Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Life in Germany, Teil Eins

One thing you should know about Germany is that many stores, shops, and other businesses traditionally close for lunch. This tradition was perhaps, in origin, consistent, but now it means said businesses could be closed between 12 and 2 or 12:30 and 2:30 or 1 and 3, or basically anything between the two extremes, you never really know. Of course this variance is from store to store, not day to day (not quite clear from the preceding sentence). Or they may not close at all, since the tradition is apparently slowly giving way to capitalistic demands.
Only recently were stores given permission (yes, there was a law not allowing it) to remain open in the evenings. And Sundays are closed. In theory you're not even supposed to work in your garden, clean your car, or hang your laundry out on your balcony on Sunday. Sunday is reserved for worship. Of course restaurant or gas station employees apparently don't have definite worship rights. Bummer.
Besides that many stores (even restaurants) which are open Saturday also close on one day during the week.
Now I can appreciate the circumstances of the (very) small business where there's only one guy manning the shop and he can't spend 24/7 there - he's got to go shopping himself, not to mention eat, sleep, etc...But how many of those shops are even out there today?? That's exactly the point here in socialized Germany. It's not fair to that sole proprietor that other shops are open longer - he'll miss out on all those customers that come in the not-so-wee-hours of the ... afternoon and evening.
So clearly I'm a disgruntled American who is used to everything being open, if not 24/7, 9-9 Monday through Saturday and at least 12-6 on Sunday. Okay, taking a walk around a nearby lake with all the other Germans (seriously, they're ALL there) is healthier and more enriching for anyone's life, but the most relaxing Sunday activity has to be shopping (and at least your credit card gets to work out...but we'll save the credit card theme for another blog entry).
So now that I've made a short story long, this morning I had a frustrating experience of a similar nature. I've been needing to go to the library to take back my books (which I was quite proud of myself for at least thinking about, since 9 times out of 10 I don't think and get to pay the late fees). I couldn't go on Monday (when I usually remember) because it's, what a surprise, closed. So I waited until Wednesday morning between 10 and 12 when I knew they would be open. Chloe and I got ourselves ready and since I saw that it had been raining (although wasn't raining at the moment) I brought the rain cover for the stroller. Five minutes into our walk it started to rain. Quick! The plastic cover! And the umbrella for me! But damn, it's really windy, and the spokes of the umbrella were nearly hyperextended. But then I got things more or less under control, and we continued our expedition to the library (with constant vigilance regarding the wind-umbrella interaction).
When we got there it was closed. Although it wasn't Monday or Sunday or lunchtime or evening, it was closed. For training. And I ask: Why don't they do their training on Monday!?
This is one of the frustrating aspects of living in Germany. I know you're thinking that it's not a terribly significant thing, surely something that can be overlooked. Yes, I say, but it's an everyday thing, a not at all abstract thing, that happens all the time. And perhaps most importantly: when you've known something else, it's hard not to compare.

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