany that sometimes "culture shock" is worse in a place that is, for the most part, similar to the culture you come from. They say the reason is that things are similar enough to home that you unconsciously expect that most everything will be the same and when it's not it catches you completely off-guard, whereas in a completely new culture you don't really expect things to be the same. Some of my more difficult days here have definitely been when I felt like I had this living-in-Germany-thing pretty well under control and then haven't been able to do something simple like help the lady at the grocery store that insists on asking me about denture cleaners. I have no idea why she thought I looked like a denture expert! (There were tons of people in the store that day...many of whom were much older than me! :-) I ended up telling her I thought it was okay, but I was really frustrated that I couldn't understand what she was saying. We have also had some moments of "culture shock". One of these "moments" occurred many times this summer. We have come to learn that Germans believe that a draft will make you sick, maybe even kill you (especially if you're an infant). So even if it is 85 degrees outside and you're riding on the un-airconditioned train you cannot open your window (pictured above). If you do open your window people just come up and close it for you. I was caught so off-guard the first time this happened! They don't ask, they just walk up and close it. So funny! Some younger people apparently have not bought into this theory as much, so we always looked for cars with open windows on it when we traveled by train this summer. Now that it's getting cooler outside we've also learned that Germans believe it's good to sleep in a cold room...a really cold room actually. It is very common for Germans to turn the heat off in their sleeping room and leave their window wide open all night long! Crazy!! I haven't figured out yet why that draft is okay but the one on the train isn't. They will also leave a door or window open in winter to allow fresh air inside. Strange coming from people that hate drafts and are very energy-efficiency conscious! We haven't adopted this practice yet, but we've contemplated it just so it'd get cool enough in our apartment that we'd have a good excuse for Luke to start a fire in our fireplace! But I have a feeling those really cold days will be here soon enough!