Archive for the 'Germany' Category

24
Aug
13

Germanised Canadian in reverse culture shock

After 16 years living in Germany, you start to pick up a few German habits.  You don’t cross the intersection when the light is red – it sets a bad example for kids.  You greet colleagues around lunchtime not with hello, but with a cheery Mealtime!  You say hello to everyone waiting already when you walk into the doctor’s waiting room. And whenever you’re at the supermarket checkout counter, or picking up stuff at the cleaners, or dealing with a teller at the bank, you do NOT make idle chit-chat.  In and out with sometimes barely a nod to civility is how it’s done.

So after eight weeks travelling through this great land we call Canada we arrive in the unusually parched Wet Coast west-coast town of Squamish, and it’s time to go to the bank.  I’m out of cash – not an unusual state this time around considering the incredible jump in prices we’ve seen for everything from fish to fowl – so the first morning after we get in I head to the bank, stride up to the teller and ask for my daily withdrawal limit.

After keying in my PIN number she informs me that acquiring the cash will take a minute as the cash must be dispensed from a machine back around a corner, and it’s in need of some sort of re-boot or whatever, and I say that’s OK, and then she asks me, So, do you have any plans for the rest of the day?

I look at her and hesitate that telling half-second which gives me away as someone with as much social savvy as a deer staring at headlights.Canada Osoyoos wildlife deer on trail

As I said, I’m kind of out of practice at this sort of thing, and after 16 years of dealing with German checkout counter ladies and bank tellers, it hits me as if she’s asked me if I’ve tried out that crazy new brand of multicolour condoms with the spiral ticklers.

“Yes, well, uh, I’ve got lots of plans lined up,” and I see out of the corner of my eye that the teller to her right has turned her head to look at me as if to ask herself, gee, he looks like a regular white guy and he’s got no accent, so what’s his problem?

I instantly switch to Canuck mode and try to come back with the breezy-bantery reply you’re supposed to, but it falls flat.

“Well, uh, we’re doing laundry at the moment, actually, it’s the fourth load already.  We let it pile up as we’ve not had a chance to get any done since Canmore and since then we’ve been through the Kootenays and well, you know how it is.

“Well, at least you’ve got a nice sunny day to do it,” she replies, the cash finally having been delivered to her wicket and I can count on the ordeal being over that much sooner.

It’s a good thing the cash came when it did as I was going to add, “and later on I’m taking my Mom to a funeral, well it’s not an actual burial, more of a memorial service for my former principal who passed away, and I was very saddened to hear it and I want to be there.”

I hope October is here soon so we can all start talking about hockey again.

30
Apr
13

Vaginal cream chocolate bar. Yum.

For readers with small children in the area, this post contains words and pictures which acknowledge the existence of sexual organs, so you might want to make the print really, really small.

The red-haired girl has a job for a few months now.  Up to three times a week you can find her at a local pharmacy picking up prescriptions for delivery to customers in the broader neighbourhood.   She gets eight bucks an hour plus tips, which sometimes can be substantial.  I call her our drug-runner.

Yesterday she came home with a package I’m still puzzling over.  Take a look at this:

Vaginetten Myko Kombi chocolate bar Vaginalzäpfchen suppositories

What do you first think of when you see a chocoate bar named Vaginetten?  I know what I think.  Ewwwwww……

Especially when the translation of that fine print at lower left sinks in:

White Chocolate, tenderly melting like Vagisan’s Cremolum Myko Kombi.

Vagisan Myko Kombi white chocolate yumUh, now I get it.  The creamy-white anti-yeast-infection cream suppositories Vagisan vaginal suppositoriesthey’re pushing melt in your hoo-ha just as smoothly as this creamy white chocolate melts in your mouth.

Only people who graduated in the bottom half of their marketing class could have come up with this.    Seriously, what were they thinking?

“I know!  We’ll package up white chocolate bars to give away at pharmacies.  People will pick them up and wonder who could be dumb enough to market vaginal cream with white chocolate, they’ll take it home, take a photo and throw it up on social media.  Voilà!  Free advertising!”

They’re not so stupid after all.

06
Apr
13

Angela Merkel guarantees Muslim kids will not get separate sex sports

Geez, I would like to say more, but the headline says it all:

Germany The Local Toytown no sex sports muslim kids

 

Source:  One sometimes hilariously bad English-language online newspaper 

22
Mar
13

Showering neighbour discovers concept of curtain, doesn’t bother to use it

This is an update of my pissy little pre-ski-holiday-cum-hospital-stay rant about a neighbour directly across from us who seems to enjoy showering for an audience.

Germany Hamburg window with curtainThanks to all those who took the trouble to comment and who gave great advice.  This morning, I am going to take that advice, hobble over there and slip a message under his door.  It probably won’t end up on passive-aggressive notes dot cawm because it won’t be anonymous.  I am going to leave my mobile phone number so he can contact me if he’s got any questions.  It’ll be written in flawed German, but I don’t care.

You see, I was all set this morning to write a light-hearted little story about how our soap-on-a-rope guy now has a curtain covering his bathroom window.  Great!  Someone obviously told him something.

I hadn’t noticed a curtain there before.  Upon discovery, one of the first things I thought was that he put it there because – as we also recently discovered – he has a girlfriend!  Or is it his wife?  In any case, while standing behind my seated wife over this past weekend – weight all on the left leg, of course – giving her a neck massage, a figure with shower nozzle in hand displaying all the attributes of a female appeared in the window.  Those attributes swayed.  They brushed the window.  They were, in fact, not bad to look at.  I was going to dash over to the other room to get my camera for posterity – or perhaps anteriority – but knew that in my present condition she’d be dry by the time I retrieved the camera and got in position to get a decent shot away.

In any event, just as I was in the middle of writing that post  I realised I had to start all over, because as I raised my head to look outside – there he was.

Curtain brushed aside.  Same lather, different day.

If he has a curtain, why doesn’t he use it?

Now to translate that into German.

19
Mar
13

jumping through hoops to get rehab

You never really learn how things really operate until you have to deal with them yourself.

All I want is some decent rehab programme, something to make sure I can walk again without a limp after ripping the body’s largest tendon and rendering my right leg useless for the time being.

Ian half-way home to HamburgMy regular doctor was telling me enthusiastically last week about a clinic where I could get a full morning programme of daily physio once the 6-week no-touch rule is over and I can finally take off this dead-weight brace it’s been so fun to drag around.

But when I went Monday to the specialist surgeon to whom he’d referred me to have the stitches removed and we later talked about physio, all he was able to offer me was a referral for two half-hour sessions a week.  The absolute bare-bones minimum available.  In Germany’s two-class healthcare system, if you’re a private patient you get silver service, no questions asked.  If you’re on statutory cover – in German gesetzlich – well, take a number, eh?  Nothing new there.

So this morning I went back to my regular doctor and told him of the enormous gap between what he was talking about and what the specialist gave me.

“Hmmmm…. let me do some quick phoning around and I’ll call you back in later,” he said.

Twenty minutes later he tells me the deal: in order to get rehab, I have to go first apply for it through the bureau that deals with pension issues.   Pension?  That’s the rapidly dwindling sum I’ll get when I retire, isn’t it?  I thought this was medical.

“It is,” he explained, “but your healthcare provider is responsible for your time off work.  They pay for that.  Your rehab is paid for by the pension people.”

The things you learn.

So he gives me a referral for a rehab clinic, reminding that I’ll first have to call the Hamburg pension administration bureau, who will set the ball in motion.

Knowing that sounded just a little to easy for words, I ask for and receive a direct number to call, some tips on what to say, and a merry send-off home.

The number they gave me was not in service.

Digging the right number out of the Internet, I wait on hold for the usual 10 minutes before speaking with a woman who informs me that my pension is administered not in Hamburg, but by the federal office in Berlin.  When I ask for the number in Berlin, thinking this is probably a routine thing,  I get an answer as cold as this late winter and probably as much as I should have expected: you can go find it yourself.

So I dig out the number soon enough and call the Federal Pensions Office and jump through the usual number-choice hoops before speaking with a woman who guides me through pages and sub-pages to the right forms to download and fill out.

There are seven separate forms totalling 17 pages.   Many repeat the same questions in a different way.  Some don’t apply to me, but I have to check a box anyway.  One ominous one involved giving my bank account details to permit them to extract any fees I might have.  No mention of what these fees might be for, or how much they are.

I don’t know why it has to be this complicated, but I suspect they do it this way to turn off those people who are intimidated by officialdom.  There must be a percentage out there who give up before even trying.

After filling all the forms that pertain to me, I have to take the bundle to my doctor to fill out stuff that pertains to them, then take that bundle to my healthcare provider who will fill out more little boxes, then I get to go to the post office and send the bundle off to Berlin.

Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes so long to get approval, I’ll have long since passed the point at which rehab will do any good.

26
Feb
13

Is it legal in Germany to shower nude in front of the window for all to see?

I’ve nothing against nudity.  I’m nude quite a lot, especially in the German sauna, sharing space with genders masculine, feminine, and neuter

But there’s a time and space for everything, and this morning, I said to myself, enough’s enough.  Why do we have to avoid our front window every morning because we don’t want to suffer the sight once again of some asscrack who lives in an apartment across the courtyard on the same level as ours drying off his package?

If he were schlendering around the sauna landscape looking for his flip-flops while he flipped and flopped around, I wouldn’t bat an eyelash.

But the window is as a thin layer that separates little from the public space and the private, especially when it’s dark out and you’re standing in a room with all the lights on.

So if it’s normally not legal to be walking around nude in public, is it legal to do so in your own space for all to see?

Do we have to put up with this?  I don’t engage my German-resident readers enough even when I’m blogging regularly, but I’m asking you now: what do you know about cases like this?  Can we do or say anything or is he free to carry on as he pleases?

23
Jan
13

Grinding it out with a grain mill

Germany HaWo Kornmühle grain mill wideOne of the first things I noticed about my wife K’s kitchen in Hong Kong was this big, blocky wooden thing in the corner near the back door leading out to the terrace.

“What’s THIS?” I asked, flipping a globular wooden knob back and forth.

“It’s a grain mill,” she said.  “A friend brought it from Germany for me.”

That really floored me.  Her flat was actually quite spacious by the cramped standards of Hong Kong, but the kitchen was little more than a narrow corridor wedged between an oversized living room and the tiny, windowless room we stored stuff in, but was designed as the maid’s bedroom.  We may have been cooking with gas, but you had to be really organised or you’d quickly run out of counter room.  You could stretch your arms across and touch both walls it was so small, so this glorified hunk of wood seems like the last thing you’d need.

But she swore by the results she got by grinding her own whole wheat flour, and I couldn’t much argue after she served up some Kaffee und Küchen for the first time. 

In Hamburg we have a much bigger kitchen, so the mill seems to take up a lot less room on our counters, and after 22 years it still gets used a lot, especially the last couple of years or so that I’ve been baking bread regularly.Germany HaWo Kornmühle grain mill cleaning

It’s a German product, dependable and built to last out of solid beech, but you have to take it apart once in a while to give it a thorough cleaning or it starts to look a little ratty.

On the inside you’ll find a powerful motor and millstones made of a hardened ceramic.  The first time I turned loose all the bolts and separated the parts to clean was after it hadn’t been used in a few months.

There were a few bug skins clinging to the walls of the flour chute and around the grinding face, which was a bit of a YUCK moment, but once it was scrubbed clean, put back together and burnished with linseed oil, it looked good as new.

For grain I head to the organic food store.  I’ve ground a variety of grains over the years, but usually stick to wheat because that’s what the bread recipes I use call for.  The only thing I’ve not tried is corn, because I’ve never found corn kernels that specially say they’re for making corn flour, but what I’d love to do is grind some corn to see if I can make some whole grain polenta from it.

Germany HaWo Kornmühle grain mill settingsThe manufacturer’s website has a variety of mills to choose from, and I like the fact they still make the exact model we own.  Their website gives you a bit of sticker shock, though.  Our model will set you back €454, but they’re guaranteed for 10 years.  Like I said, they’re built to last, so you should have it at least as long as we have with regular care.

If you want to see it running in this video, turn your sound down!  It is a bit of a noisy thing:




The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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