One thing I enjoy while traveling is finding little differences that make it apparent you’re in a new place. It reminds me that as interconnected and small the world sometimes seems, people have still evolved in parallel and not intersecting. They have found their own ways of doing things and seem happy to continue doing them that way rather than conform to what another part of the world has come up with. So I thought it would be fun to pass on a few of these little things as I encounter them to highlight new experiences with the German way of doing things.
Toilet Brushes – This seemed a little strange at first but every toilet has a toilet brush next to it. Every hotel room I’ve stayed in, every public bathroom I have visited, even every stall in the bathrooms at work has a toilet brush in it. As best as I can tell, German toilets are pretty uniform and only have a couple of inches of water in them between flushes so if you leave a mess, you’re expected to clean it up. (Note from Kristin: "Gross.")
Radio – Moving from Missouri to DC, I was excited about hearing lots more variety of music on the radio. Instead I found a world of Clear Channel owned stations that features lots more ads and less variety so I almost exclusively listened to my own music in the car. Here in Germany I enjoy listening to the radio again because the stations are so eclectic. Sure you get Top 40 like Maclamore’s Thrift Shop every so often, but you also hear a wide variety of songs in German, French, (British) English, etc.
Traffic Lights - The lights here go from green to yellow to red just like in the US but before changing back to green, they give you a little heads up by flashing yellow a few times while the red stays solid. This is helpful in a place where so many people drive cars with stick shift. Also, many new German cars will shut their engine off when you come to a full stop to save fuel and then restart it when you let off the brake (or depress the clutch) so it gives you that extra second to be ready when the green comes. Not that they're nearly in the hurry DC drivers (and Kristin) are to get to the next stoplight.
Airports - I've never waited more than 10 minutes to get through security and you just go through a metal detector with your shoes on. If you bing, they quickly wand you and wave you on. Fewer people are rushing around and with smaller limits on carry-on luggage, fewer people are toting two or three bags around. Best of all, there isn't a cocophony of "special security announcements" every 5 minutes and CNN blaring from TVs at the gates.
Smoking - Cigarettes and smoking are much more prevelant here. While in Japan we saw vending machines everywhere despensing food and drinks, around Stuttgart we see cigarette machines. There's even one attached to the apartment building next to ours in case anyone walking by needs to get some. Many bars also have smoking areas but fortunately they are confined to a separate room. Airports also have large smoking lounges sponsored by tobacco companies. It's not a big deal to me but coming from a city with so few smokers, or places to smoke, I have become hyper sensitive to it. It's nowhere near as bad as the bars in my college town!
Salads - While Germans love their meat and potatoes, I have been impressed with the salads that often accompany such a combination. Instead of the standard lettuce mix with a tomato on the side I'm used to, they often give you an interesting assortment of veggies and even include beets and/or potato salad. Which is nothing like German potato salad I see in Missouri but still good.