March 11, 2011 – More Observations about Germany

Day 58

Water Costs Money

Now if somebody asked me what I didn’t like about Germany, I would say that it is how water here costs money. In Vancouver (not sure about the rest of Canada), water is free. We use as much water as we want and it costs us nothing. However, we do pay for the energy to heat the water. In Stuttgart, people pay for each cubic meter of water they use. Those that don’t want to spend more money than they have to (most people) know how to take a shower in less than like five minutes. I am used to enjoying my showers and taking over ten minutes in the shower. After realizing that water here is so expensive, I too, must now start thinking about my water use. Apparently, on average, people only use one cubic meter of water. I somehow managed to use seven. Clearly, I like to take my time in the shower.

Being Foreign Attracts Attention

On many occasions, I had random strangers start talking to me. I believe it is a combination of two things. The first is that I’m Chinese and the second being that I speak English to the people that I’m with. Almost everyone has this kind of sixth sense where they know someone is looking at them. This happens to me all the time. It’s almost as if people here have never seen an Asian before. This happens most often in the small towns. In the city, it doesn’t happen as much and is probably because more Chinese people live in the city center. And on three occasions, I’ve had people say stuff to me that had to do with me being Chinese. The first was when this random guy at the train station looked at me and said “ni hao” as he was walking by. The second was this kid that looked twelve years old who said “good evening Chinese person”. The third was someone really drunk on the metro who said “ni hao ma” to me. Yes, “ni hao” is probably the most common Chinese phrase that non-Chinese speakers know, but it doesn’t mean they have to go around saying it to Chinese people they see. Even though I’m Chinese, I end up speaking English most of the time. Whenever I go on trips with my friends from Bosch, the only common language between our group is English. On a few occasions, the locals would talk to us in English. I don’t know why. Maybe they want to practice their English or something. Or that they have an urge to speak to foreigners.

Drinking in Public

In Vancouver, one could get a ticket for drinking in public. In Germany, it’s perfectly okay. When I go home late at night, there’s always people walking around with beer bottles on the street. Some of them drink on the subway, or even on the regional trains. I’ve also seen people drinking in the morning. I found that even more unusual. I’ve even been offered a drink in the morning by a random stranger on the metro. I respectfully declined.

Churches and Castles Are Everywhere

Out of every city I’ve been to so far, almost all of them have at least a castle or an old church. It’s understandable though, because so much of the architecture was left over from the past. But whenever I go anywhere, seeing castles and churches doesn’t seem as interesting as before. Unless of course, it’s extra special like the Dom in Cologne, or the Hohenzollern Castle.

Some Restaurants Have Their Own Breweries

I thought this was super cool. The fact that some restaurants brew their own beer means that they brew it in their own unique way. As a result, each restaurant’s beer tastes a little different. Weizen from place A might taste better than the Weizen from place B. I always though Pils was too bitter for my taste. But yesterday, I tasted good Pils.

The New York Yankees

This team is probably the only team that sells the most merchandise to people who aren’t a fan of them. In North America, I always see people wearing hats with the Yankees logo on it. Most of them weren’t fans of the team. It was a fashion statement. Apparently, people in Germany do it too. I doubt most of them even watch Baseball. I see little kids wearing Yankees toques.

Dogs That Bark Don’t Bite

Now this is a theory that I don’t really want to test, but Germans say this a lot. I don’t know the logic here. Everyday when I go to work, these two dogs in someone’s backyard will always bark at me. For as long as I’m in their line of sight, they’ll bark. I don’t know if they’re happy or angry. I don’t know much about dogs. But I assume they’re angry when they start mixing in growling with their barking. According to the Germans, those dogs won’t bite.

Weird Obsession with Carbonated Water

Carbonated drinks are popular everywhere, but here I see people drinking carbonated water and carbonated juice all the time. At work, every other desk has a bottle of those drinks on it. My landlord buys giant crates of it. I’ve tried it, and frankly, I find it to taste the same as their non carbonated counter-parts. The only thing extra is the fizzing. Is that why people must have it?

Lax Smoking Laws

This is probably my biggest pet peeve. I hate the smell of cigarettes. In Vancouver, people must be a certain distance away from the entrance of a building in order to smoke. In Stuttgart, people smoke indoors. People smoke inside the train station, inside bars, and inside the office building where I work. I suppose this is really good practice for holding my breath as I walk past those people. I feel like I’m shaving years off my life every time I smell the smoke.