Thinking Out Loud

January 11, 2018

Random Thoughts from Lorne: Cultural Differences

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:36 am

After a lifetime in Canada, as of October my friend Lorne has moved to Germany. Despite globalization, the world is not one homogeneous place. There are differences — both subtle and overt — and he’s been blogging them. This link takes you to a precis of all the articles so far.

Windows and Mosquitoes:

…In Canada if a window opens it has a screen. The idea is to allow the air to flow in and keep insects out. Simple really. In Europe, wherever we went there were no screens. Private residence, youth hostel, hotel, bed and breakfast, it made no difference. If we were staying in a 400-year-old chateau I could understand, but some of the places we stayed in were recently renovated. There is no reason the windows couldn’t have been fitted with screens when the renovations were done. Europe has mosquitoes too; I saw them (and felt them). Not to mention the other flying creatures that took advantage of the barrier-free access to check out our room.

I can only assume that European mosquitoes, and whatever the continental equivalent of the black fly is, are much less a nuisance than their Canadian counterparts, so people would rather put up with a little inconvenience rather than going to the trouble of installing window screens. No malaria worries either I presume. But I sense a great business opportunity here, or would if I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I suspect someone could make a fortune installing screens to keep the bugs out. All it would take is a few early adopters and you could make enough money to retire…

Gas Stations:

…I already knew gas was cost more than twice what I was used to. It was about two dollars Canadian a liter, call it six American dollars a US gallon.

All these things I knew in advance. What I hadn’t thought about was the payment options. There weren’t any. I don’t mean that there wasn’t the option of cash, debit or credit card. But you had to go into the gas station to pay. No payment at the pump.

In our busy world paying at the pump has become the norm. No time “wasted” going inside and having a human interaction…

Corn Off the Cob:

…I’ve looked in stores from four different grocery chains, and none of them stock frozen corn. There is, to be truthful, canned corn, but I can’t see myself getting that desperate. Canned corn brings back memories from my youth of mushy flavorless yellow things.

It’s not that there is no corn being grown here. Quite the opposite. My unscientific observations would place corn second to grapes as a crop. Maybe that’s why I can’t buy any – you can’t buy local grapes in the grocery store either. Well, you can, but in bottles. The local grapes are all turned into wine; the ones you eat are imported.

I’m told I wouldn’t want to eat the local corn, that it isn’t like Canadian corn. It is grown for animal, not human, consumption and cows have less discriminating palates.

Retail Employee Identification:

…In North America it is common for retail salespeople to wear name tags. Turns out they do in Germany too, but there’s a big difference…

…The name tag humanizes the employee. Angry customers are less likely to scream at Donna or John than at someone whose name they don’t know. That’s my theory anyway; no-one has ever disagreed with me.

The name tag worn by clerks in Germany don’t tell me that I have been served by Hans or Jutta. They inform me that I am being served by Herr Schmidt or Frau Muller. Apparently, things are much more formal here…

Metric, But Unfamiliar:

…Canada switched to the metric system in 1975, so I wasn’t anticipating any problems in the kitchen – I know how metric measurements work. I figured I could read the numbers on the packaging…

…Turns out that in Germany you don’t use amounts when you are cooking, no teaspoons or tablespoons or fractions thereof. Everything is done by weight…

Everything But Including The Kitchen Sink:

…In Germany, when you move, you take everything with you. That includes the kitchen sink and the light fixtures. I was grateful the previous tenants left me the light switches and the smoke detectors (though they took the batteries out).

How do you buy a kitchen? I hadn’t a clue where to start, but I was told to go to IKEA…

…I still can’t get my mind wrapped around this massive kitchen industry. In Canada (and the US) we take what is there when we rent an apartment. If you don’t like the kitchen, you rent somewhere else. Much less fuss and hassle. Here kitchen making is a whole industry. When you move you take your kitchen with you. I presume that you only rent a place that you know you can fit your kitchen into…

More Baking Challenges:

…I’m used to working in metric; it is no big deal.

Except they don’t use milliliters here to measure dry goods. They use grams. Every German kitchen has a scale to weigh things like sugar and flour. You can’t buy a measuring cup or measuring spoons. I know, I looked everywhere…

I did have one measuring cup, the only one I could find. It holds a liter. That’s more than an American quart. And it has different markings on the side; the quantity apparently is different whether you are using flour or sugar. I never worried about that at home; a half-cup is a half-cup, liquid or solid. Never had any problems.

The measuring cup has no marking for powdered sugar, which I was using for the cookies. The sugar box said it held 250 grams. If a gram and a millilitre are more or less the same, which is how I bake in Canada, the box was the perfect amount. Except, when I poured it into the measuring cup to make sure, it showed as 400 milliliters…

…Vanilla is powdered here, not a liquid. Food colouring comes not as a liquid in a jar but a type of paste in a tube. Makes it tougher to figure out if you are low on the stuff. There are multiple different types of flour, identified by number. I haven’t tried to figure those out, I just went with the one that seemed the most popular, figuring that was the equivalent of Canadian “all-purpose” flour. Baking powder comes in little envelopes, just like vanilla.

A Holiday Epiphany:

I knew Saturday was January 6. I knew in the church calendar that is Epiphany, the dated celebrated for the arrival of the Magi. But I’m from Canada; it never occurred to me that the date was important enough to be a holiday.

I had planed on grocery shopping Saturday, picking up some staples like flour and sugar that were depleted during the Christmas baking season. So much for that plan. I would also have bought a liter or two of milk, and perhaps some butter, because we go through a lot of both and the stores aren’t open Sundays. That wasn’t going to happen either…

…Turns out Epiphany isn’t a holiday everywhere in Germany, but it is in this state…supposedly because of a large Roman Catholic population. Turns out Epiphany isn’t the only holiday I am going to have to watch out for.

I knew Labor Day was in May here, not September like it is in Canada. But Ascension Day? Pentecost (and that one the holiday is the Monday since Pentecost is always on Sunday, like Easter). Corpus Christi Day? I definitely see a religious theme to the holidays or maybe I should use the old English, holy days

You can connect to all these pieces in Lorne’s Cultural Differences series using a single link.

 

 

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