Thursday, September 19, 2013

What do you know about Germany?

by Siggy Buckley - checking in from her Intrepid Home Swapping trip to Europe

        Although I'm German and lived there for the most part of my life, I still find        out new facts every time I visit my home country.

       Did you know that in Germany shops are closed on Sundays? Except for gas        stations  and bakeries, but these are only open for business only until lunch time.You need to  plan ahead and stock up, especially if it's a long weekend or a holiday ahead like Christmas or Easter.

Most shops don’t take a credit card. Especially grocery stores want cash. The one that is least popular is American Express. I was in one city center store of one of the bigger chains that advertised a new service on their loudspeaker: Pay with your banking card and get cash back. A welcome novelty indeed.
I’m starting to hate shopping for groceries. While I still get my favorite foods which are not available in the US, I don’t like the shopping atmosphere. Everybody is in a hurry when they reach the check out and is pushing, impatient. If you don’t pack and pay fast enough, you get nasty looks from other customers and the cashier; even remarks. I have been kicked with their cart in my heels when I wasn’t fast enough. Forget about having your groceries packed or even helped out to your car. Publix, I miss you! And you either pay for plastic bags or bring your own.
Germany’s recycling system is starting to drive me mad. It was introduced in about 1990. People have several garbage cans outside, but the system varies from town to town. We learned the terms Rest Muell  (trash), but Round Muell is still a mystery to us. Round? 

If you study this list of what to do with paper, packaging, batteries, hazardous wast, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers, grass clippings etc., you will understand our confusion.
As an avid environmentalist and former organic farmer’s wife, I ‘m used to separating my trash but I’m getting fed up with it because it seems so complicated even to me. Having to learn the lay of trash in each different town is a nuisance. The locals who are used to one systems won’t feel it that much. But we Intrepid Homeswappers get around …and observe.

Ang you can't just ignore these rules becaue if youy mix your garbage, the friendly bin men (Muellmaenner) won't take your wheelie bin and you're stuck sitting on a trash can full of rotting...whatever.
If you’re used to a garbage disposal, the system seems to be outright annoying. What do you do with left-overs, especially when they contain some liquid? Flush them down the toilet.

In Germany you recycle plastic and beer bottles through a socalled Pfand or Pledge system and get a small sum of money back for every bottle returned- never wine bottles for some unknown reason.  In the Netherlands they don’t. Having dragged all the bottles back to the store, there was no way to dispose of them, they wouldn't take them. So we had to schlep them back home to the houseboat. In Amsterdam, they had 2 types of containers in the boardwalk right outside every other house for glass and paper.
We've been staying in the federal state of Baden Wuerttemberg, the land that produces all the lovey Mercedes and Porsches; and this state is run by the Green Party. How do German combine their heightened awareness of environmental issues with luxury cars, lower their carbon footprint? By making them more fuel efficient. Modern German cars switch off the engine automatically at a red light! The recycling industry here is growing at such a pace that it will soon equal the car industry's profitability.

Did you know that there is an upcoming election on 22 September? Although the election had entered its hot phase 3 weeks ago, there had been no commercials for parties on TV. Posters were only allowed to go up 6 weeks prior to election date. No big money wasted on divisive political commercials on TV from any party.
Last week was the first and only televised debate.If she wins, Angela Merkel will stay in power for another 4 years. She is considered to be the most powerful woman in the world at the moment and has a high likability rating of over 60%. If her opponent wins, a Social Democrat called Peer Steinbrueck, he will raise the current highest tax bracket from 42% to 49%.
Some more facts I just leaned:
Unemployment in Germany is low at 6.8%. (That doesn’t sound that low to me…).
133,000 immigrants became Germans last year and got a passport. A third of which were Turkish nationals, probably already born in this country.5% were other European Union citizens. No explanation as to the rest.

Another statistic FYI: Germans are becoming lazier. They have 4 hours leisure time on average. Their favorite hobby is couching in front of the TV.  Even the English word Extreme Couching is one of the mentioned pastimes. Among their other hobbies, the first sport takes position 17, (going to the gym). The first outdoor activity takes position 24.
My homeland has duly changed since I left it around the time of Reunification. Time marches on.
"Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis."

Siggy Buckley
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