What I am learning about German culture from working in a supermarket

To celebrate my new income, a few days later I got a haircut - badly needed, as you can see in this picture.
To celebrate my new income, a few days later I got a haircut – badly needed, as you can see in this picture.

After a month and a half of tangling with bureaucracy, bellyaching over budgets and nearly driving myself crazy with the amount of free time I had on my hands, I finally got a job.

I work at a supermarket chain collecting items for customers’ online orders and packing them neatly into boxes. I get to carry around a neat little scanner and push around a large shopping cart and learn the location of even the most obscure supermarket products, from Studentenfütter (which literally translates to student food and turns out to be a type of trail mix) to mango-flavored buttermilk (yes, Germans drink plain buttermilk, how gross) to Hüttenkäse (which literally translates to “little hut cheese,” which, as you may have guessed, is cottage cheese in English). Continue reading “What I am learning about German culture from working in a supermarket”

No, Germans aren’t “direct” – sometimes they are just plain rude

Public transportation seems to bring out the worst in people.

Growing up in the U.S. with people in service roles bending over backwards to cater to customers’ every will in a strange cultural phenomenon called Customer Service, it can be hard to get used to the lack of customer service in European culture at first. Waiters aren’t as attentive, grocery store workers won’t offer to help you find what you’re looking for, and if someone thinks you are wasting their time, they will let you know with a sour look on their face – or they might even tell you so.

I see nothing wrong with this directness – indeed, most of the Europeans I’ve talked to find it refreshing, and are instead distrustful of Americans’ fake smiles and over-friendly mannerisms. While I can’t say I prefer European culture, I respect it was a cultural difference that is – as my friend Tommy would say – neither better nor worse, just different.

However, one cultural aspect I’ve noticed that I DO dislike is how it’s much more socially acceptable, or at least more common, to be completely rude to strangers. Now, #NotAllGermans are like this – I’ve met loads of really nice Germans who are perfectly capable of superficial politeness and passive-aggressive smiles. But already in my short time here, I’ve experienced or been witness to many unpleasant experiences involving usually-older Germans being incredibly and unnecessarily rude to other people, which shocked me as you almost never see that where I’m from.

Continue reading “No, Germans aren’t “direct” – sometimes they are just plain rude”

Hamburg: First Impressions

I moved to Hamburg about a month ago now. I’m no expert and I shy to call myself a true Hamburger, but the city’s made a strong impression on me so far. Here are some of my thoughts.

Hamburg is a city of extremes.

“Good night, white pride” – anti-Nazi stickers like this are common around the city

The vegans are militant and the feminists are intense. On the far right end of the political spectrum, neo-Nazis beat up people on the streets and spew anti-immigrant rhetoric in the political offices. On the left, self-proclaimed antifascists turn abandoned buildings into refugee camps and community gathering spaces and glue anti-Nazi stickers in the subway stations. Even the weather is extreme – after a cool and drizzly June, this weekend hit 36 C (97 F).
Continue reading “Hamburg: First Impressions”