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Thread: Germany - Gemuetlichkeit with Ordnung, Bitte!

  1. #1

    Germany - Gemuetlichkeit with Ordnung, Bitte!

    Germany - Gemuetlichkeit with Ordnung, Bitte!



    Guten Tag/Gruss Gott/Moin moin/Hallo!

    OK, you've decided to do the Old Country thing. You've arranged for a bike rental. Chances are, you got a good deal on tickets to either Amsterdam, Frankfurt or Munich where you'll pick up your ride and head out. But no matter how you've planned it you're probably going to spend some time traversing the Vaterland, Germany. So what should you expect?


    Languagewise, you probably won't have a problem. Almost all Germans speak English. It's required in schools and it's a given in jobs involving public contact. So don't worry. If one person doesn't speak English, the guy next to him or her will. Language, you'll find, is the last thing to worry about.




    ORDER: THE ORDER OF THE DAY

    Culturally is where things are a bit different. Germany is obsessed with order. Germans are pretty self-effacing about these things; they recognize this obsession but many see it as a strength. They tell a joke about how Germans once wanted to protest against what they thought was unjust government policy. To confront authorities a big rally was planned in a city park. Thousands turned out punctually at the prescribed time (see below). But when they got there they saw there were signs all over saying, "Stay off of the grass".

    So they all went home.

    And they will, too, if quitting time is 5 p.m. So don't walk into a store at 4:55 just because the sign says "...open 9 til 5". If a restaurant says it's open until 10 p.m. and you just make it at quarter to, you'll be eating in the dark at 10:05.

    In fairness, this isn't discourtesy. There are cultural and legal reasons why this is so. It can be explained, but let's not do that here. Just be forewarned and expect it.

    And order, or "Ordnung", is a given in things like paperwork and procedures. Expect these things to take time. There's a hierarchy that's part of life there, and you may have to contend with it. You can go a long way toward minimizing unpleasantness by asking ahead of time about what you'll need for rentals, pre-payment, reservations, etc. So allow a little extra time for the process.


    PUNCTUALITY: ZEIT IST GELD (TIME IS...)

    OK, you've got jet lag and your body clock's broken, the hotel bed was sprung with granite, and you haven't eaten since Detriot. At least there's a buffet breakfast! It's 9:30 a.m. and downstairs you go to chow down only to find a razed buffet with one cold boiled egg, three pieces of white bread for toast and half a piece of what looks like cheese. Breakfast, it turns out, was from 7 to 9.

    Nobody hates you. A sympathetic waiter might even roust up a plate of fresh fixings and a pot of coffee for you. But don't be surprised if your first "free" breakfast is slim pickin's if you're tail-end Charlie at the buffet. This is where a forced smile will serve you well. Just make a mental note for tomorrow and ask the desk clerk if there's a Baeckerei (bakery) in the area. You'll pay a bit extra this first time around but it'll be fresh, hot and good.

    And for good measure, when you show up for your next morning buffet don't just grab your fare and plop down at a table. Hit everyone you meet with a well-meant "good morning!". It's the way it's done.


    Germany's Mosel River -- 150 miles of scenic twisting riverside wine country road,
    and about 80 miles as the crow flies.


    FATHERLINESS IN THE "VATERLAND"

    Germans are very helpful. Even when you don't need it. You'll have no trouble getting directions to where you want to go. In addition, advice -- wanted or otherwise -- flows freely. And counsel can come in a flood if someone feels you've erred. I think this sometimes stems from the misconception Germans have about Americans. We're open and friendly, which many Germans see as naivity -- sort of culture-challenged new world country cousins.

    When I first went to Germany and picked up my new car I thought it prudent to drive with my parking lights on. Not yet having acquired the lingo, I simply thought all the people who kept pointing at my new wheels were simply admiring it. Some actually stopped right in the crosswalk, dead still, pointed and talked a blue streak about something or other.

    It wasn't until I was at work in my new job that a neighbor in my apartment building made it clear that driving with parking lights on was a no-no. A minor transgression, it turns out, but the sort of thing Germans can't resist squaring away. As you'll be driving in a land where driving is considered a fine art, you'll no doubt need enlightenment. So pretend to be enlightened and thankful. It's really well-intended. And they may just be right.


    WHAT'S IN A NAME?

    OK -- Is it "Hans" or "Herr Schulz"? Frau or Frauelein Schmidt?

    For us "Amis" (Americans), the whys and wherefores of this question can last many beers. So let's take the easy way out: first names are for friends and family, and Herr or Frau for all others. Within the scope of bike touring you're going to deal with companions and maybe never-before seen relations. These you can call by first name. All others, Herr or Frau.

    This isn't really so different from here except there's a tendency here to quickly move to first names. Not so there. If you meet a rental agent named "Hans Schulz", he's Herr Schulz, not Hans, unless he specifically asks you to do otherwise. The same when meeting his manager, Eva Schmidt -- Frau Schmidt, to you. So err on the side of formality. You can't go wrong, particularly when dealing with those of greater age.

    As for the possibility that Frau Schmidt is really Frauelein Schmidt, don't try to second guess whether she's single or married. Unless introduced and learning otherwise, stick with "Frau Schmidt".

    And you, Mr. Jones? When introducing yourself just say, "Jones, Guten Tag!". I know it sounds abrupt, but it's correct.
    Last edited by webistrator; 03-11-2007 at 12:17 AM. Reason: Added more images

  2. #2

    Thumbs up Re: Germany - Gemuetlichkeit with Ordnung, Bitte!

    Very well put, you are correct on all counts
    Bravo Slink

  3. #3

    Re: Germany - Gemuetlichkeit with Ordnung, Bitte!

    Hi, Slink.

    Yeah, I'm sticking my neck out a bit here. But 14 years over there gave me some insights and every time I return with bunch of folks on a bike or boat tour I find things haven't changed much!

    Thanks for the good words!

    Webbie

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