German cultural habits
Early mornings and hard work
Dear God. These people (and by ‘these people’ I mean the Germans) are collectively the earliest risers that I have ever known. There I was naively looking forward to a nice lie-in on a Saturday morning… Well, needless to say, I was not to be rewarded. Not here in the land of DIY enthusiasts and fitness fanatics. I was initially woken at the ungodly hour of 8.20am by my landlady, who wanted to borrow my hairdryer, as she was eager to get ready and start driving back to her hometown near Cologne. I then crawled back into bed only to be woken an hour later by the wash machine repair company, who apparently hadn’t been paid for their services. To crown it all, my next door neighbor started chopping firewood (WHY, dare I ask?! It’s still summer) at 10am and then his children started an impromptu game of basketball on the front lawn. Aaaargh. I mean it’s great that people here make the most of their weekends but Christ, chill OUT. There’s no need to set off for the communal mountain hike (organised down to the very last detail at least a month in advance) at the crack of dawn! They work so insanely hard at their jobs that there really is no need to be constantly on the go at the weekends as well. It reminded me of when my ex-boyfriend in Munich would happily wake me up at 6am to go skiing at an admittedly stunning resort near the Austrian border … By the end of the day I was so knackered that I would just crash wordlessly into bed. I suppose the motto here is ‘early to bed, early to rise’. Completely different to my student rhythm in the UK of course (minus a few early morning rowing sessions here and there).
Anmelden and travel cards
I am now lazily writing this post in my pyjamas. (Oh by the way, situation-stubborn-door-lock was quickly rectified by a healthy dose of WD40. Huge relief). I start my first graduate job (or internship) in a week and until then I intend to make the most of every minute of free time that I have at my disposal. I’ve done enough internships and part-time jobs in my time to know how they basically take over your entire existence, at least in terms of temporal hours, if not existentially. I’ve spent all of this week doing pretty mundane administrative things that are, however, essential in order to achieve full integration in a foreign country. My first assignment was to register or ‘anmelden’ where I am living at a local registry office. I don’t quite understand the logic behind this policy – perhaps so that the government can keep a track on who is coming in and out? It didn’t take very long anyway. I then bought my monthly travel card, which covers U-bahn, S-bahn and the bus. In Germany it’s quite easy to forget doing that because unlike in London or Paris, there are no ticket barriers in the underground stations. They counteract this, however, by doing random ‘inspections’. You never know when they’ll strike next. The inspectors seem to have as much authority as the police. Scary. Although I always have a ticket, my heart still skips a beat when I see them, as they’re always in huge groups and there is no escape.
Clubs and social events
On a more fun note, I have also been busy looking for clubs to join. The rowing front was a complete fail. Disturbingly, Hamburg only has one club for women and to become a member, you have to pay upfront for two years. Erm, maybe not, given that I don’t know at this point if I’m staying for more than a year. I then started looking for badminton clubs and funnily enough, the only club for women happened to be for lesbians. Okay, well it didn’t say anywhere that you had to be gay to join so I went along to their session last night. I had no idea, however, that sports here were so segregated. Women and men seem to play in completely different clubs, whereas in the UK we were all in the same rowing club (for example) but obviously trained and competed separately. Perhaps as a result of both sexes being ‘exposed’ to one another from afar on the river but at the same time physically separated, social events were always hugely drunken and debauched. My memories are hazy at best but in Oxford there were pub crawls, hot-tubs in the someone’s garden, absinthe from the chemistry labs and drinking races (and so much more) involved. Bleugh – how on earth did I enjoy that? In retrospect, I’m not sure whether I did.
I have to run because I have a “Sprach-Duo” date this afternoon. More on that in the next installment!
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