Top 5 Strange Things about Germany

1.       Access to Medicine

People regularly cross the tracks (left) despite the fact that the 300kmph ICE passes through here many times a day. Yet you can’t buy paracetamol.

Germany is a nation known for its no speed limit autobahns, where the German citizens happily zoom up and down at 100+ miles an hour, all day every day, while moaning about our motorways like we’re the mental ones. Yet you can’t buy paracetamol in the supermarket because of the government’s fears that you might top yourself. When I was in a pharmacy and I asked for the medicine. The sale assistant showed me an aisle full of herbs and honey. I stated “No the REAL medicine” she looked at me intensely as if she was checking that my eyes were functioning properly. “This is the REAL medicine” and she walked off shaking her head. To get paracetamol you have to go to the Apotheke and describe your symptoms to see if you are deemed fit (or unfit as the case is) for the product. It’s only open during school hours and even then it is 5€ a box. I had my mum to send it over; it was substantially cheaper and more convenient.

2.       Girls school wear

Girls in Dirndls show more individuality than the average German girl day to day!

As Germany is situated between France and Italy home to two of the biggest fashion capitals of the world, it baffles me how German girls only have the one look. As in Germany there is no such thing as a school uniform, day in day out girls all across Germany squeeze into their skinny jeans, hike into their converse and slap a T-shirt on top. In school we were dying to express ourselves and from a fashion forward place like Britain I really find it hard to comprehend their lack of desire to spread individuality (she types in her sweatpants). Their banal fashion could possibly be down to the fact that the only cheap, fashionable young girls clothes shop they have in Germany is H&M, but even they, I believe, sell dresses, skirts and all manner of items of clothing. Come on ladies mix it up a bit. It’s even the norm to wear jeans, T-shirt and flats to a club!

3.       “Salad” and lack of it.

Not a vegetable in sight at the Hofbräuhaus. On the left meat with potato dumplings and the veggie option macaroni cheese.

I had to put this in air quotes for you see what the Germans deem to be salad isn’t quite the case. Pretty much anything that is sliced is a salad. Half strips of pink sausage, half mayonnaise there my friend you have a “Fleischsalat” a perfectly good lunchtime snack. Once when picking food in the cafeteria I picked up cauliflower only to find it was cold and covered in vinegar, oh my bad it is a “Blumenkohlsalat”. Once one of my colleagues was making a salad for a dinner party, and what did it consist of: lettuce, kidney beans, corn, chilli, nachos, mince meat and slathered in sour cream. “Oh tacos” “No it’s a salad it has lettuce in”. Then again this is a nation that thinks rollmops is a perfectly acceptable snack.

4.       Crossing the Road

Even on a road as empty as this people still wait for the green Ampelmann. Personally, I am standing in the road taking this picture!

Linking back to the Germans perception of what is dangerous. Commuters in Germany day in and day out run across railway track to save time. (Or at least they did in Rodenbach and many other villages my friends lived in) However crossing the road in a similar (but far less deadly) fashion is way out of the question. Not only is there a 40€ fine if you get caught, but Germans are simply baffled by the idea of looking yourself for when it is safe to cross. My German friend asked me if all British kids are taught to walk across the road when they want from an early age!! Maybe we just have good timing.

5.       Small Talk

Memories of this conversation are definitely hazy. Note how were both wearing hoodies to a club!

German bluntness may be a stereotype but it is a very true one. Germans are not known to “nimm ein Blatt vor den Mund” (literally put a leaf over their mouth) or mince their words. If your new jeans don’t fit you, your German friend will tell you all about it, and that’s not all. Germans use the word “smalltalk” because really small talk doesn’t exist in German. Talking to convey information is efficient and concise. So if your doctor doesn’t ask how you are before getting down to the nitty gritty, they aren’t being rude, they are being German.

Have you been to Germany? What weird things have you noticed?

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14 thoughts on “Top 5 Strange Things about Germany

    • Thanks for the kind words. I love Germany so much, I miss leaving there all the time. Maybe because it’s the first time I had my own flat but still. I think it may always have a piece of my heart!

  1. On my last (recent) trip I spent 22 hours on the plane, 3 hours on the train, then whisked off for lunch (was a midnight snack on my Sydney time), then sightseeing, then to see the grandmother of a friend who said (in German – not realising I could understand) that I should smile more…after being awake for more than 30 hours! Since I apparently couldn’t understand, I didn’t smile in response!haha

  2. I love this, they are all so true! If I was German I would just wear a Dirndl dress everyday! I was baffled about the lack of vegetables and the waiting to cross the road too!

  3. Everyone always talks about the bureaucracy being so formidable, but at times everything can go just blitzschnell without a hitch. Today, for example, I needed a “beglaubigte Kopie” of a certificate (granted, it was a German certificate, that makes it easier). I was in and out of the Behörde in less than ten minutes after paying all of six euros. Including the walk to and from work the whole business took me less than 20 minutes. At other times, wild horses won’t get them to budge.

    • Once I had to file a document or something. I can with a very angry letter telling me to do so immediately. The office I had to go to was in a city 30 minutes away (and a 30 minute walk from the station once I was there) and it closed at 12pm. Obviously not open on Sat-Mon. Please tell me Germany what a working woman is meant to do. Needless to say I never did it.

    • Before you have to go to any Behörde, make sure to check their opeing hours in advance – because they are ridiculous! Even we Germans tend to make fun of the people working in Behörden because they’re open from 12 to 12:15 pm with a coffee break from noon till quarter past twelve ;) But usually Tuesdays and Thursdays are days, when they are open “longer” (means till 4 or even 6 pm)

      …and as a fellow vegan I might add that eating out tends to be easier in bigger cities and places that are not that rural – especially restaurants that serve “Hausmannskost” (traditional German dishes) tend to ignore the existence of vegans or even vegetarians. I got used to cooking my own meals or asking for special dishes like salad without cheese or cheeseless vegetable pizza. If you’re not that good speaking German, I can recommend the vegan passport (http://www.vegetarianguides.co.uk/products/veganpassport.shtml).

      Your article is great though, definitely well observed, especially Germans being incredibly blunt :-D

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