Friday, May 21, 2010

rechts stehen, links gehen

Some people think German gardens are populated by garden gnomes. This is wrong. I’ve not once seen a garden gnome in a German garden. I have seen them for sale, but who’s buying them and planting them among the roses I don’t know. But Germany does have a number of sacred cows.

1. The Autobahn. One of the only roads in the civilized world without a blanket speed limit, although a 130 km/h limit is advised. Drivers definitely do speed along like there’s no tomorrow. The Autobahn is an untouchable – any arguments for a speed limit are laughed off.

2. Which brings me to the Mercedes. The Mercedes is a sacred icon.

3. Dark Bread. Germans are big into bread, dark bread. “Toastbrot,” the sliced white stuff, is not that popular and is usually limited to breakfast. They’ve got wheat, sourdough, rye, wheat-rye, whole grain, multigrain, bread with sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, linseed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Zopfbrot (Challah), pretzels, and hundreds of others. Many families don’t make a warm dinner, but serve “Abendbrot,” consisting of bread and cheese or cold cuts.

4. Sunday. Sunday is holy, even without church. All stores are closed. If it’s not the Church, it’s the unions hollering about how retail stores must remain shut for the sake of family and spirituality. Besides that, you are kindly required to make no noise on Sunday. No lawn mowing, for example. And if you live in an apartment or row house, no drilling or vacuuming or vibrating. Makes life tough, if you have to work, that is.

5. The Advent calendar. It is not Christmas unless you’ve done the chocolate countdown. In America I think these are considered hoity-toit, at least I thought so when I first saw one. But here it’s de rigueur from top to bottom.

6. Wurst, as in bratwurst. In the German version of the Bible, Eve tempts Adam with a bratwurst. Some suspect it was a bockwurst, but the pictures aren’t so good.

7. Order. Germany is one of the few places where you may be reprimanded by strangers for not minding the rules. Recently I was waiting to cross the tram tracks with my daughter, who’s 13. The tram pulled away and no others were coming, so we crossed even though the light was still red. The woman next to us began yelling about how she had been standing there waiting so as to be a proper model for my child. I was sorry for wasting her time.

13 comments:

Kass said...

Das praktische Wissen!
I now feel I can visit Germany.

SarahJane said...

Oh, and I thought you already had!

Anonymous said...

Though the rules sound archaic and male-oriented, once the ground rules are set it's fairly easy to go with the flow. I like a good brown bread, I can pretty well avoid vibrating or keeping my vibrating to a minimum on a Sunday, and the MErcedes is a nice car to drive or be driven in. I'm not big on wursts; what's more odd is that Eve tempted Adam with it, I would have thought it would have fit the narrative better had it been the other way around.

ron hardy said...

Hi Sarah. In the late 60's I was on the Autobahn in a car traveling about 90 mph. It was early on a Sunday morning, very little traffic. Suddenly over the crest of a hill comes a small white car barely three feet high. With his emergency lights blinking he passes us like we were at a stop sign. We actually looked down to see the car. Later we found out it was a factory 2.2 litre Porsche being driven to Le Mans, the 24 hour endurance race in France. He broke the Sunday noise rule. But then again that white Porsche may have been holier than Sunday rules.

SarahJane said...

So you know the joke what's the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine?

ron hardy said...

Ok Sarah, I'll bite.

SarahJane said...

With a porcupine, the prick is outside.
I heard the joke this week in relation to this story:
http://www.thelocal.de/society/20100518-27269.html

ron hardy said...

a friend at work just came back from Switzerland. She observed that the Swiss are very tidy and tend to get publicly ruffled if people don't obey the rules. Would you say that your experience crossing against the light, the Sunday rules, and this prick taking a kid to the police station for throwing dandelions at his Porsche are symptomatic of a culture that strives for obedience? Or are these just anomalies?

SarahJane said...

Anomolies they are not.
Still, I'm not sure order and obediance are the same thing.
And the younger generation... well, meine Güte!
That said, I ALSO don't cross on red if a child is waiting. But 13 is not really such a child anymore.

ron hardy said...

I guess where I'm headed is down the road to Nuremberg where many seemed to cop to "I followed orders for my country". I think you're gut instinct is right about order and obedience. A lack of distinction can be fatal.

Tracey said...

S-- It's been ages since I've been able to read your lovely blog (prior it was a daily affair and currently I'm in Nepal) Thanks for bringing me back and putting a smile on my my face... hope you and the family are all doing well. *shanti

NE said...

I've never been to Germany, but I was once accused of being German while in Russia (the USSR at the time). I was a teenager at the time, standing in an elevator of a Moscow hotel, when a man entered and looked at me.

"Deutsche?" he said (or whatever the word is for "German?"). I didn't understand him and he could tell from my expression, so he said, "Deutscheland?" (forgive any spelling errors here).

Picking up on the "land" part, I thought he had said "Dutch Land" as if I was the Little Dutch Boy from Nether, Netherlands. So I replied, "No, American. United States."

He suddenly looked like he had indigestion and stared at the floor numbers for the rest of the descent.

Ding!

SarahJane said...

Hi Tracey - I hope you're having a good trip. I'm missed your blog and book opinions.

NE - why "accused?"

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