Wie Geht Es Ihnen ?
Before you plan to rubbish this article because the title seems to be written in Greek, let me enlighten your soul and tell you that it’s written in German (or “Deutsch” as the Germans prefer).The title means:” How do you do?”; a question when asked to me in English promptly coerces me to assume a lascivious posture and say : “I do like this”. 🙂 Anyways, my sudden obsession with the German language can be best explained by my movement to Germany a few days back for pursuing Masters.
I was to board an Aeroflot flight (cheapest option available with good baggage allowance, got a few brickbats from relatives and friends for choosing it) at 4.10 am from IGI T3 Delhi.Now, things started getting interesting from here only.The flight got late by 10 mins because of me !! Lost a security tag on my hand baggage, so that the security people had to come and check my bag for inappropriate items and issue a new security tag. Almost missed the flight ; airplane hatchet had been locked and security chain had been fastened.Had to upset a few Russians to get in.One thing about being the reason for a flight delay: Once you enter the aircraft, people sitting inside stare at you like you are the prime accused of a holocaust. Anyways, ignoring the cursing eyes of my co-passengers, I took my seat and then the rest of the journey was eventless.
Upon reaching Dusseldorf, I had to take a train to Paderborn (My univ location). Observed many things that seemed peculiar to Germany and its people. Here’s a short compilation of some nuances of Deutschland :
1. There’s a VERY heady smell pervading most parts of Germany, especially the trains.It probably emanates from a cocktail of perfumes and scents that Germans like to bathe in;but to me (and other Indians traveling with me), it was seriously bothersome.
2. The people of Germany dress very well. And I mean very-very well. In my 3 and a half hour train journey from Dusseldorf to Paderborn and in the 10 days I have spent here till now, I haven’t seen a single German ( Young/Old/Kid/Male/Female ) dressed loosely or even remotely inappropriate. And I think I know the reason for this as well. I have seen the local markets here in the last week. I would like to take an illustration for elucidating my point. Lets say that we have a price range of Rs 10 to Rs 200 for shirts in India. Now , a 100 Rs shirt in India would roughly cost 100 Rs here as well, but the shirts belonging to price range of Rs 10 to Rs 99.99 are not available in Germany. Safely assuming that a higher priced shirt has better quality (not necessarily the case, but nevertheless a safe assumption), people in Germany are forced to buy quality products only and that is why they have a habit of dressing rather well.
3. Germans never ever use even a single word of the English language in their conversation. While I do not really understand German language, when I observe them conversing with each other, I can not spot the presence of even one English word. Now this seems quite remarkable to me as being a native Hindi speaker, I find it impossibly difficult to converse continuously in Hindi without the introduction of any English language words, and that too, when I claim to be good at Hindi. (A quick exercise for all readers: Try talking to the person sitting next to you continuously for 5 minutes in your native language without the use of any English language word. If you can do that without having to stop a few times to recall the exact word in your native language, then you have my respect. Of course, this exercise is not valid for those who have English as their native language).
4.Traffic rules are followed with utmost sincerity.Crossing a road in Germany seems like an overhead to my Indian feet.Why ? You can not cross just from anywhere. There are buttons on every signal that need to be pressed if one has to cross the road using a Zebra crossing. So, many times I have had to walk an extra kilometer just to get to the other side of the road and that too when the road is deserted (Damn Rules !!).Otherwise also, people drive very carefully; the various markings on the roads which are just vague designs back home actually have a meaning in this country. But again, would anyone want to get a 1500 euro driving license cancelled apart from the enormous penalties bestowed by the German Government ? (That’s the way to do it I say. We should implement such strict laws back home as well, the traffic condition will surely improve).
5. Cleanliness and recycling are an inherent part of a German’s life. No lizards/cockroaches even in the kitchen !! WTF !! Cost of items on the shelves is the absolute cost of the item.When you go to the cash counter, you are charged the price of the bottle in which the item is contained (valid for bottled items of course).You get the money back after returning the bottle. (25 cents for a 1-litre coke bottle, 8 cents for a beer pint). So, trash gets converted to money which is why nobody wants to throw it away. Again, waste is segregated into organic waste, paper/recyclable waste and rest and Germans are shit serious about their trash !!
6. The country looks really beautiful to my Indian eyes. You can click anything and it’ll come out looking like an HD wallpaper.If you are an avid photographer, then Germany (probably entire Europe) is the right place for you. No need to wander looking for suitable subjects, everything around here is just so beautiful (If you are planning to capture beauty that is !! ).
7. Fitness and health: These people are very serious about their health. People prefer cycles. Observed 80 somethings riding cycles like Lance Armstrong.
8. Mean machines: You are sure to go mad with the cavalcade of exquisite vehicles.All the cars we gasp at in India wander about like Maruti 800 here. High end products of Peugot,Bentley,BMW,Ashton Martin, Mercedes, Mazzda are the most common brands here (there are many more, but I’m not exactly a car buff to remember all names).Apart from that, there’s a concept of “car-cutting”. You take a sedan (Mercedes Benz,Skoda Octavia,many other) and cut them from the rear in some nonsensical way to convert it into a hatchback. Poor cars !!
9.Everything here is so organised.Had to visit a city registration office (i.e, a government office) day before yesterday. There was a token system akin to the one I saw in high end banks in Delhi. Very neat, very quick !!
So this pretty much sums up my initial experience of Deutschland. It’ll take me a while to understand the place and the people better. Just a word of caution if anybody plans to come here: NEVER EVER EVER EVER go out of your apartment wearing slippers.ALWAYS ALWAYS wear shoes when you go out ;even just outside your apartment building.It’s considered a taboo here and germans are very forthcoming about deriding you openly.
That’s it for this post,Tschüs !!
– Tanuj Jain, Paderborn, Germany.