05/18/04: German things
I recently returned from a week-long vacation in Germany, in the Frankfurt/Darmstadt area. This is a list of cultural observances I wrote down while I was there.
- Doors overlap their frames on one side, creating a very solid seal when they are closed.
- Light switches are often OUTSIDE the room.
- Trees are planted everywhere, even in private parking lots, etc. Urban spaces are pleasant and well-maintained.
- The new Euro currency is confusing. Some coins can't be told apart without close scrutiny.
- Though German is the official language, you are likely to find an English label on many products, and you hear many other languages spoken in public (true of a lot of Europe).
- Trains go nearly everywhere. If not trains, then trams or buses.
- Bicycles are extremely popular, and bike lanes can be found on many roads.
- Many towns brew their own distinctive beer(s). In the Frankfurt region, Hefeweizen (highly alcoholic wheat beer) and Apfelwein (hard cider) are popular.
- Measurement lines on the sides of glasses eliminate doubts about how much you've been served.
- MEAT. BUTTER. CREAM SAUCE. INESCAPABLE.
- To flush toilets, look for buttons on the tank or the wall behind. The average toilet design in Germany is much more effective than in the U.S. -- the water pours down forcefully from the entire circumference of the bowl, and the bowl is steeply inclined. No floaters!
- General consideration for public facilities is clear, because extra paper in restrooms could be easily stolen, but it hardly ever is.
- On the other hand, smoking is allowed in most public places apart from trains and buses. Non-smoking areas in restaurants and pubs are nearly unheard of.
- The waitstaff makes up for it by figuring separate bills for everyone by default.
- But unfortunately, very few restaurants accept credit cards. EU debit cards are welcome, though.
- Hardly anyone owns an SUV.