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.

14 Responses to “Germanised Canadian in reverse culture shock”

  1. 1 Jane Iverson
    August 24, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Welcome Home, Ian!

  2. August 24, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Oh, dude, I feel you there. I’ve only been away 9 years and I can’t handle the chitchat anymore either. I’m trying at every opportunity (particularly at retail points-of-sale), but having the same results as you.

    Sarah is much better than I at that. And she’s an introvert.

    What has Germany done to us?!

  3. August 24, 2013 at 7:39 am

    I miss the chitchat here too. But, I don’t let that bother me. I bombard everyone I meet with trivial chitchat and either make them feel embarrassed that they haven’t a clue how to respond, or leave the impression that I’m a mad schwaetzer, Next time, try talking about the weather. That always works.

  4. 7 Doug Hoodikoff
    August 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I haven’t been away Ian and I can’t stand the chitchat. Long lineup and they wanna chat. 😦

  5. August 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Hmmmm… It appears my bank’s Canadian but my post office is German. Then again, the postal clerks may just be increasingly grumpy because their hours are being cut back while their work load is quadrupled.

    Keep enjoying the trip!

  6. 10 Sherry Lidstone
    August 29, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    Glad you are enjoying our home & native land 😉

  7. September 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I think I’ll check out these German habits with my partner and see what he says. He’ll be amused. He finds Germans, overall stoic whenever he goes back to visit relatives and biking around in Germany.

  8. September 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    One of my friends lived in Germany for a bit: loved the civility, but he said they were so darn efficient – no idle chitchat for sure.
    Sounds like you’re going with the “when in Rome, do as the Romans” mode of operation. Have fun!

  9. 13 hmunro
    October 3, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Excellent save, telling the teller about your laundry’s progress! When I first moved to the States I found the idle banter unnerving — and, at its worst, nosy and intrusive. But now I’ve embraced it as an opportunity to practice my storytelling skills. “Got big plans for the evening?” they’ll ask. “Yah, you betcha,” I’ll reply. “Tonight I’m going to test the proton accelerator I’ve been building in my basement. Fingers crossed that it works!” But seriously, Ian … great post. 🙂

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