Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ragnell finally has her "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS PLACE?!" moment.

When I told my friends that I was moving to Germany I got the near-universal response that I'd need to learn to be on time for once.   "Germans are sticklers about puncuality" everyone from my boss to my aunt claimed, and I would have to be on the dot for once in my life if I was going to fit in with the culture.

What a load of bullshit.

Germans are not always on time.  Germans are always on lunch.

Okay, I'm generalizing too much there.  I haven't been to all of Germany.  Maybe the legendary timeliness came from somewhere near Berlin, or Munich or somewhere further away from the border.  Maybe it's a different Germany in the Eifel region.  Maybe it's the proximity to France.  Maybe there's something in the water.  Maybe there's something in the land itself, something lazy and drowsy that seeps up from the roots of the grass and emanates from the trees.  I've been told that this region used to be the setting of wars and political strife reaching back to Roman times (Trier was the capital of the freaking Empire for a bit) and leading up to World War II  (seriously, in the neighboring village to mine you can see grooves in the archways that were made by Patton's tanks).  Maybe the land itself just got sick of all the activity and it made a conscious decision to lull all these pesky humans into a constant state of midday relaxation.

Maybe the people have always been this way.  Maybe they figure "We didn't rush our meal to take care of Constantine, we're not rushing it for you".  It's not that people are rude, or unreliable.  Everyone is very nice and polite.  Just..  slow.   And you don't want to rush them because it's rude so you sit there and tap your foot and smile and look like a complete spaz for several minutes waiting on them.  Maybe there's some Lovecraftian turtle-race beneath the hills that's been hiding among the Germans and that's who I've been dealing with all this time.

Maybe it's just the wine.

Whatever it is, if you're going to the Rhinelamd-Pfalz state in Germany bear in mind it takes two weeks and a very fast car to get anything accomplished--and you can't do anything before 10 or after 6.  And don't even think about running around between the hours of 11 and 4 because the entire state seems to be closed.

And the weirdest thing is that things do get done.  If you manage by the grace of heaven to catch a tailor or a mechanic (you can try calling ahead, but appointments are theoretical here) and you leave them your uniform or your car overnight it will be finished (usually not too much later than they said it would be), even superbly finished in some places.

But I have no clue when they manage to do this work because they are always closed for the night, or until 10, or for lunch.  (This is especially annoying for those of us who work our way into an early grave American hours.)  Closing for lunch.  Good god, who can do that? 

I'm sorry, I though I was all for cultural acceptance but I've found my line.  I will never be able to approve of the attitude Germans take towards lunch.  Lunch is not supposed to be this way.  Lunch is no time to take a break and relax.  Lunch is time to get all of the stuff that you couldn't leave work to do done.  Lunch is to be taken in shifts so that someone is there to take care of all the lunchtakers who come in while they have a break from the office.  You don't just close up the whole fucking country for four hours a day so people can eat!  That would be insane.

And who the hell closes on every federal holiday?

And I'm sure Germans consider this sort of behavior healthy or something, but when the hell am I supposed to get anything done?

As someone who spent the last 8 years of her life eating lunch in her car as she shuttled around supposedly lazy southwestern cities accomplishing all the little things one needs to accomplish in order to be a functioning adult this is way too much of an adjustment to make.  I can't deal with lunch here.  They actually sit down while they eat. My life is piling up while the rest of this country eats.  I need a ticket for any US Timezone and I need it sent to me yesterday.


  1. Ah, small town Germany. I kind of miss it - in the big cities there's not a lot of "closed for lunch". In my hometown (and ok, 20 years ago) every shop would be closed at least from one to three...

  2. I went through the exact same thing when I lived in this small town in Italy for a while. I was astounded by the concept that lunches were not for errand-running. (Or Sundays in Italy, for that matter.) The only place I could think of that had something resembling "American hours" was the pharmacy. In other words: you have my deepest sympathies for your frustrations. I've been there.

  3. I think the punctuality stereotype is more of a Prussian thing. I've seen jokes contrasting Vienna (laid-back) with Berlin (uptight).

  4. As someone who recently moved to Spain, i feel your pain completely. It's basically the same here, places open at 10 or 11 and they close at around 8 or 9. BUT they have what i call "siesta time", which is usually around 2 to 4 in which a lot of the stores close (the bigger ones and malls don't do it). And they also close EVERYTHING on Sunday, which is beyond frustrating as there is nothing to do.

  5. Yeah, I think that it's the Prussians that are type A personalities. Bavarians are all hippies.

  6. Ah, so I'm in the wrong Germany then.

    It wouldn't be such a pain if the base wasn't on US time, though.

  7. Just one thought on that: I really think these things depend on if you live in a very urban area or on the more rural sinde ...
    ... in Berlin for example, nothing ever closes ...

  8. "Bavarians are all hippies"

    That's actually not true. They're breeding a lot of conservatives down there ...