Save a Conga line and a carton of broken eggs, you may have noticed that January and February saw a general lack of, how do I say, interesting posts. Why? Because I fell into a routine of biking to school on dark, grey mornings, biking back on slightly lighter, grey afternoons, frantically sending grad school applications to whoever’ll have me, waging war against German adjective endings while forcing inexplicable English grammatical constructions and pronunciation on students, and watching lots of Mad Men because it’s just so dang grey and cold outside. This, compounded by what I affectionately call my Fundless February (Fulbright thought I could use the extra challenge of doing without my full pay) made for a, well, less-than-glamorous winter. I’m not really complaining (despite every single word I just uttered); in fact, these past couple of months have really been something I needed, in a way. I saw Germany not when it was on display for tourists; I saw it when it was dismal and cloudy and closed, which in a way is one of the perks of this year – it’s not a whirlwind trip, there is no sense of “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium,” so sometimes there’s just… routine. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying routine doesn’t make for good travel blogs.
But let’s move on to March. The sun is out, birds are chirping, crocuses are croaking, Chacos are on, ice cream shops are open, students are getting restless: dare I suggest that maybe spring might be approaching? Or am I being too forward? At any rate, before I’m overcome by sunshine- and sandal-induced cheerfulness and general goodwill, I want to take this moment to spring clean the crotchety winter blues out of my system, and so I bring you:
Why Germany Sucks,
Although I Mean That as Affectionately as Possible
- Public Transportation
I know Europe sounds like a Utopia of stepping on a train in Frankfurt and alighting in Moscow or Istanbul, but Utopia propagandists don’t tell you about the layovers, the missed connections, the rerouted and cancelled trains, train strikes, the lack of seating in warm parts of stations, or worst of all, the rowdy drunks. Maybe I’m 23 going on old, but I’m all for them designating a party car way far away from my seat.
It’s astounding, the difference in attitudes towards smoking. Home, it’s assumed you don’t smoke until proven otherwise; here, the other way around. Every street corner boasts a cigarette vending machine; in the 15-minute breaks between classes, students stand outside in hazy clumps, puffing away; my favorite, though, is the yellow squares traced on train platforms designated as smoking areas.
Everything is closed. There’s something quaint about that, sure, but also something inconvenient.
- Water fountains
Or the lack thereof.
1) You have to pay for public usage, and
2) A lot of them, including mine, look like this:
Schnitzel with noodle may be one of my favorite things, but not every time I set foot in a restaurant. We have a stereotype of German cuisine being a thing of schnitzel, potatoes, sausage, beer, and pretzels, and with good reason; maybe I’m being unfair, but I miss the variation of available foods at home. Also, the guy who instituted their strict no-brownie policy doesn’t know what’s good for him. Or he knows what’s good for him, and knows that brownies aren’t one of those things.
- Gendered nouns
Who needs ’em?
Someone asked that I (or more accurately, my mom) order this particular backpack for them, as it’s not available in Germany – and it, more than anything else I can think of, is indicative of the fashion choices of Kinder these days. Well, this, plus an unwavering devotion to How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen or no. Okay fine, this last point shouldn’t quite make the “Why Germany Sucks” list, but something about the aesthetics here – I can’t put my finger on it – does make me miss the aesthetics of home.
And now that this post (and winter) are out of the way, I’m going back to falling back in love with this place. We have some catching up to do.