Monday morning. Super windy and grey outside. Ana is away today and part of tomorrow so while she is away I am going to make sure she has some content to read. 🙂
When I wrote the other day about writing and put it out there that I would be open to prompts, one of my loyal readers and dear friends sent one to me!
He writes, “You already mentioned you’ve absorbed the habit of “airing out,” what other habits have you gained, and what have you let go? Why have you chosen to let them go?”
I love this prompt. I have been marinating on it all weekend and making a little bit of a list although I am sure that I am missing things along the way. But let me give this a go….
German adaptations that I am aware of in my life…
- The practice of “airing out” our space – I mentioned this the other day and then Ana and I got in even more of a discussion about this because it isn’t just German. This feels a lot more European if I am honest and I am married to an advocate of this practice (she practices this multiple times a day). This is the practice of at least once a day opening up windows and the balcony doors to make sure fresh air flows through, even when it is freezing and gross outside. This happens even if you don’t think it stinks in your place but even when you think it is just a little bit stuffy. This happens whether you need it or not. When I mentioned to Ana that Americans really don’t do this practice, she was apalled. Everyone could use fresh air, she proclaimed! I told her that I have come to this as well but it isn’t a common practice at home. I do think it makes the feel fresher and it does feel rather healthy. It is a good way to revive onself midday as well or even make sure dinner doesn’t linger just in aroma. I will probably keep this one and even if I don’t, my spouse has it built into her dna. This will be part of home forever.
- Taking off your shoes when you enter into someones or your own home – When entering into anyone else’s home, even if you don’t know them very well, you take off your shoes. It is considered extremely rude to not. You enter the door and before coats or hats come off or anything is put away, the shoes come off and placed to the side where shoes belong. Sometimes, if you know you will be there for a while, people bring their own “house shoes” or what I would call slippers. Sometimes, households have extras for you to wear. Everyone has house shoes at their home.
- I feel like this is the opposite case in the US. You only throw off your shoes if you really know the person or they ask you take off your shoes. It would be weird to assume that you would just take off shoes immediately.
- I find myself feeling extremely weird when I am in the US and don’t take off my shoes upon entering a home. It is almost a relief if I feel comfy enough to do so in someones home becuase it just feels right now to be in my socks inside a home.
- I like this practice because it keeps from bringing dirt all over a home. At first it felt weird to just be in socks inside but it has become the thing to do. It is comfortable. It feels better about being in someone’s home without messy shoes. I may just continue to adapt this when I return.
- Direct Communication – This is one I talk about a lot. Germans communicate more directly than I have experienced groups of people and to be honest, it has really helped me out in my relationships. US Americans have a way about talking around whatever issues are present. They see this as the nice approach but often it leaves us all guessing what is really meant or what we should glean from a conversation. At first, I experienced this culture as extremely cold (and some if it is) but when it comes to realizing that this is just absolutely direction communication, it really has become appreciated. I don’t have to constantly guess what people mean because they will just tell you and then I have the freedom to just tell them what I am feeling and mean back. I hope to not lose this. It has only strengthened my relationships.
- Sundays are for actually having a full day off – When I first moved here, Ana took me to have afternoon Sunday cake and coffee with friends (another German adaptation that I will hold onto fastly). After an hour of sitting outside on this summer’s day, eating and drinking, I started to get antsy. Shouldn’t we head out? Don’t we all have things to do? But then we stayed…and stayed…and stayed….hours later we meandered off. Because here is the thing, everything else is closed on Sunday. No grocery stores. Shops are rarely open. Just restaurants and that’s it. Sundays are actually meant to be lazy and a day off here. They aren’t meant to be productive. This means people actually sleep in and eat lazy brunch for hours and catch up and hang out and do their thing. They take a day off. American’s tend to treat leisure also productively. Americans tend to need to report what they did on their days off to legitimize the day off. STOP IT! You NEED time just to be. Yes, I am not always great at this BUT I have come a long way and don’t want to return to every moment planned and productive.
- Which leads me to…scheduling! When Germans schedule friend time, it is hardly limited to an hour. When I am home and meeting up with people, the unspoken rule seems to be you get an hour. I can schedule in Oregon until my hearts content and no one blinks an eye. In Berlin, there is never a meeting that is only an hour or rarely. When my closest friend and I say we will be having a quick lunch because one of us has to work, we don’t make it work unless we actually have 1.5 hours to have a quick lunch. It doesn’t seem possible otherwise. Most often, friends prefer a two hour window of catching up it seems. I have one dear friend that when we meet I tell Ana, “Ok, I should be home in two hours” and she always responds, “or four…we never know!” I love the flexibility and the expectation to spend time without the urgency of the next thing. I will be working hard to keep that. (Again, with coffee and cake in the afternoon, perfection).
- In smaller adaptations I have adapted some cooking practices such as leeks as a main event and a good sausage is never hard to find and our fridge is always stocked with amazing cheese. When I shop, since our fridge and storage is smaller, we shop more for what we need each week with fresh bread nearby and perhaps a few days of groceries is all we need since our store is a two block walk away.
- This may be smaller or larger but language is also something I constantly adapt to and will not want to lose. My family tells me my English grammar has shifted in writing but it is so subtle that I tend to not notice in my own spaces. I hear this is common with English speaking immigrants to this place. We have adjusted and moved our words around as we learn.
As far as things that are different here that I really haven’t adapted to and haven’t felt the need or want to….
- The German art of lecturing – It seems as though the German population (especially older males) find it satisfying to lecture everyone else about a) what they perceive we are doing wrong or b) what else we should be doing. They don’t have to know you to gift you with a lecture in passing, in the grocery store, on the street, or just because. This, I feel, is something I really could give up and never miss. I have been lectured about my dogs in all sorts of lectures, not smiling, the need to have exact change, what forms I need, how I should do all sorts of things, etc.
- This directly leads into what I call the friendliness expectation…which it is not expected in Berlin. I am friendly and open person. In Portland, this means I talk to everyone and usually people talk back. They smile on the street and may even wave. Customer service is expected in a friendly manner. Not so here. Customer service is never expected. Friendliness seems to be reserved for those you know (which once you get to know Germans I will say they are loyal and kind and are super friendly at that point). BUT don’t expect that in passing on the street with strangers. (Caveat: if you are with dogs, all smiles happen for the pups. The pups are prizes in Berlin.)
- I don’t always understand the German sense of humor. The joke is that it doesn’t really exist although its there and different and sometimes hard to catch.
- And there are some foods I have a hard time hopping on the bus with…rotkohl or red cabbage being near the top of that list.
I am sure there are more thoughts to come but I hope you are enjoying the list…. 🙂