Fun in Germany
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/guide-to-germans/thumbs/thumbs_weimar-day-1-089.jpg]60Goethe was a touch annoyed at my irreverent humour.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/guide-to-germans/thumbs/thumbs_1454594_10201249103886051_1177928153_n.jpg]60National Bike Show at Bad Salzuflen.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/guide-to-germans/thumbs/thumbs_182729_1599579465794_7631159_n.jpg]50Cruising on ICE.
[img src=http://www.gregross.com.au/wp-content/flagallery/guide-to-germans/thumbs/thumbs_img_20160926_165737.jpg]50We're all nuts - some of us even crackers!
In post Christmas reflective mode – code for the second glass of red wine by 4.00pm on a lazy kinda Friday, deep in the heart of North Rhine-Westphalia – I feel, after several years of regular visits, I am well positioned to offer advice to the unsuspecting Aussie or Kiwi visitor; as follows.
- On arrival, you’ll find German customs and police officers more relaxed than their Aussie equivalents, it’s quite possible to get a smile, sometimes even a joke out of them! Don’t try it in Holland, their customs / border police are very serious – a smile could see you ushered into a side room! All of which segues into the fact that Germans do have a great sense of humour, you just have to wait for them to relax. Once they feel order has been established, a nervous smile appears.
- Meeting a German , especially men, for the first time in Germany, can be disconcerting. Yes, it is exactly as they do it in the movies – they sort of come to attention, their heels click together and almost salute, but then catch themselves and offer their hand, as they bow their heads slightly. Do not laugh!
- After a while, you too will find yourself clicking your heels together and bowing.
- Wine, beer, schnapps and malt whiskey can be bought very cheaply at almost every shop, including service stations.
- You don’t need a car, except perhaps in Baden Baden, or a little village (should you be running or hiding from somebody).
- Do not buy Duty Free Malt Whiskey at the airport of departure, or your airport of arrival (in Oz or NZ), buy the bottle at a German supermarket, you’ll save AUS $30.00 or $40.00 – in Kiwi terms, a day’s wages!
- There are no trucks, (except a few with special permits), on the roads on Sundays. Travelling by car? Firstly why? Secondly, if it’s long distance, go on the Sunday.
- The train system is great, although not infallible, don’t forget to stamp (validate) your ticket in the machine! Beware, advised platform numbers can change in an instant! Ask for help! Day or two, or three or week long passes are the go, as they apply to both trains and buses and are good value.
- There are four classes of trains – ICE (Inter Capital Express), IC (Inter Capital – not express), Regional – they’re the double storied red and grey trains and Local – often in colours of the region they operate in. All trains have toilets and they’re free … if they work!
- Although DB display carriage plans at the stations, nobody apparently tells whoever assembles the trains that there is a prearranged order, therefore at every station, people run up and down the platform desperately trying to find where on earth their carriage is. Be prepared for the mad chaotic scramble.
- You can buy your ticket on the local train, which is fine, as long as you read German. There’s a trick to make your fare cheaper – the queue to buy a ticket from the machine is usually long and if you keep putting yourself at the end of the queue, you’ll have gone through so many stations, your fare will be cheaper. You might even reach your destination before you’ve reached the machine! You can pick the students travelling!
- Flixbus coaches are a very cheap alternative to moving around, but remember you get what you pay for! Arrival and departure times change constantly without warning, drivers usually speak no English, announcements are all in German and it’s very chaotic. Often the wrong destinations are on the windscreen and so on.
- You might think you’re clever standing at the front of the queue at the coach front door, however the bus driver will get out, ignore you, light a cigarette (all Flixbus drivers smoke like chimneys) and go to the luggage compartment at the rear of the bus, where he’ll check the tickets of those with luggage and they get on the bus, finding seats first!
- Flixbus drivers spend every possible minute on the phone, often they have two phones. They do not stop talking on the phone even when checking tickets and certainly not if a passenger has a question.
- Fliixbus drivers do not help with luggage, you put it on and take it off!
- Beware, at stops, people scramble around to get their bags, sometimes putting somebody else’s bag on the pavement to get to theirs, but forgetting to put the other bag back on board. The bus drives off and nobody has any idea where your bag might have been dropped.
- A lot of Muslim families use Flixbus and it can be entertaining watching Muslim women and men panic if it looks like a man is going to sit beside one of the ladies. You’ll witness more seat swapping than in the back seat days of drive in movies.
- Every bus will be have several aggressive non Muslim young woman taking up two seats with their handbags beside them.
- Bakeries and Nordsee cafes are great cheap places to eat and very importantly, only the big hotels and department stores take credit cards, everyone else takes cash. Also nobody pay passes credit cards, it’s all code numbers and signatures.
- Take a shopping bag – Germans do not do plastic bags.
- If it’s clothes you need (see underpants below), the only place to shop is C & A – the department store complex is in every German city and town – excellent quality, fashionable and very well priced, often cheap – see underpants below!
- You’ll be given a receipt for everything, even a €1.00 lolly.
- Uber does exist in some cities, but taxis hold sway and they are not cheap!
- You will need your credit card to hand to the train guard along with your ticket and quite possibly your passport.
- ID is King in Germany – we had to hand over our passports at the Baden Baden Casino and we were then issued with ID cards with all our details on them.
- Get used to the sound of gunfire. The Germans are great hunters, everywhere you go, in any forest, close to roads, villages and anything else, there will always be hunters firing away at deer, boar, pigeons etc.
- Take lots of underwear – the Germans don’t usually have dryers and things in winter take a long while to dry, consequently, Germans have more underwear than anybody else on the planet. If you’re there for four weeks, take four weeks of underwear along.
- Germans don’t have laundromats all around the cities and towns and you won’t usually find laundry facilities at hotels.
- The Germans don’t do sheets (top and bottom) as we Aussies and Kiwis do, they have bettlaken – doonas which inevitably are too short to cover your feet all night.
- Germans are very relaxed about sex and nudity.
- Germans, like the English, have very small shower stalls – a bigger person has to crab in sideways and will often end up in hospital with damaged elbows (wounded on the shower sides.
- Don’t use soap in the shower – if you drop it, there is no room to bend over and pick it up, use shower gel.
- Germans, unlike the English, do have really good strong, hot showers.
- Germans do have fabulous oil – fired central heating – thank God!
- Don’t laugh at the thought of Long Johns – in winter they are essential!
- Long Johns are worn over underpants, they’re not a substitute!
- Going to the loo is expensive and a bloody pain in winter – no, I’m not referring to constipation! – all the layers of clothing that must be removed to get anywhere! If you are a customer at a cafe, the loo is free, but if not, or you’re at a station etc, you’ll pay anywhere up to €1.00 – taking the piss in Germany ain’t cheap!
- More bad news re loos – disconcerting really! Most loos have an attendant, who not only keeps the joint clean, but also seems to want to help you with the task and often it’s a woman. All becomes clear when you spot the saucer with small change in it. Leave 10c, or run!
- Shops are not open on Sundays.
- Germany is divided by religion! Protestant to the north and Catholic to the south.
- You’ll hear the appealing sound of church bells pealing quite often – North and South.
- Germans are not keen on electric blankets! Their birth rate should be a lot higher than what it is!
- Germans love hot water bottles, which may explain why their birth rate is not higher.
- German supermarkets sell everything, from food to clothes – you can get anything you want at them and really good food, (whether fresh, pre-packaged or frozen), is cheap and universally high quality.
- Every town, village and city will have professional beggars – they’re inevitably Eastern Europeans working in gangs, with well practised cripple movements.
- There isn’t a Muslim problem.
- There is a problem with Russian and Romanian gangs.
- There is a problem with Neo – Nazis, mostly in east German cities.
- On escalators, stand to the right. People will want to stride past you and will become very aggressive if you’re blocking them!
- Berliners take no prisoners, in queues, on escalators, or on the sidewalk.
- Remember the golden rule – There must be order!
- Germans will yell at you if you ignore the Don’t Walk sign and jaywalk. Crowds of them on either side of the street will very loudly berate you for not obeying the signs. As long as there isn’t a policeman in sight, it’s worth doing, just to hear and see the reaction.
- Germans ignore the order rule when queuing, in the manner (well, no manners really) of Chinese ladies at a shop sale, queuing is not particularly a concept they understand. Survival of the fittest is the rule – watch everyone around you for a sudden move!
- Germans react with shock if you are annoyed and say something like “Fuck this for a joke!” – (see survival of the fittest in Queuing above). It is, rest assured, a guaranteed method of getting the full, unnerved attention of whoever annoyed you.
- Germans eat huge breakfasts of fruit juice, cold meats, tomatoes, cucumber, fish and rolls with coffee and or tea.
- A German cannot go without the aforesaid breakfast.
- Germans cannot walk past a bakery, if more than 35 minutes has passed since they had a meal.
- Germans generally don’t do large dinners – lunch and or breakfast are their big meals.
- Do not refer to dinner as tea, a German will become very concerned and confused.
- Germans do recycling in a very big way. Every house has several bins, all of them too small and all of them designated for certain waste product, even the cities, town centres and stations have rubbish bins divided into separate sections. Indeed, so do the trains. Don’t get it wrong! (see jaywalking above).
- Germans like to go walking, hiking and push bike riding. It’s important to understand that weather conditions have absolutely no bearing on this! To a German, it’s perfectly normal to go for a three or four hour walk – probably calling into three bakeries and a restaurant, all while a force 7 gale is unfolding.
- Dogs are allowed everywhere, including trains. Cafes, hotels and restaurants all have dog water bowls around and often there is a dog food menu!
- When Germans first meet you, they will be reserved. Don’t be offended, this is because they suspect you are English. When they discover you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, suddenly you are best friends.
- The above paragraph does not apply during Oktoberfest – the mere hint that you are an Aussie, a Kiwi, a Pom, Scottish, or Irish will rightly bring down a cloud of suspicious resignation.
- Most Germans speak English, a lot better than most Aussies or Kiwis speak German.
- The above paragraph does not apply when in the old East Germany – anyone born twenty years or more before the Wall went down, speaks only fluent German and Russian.
- East Germans can seem aggressive – some are still annoyed that when the Wall went down, they didn’t get free BMWs and Mercedes and were expected to work six days a week – see neo Nazis above.
- Germans, like many countries, have several different dialects. In general, Northern Germans are easy to understand, but the further south you travel, the harder it gets. By the time you get to Bavaria, sign language will be your only hope and if you hop across the border to Switzerland, you’re in no man’s land – think a pissed Scotsman, or a sober Irishman.
- Drinking in the streets and in trains is fine – however Aussies and Kiwis really shouldn’t do this, if they’re binge drinking yobbos.
- The sign on a train windows featuring a bottle with a line through it, doesn’t mean No Drinking, it means Don’t throw the empty bottle out the Window! Which of course does mean there must be some German yobbos! Which segues into Soccer.
- In the same way Rugby is the national religion of NZ, Soccer is Germany’s religion, perhaps even above the church!
- And one last thing – Germans are not Austrians! This is like accusing an Aussie of being a Kiwi, or vice versa!
It’s a fabulous country, with fabulous people, armed with the above information, you should survive!