07 August, 2009

Refrections from a New Land - Part Two

Spending more time here & getting to know a bit more about Germany & its culture is proving to be really interesting. Germany is a really intriguing country & there are so many unexpected things - some of them are cultural, some of them are my responses to this new world/life.

Here are a few things from the past week:

You would think that numbers are numbers & there's not much to confuse anyone. But you'd be wrong. There are, firstly, a couple of differences in how numbers are handwritten. Ones always have a tag (1) and not written like a this - I. OK, not a problem. But the tag bit is really long & i keep getting my ones & sevens mixed up. Sevens, however, are always crossed to prevent confusion. I keep forgetting that though & get prices mixed up at the supermarket.
The second thing with how numbers are written is that commas & periods are used in the opposite way to English speaking countries. So one euro fifty cents is written as 1,50€, whereas one thousand five hundred is 1.500€. You wouldn't think that this would be too confusing & i guess it isn't, but, in my english eyes, it just looks weird.
The last thing with numbers is with the floors in buildings. The European way (including Britain), is Ground Floor, first floor, second floor, etc. In Japan, there is no ground floor - it's the first floor, which also the North American way (and somewhat more logical to me). I, despite growing up with the GF-1F-2F system, have fully adopted the 1F-2F way. So much so that when i was in the book store looking for German text books on the second floor, got really confused because i couldn't find them anywhere. But i was on the wrong second floor...

After 12pm in Germany, it's OK to show nudity on TV. Not full frontals (or 'hairy bits'), but after midnight, there are tits EVERYWHERE. Mostly, it's ads for phonesex, but EVERY CHANNEL has breasts. Of all sizes & ages. Must admit to be a shocked & still being a bit uncomfortable when i change the channel to see a huge pair of bouncing boobs. Not sure whether it's my inate British prudishness coming out, or my adopted Japanese prudishness; all i know is that i am not used to seeing so much nakedness.

Travelling Carpenters or Journeymen
I had never heard of these people before, but the other day K & I were at a local festival and there was a group of strangely dressed young men. I would describe their clothes as a cross between Hasidic Jew, Amish & 1970s folk band. Have a look here. K explained that these carpenters travel around the country, working on houses for food & board. There's even a law (welcome to Germany!!) that says that townhalls are legally obliged to give food & board to these journeymen. After looking around on the web, i found out some more about them - they are only found in France (aka 'compagnons') & Germany; i found this website to be really interesting. Had no idea that this type of thing still existed anywhere and i am impressed that a) young people are still taking up this old tradition and b) the government continues to support & protect it.

Know i mentioned this before, but i am really enjoying my first European summer for..erm..how long? Think the last time i was back for summer was in the early 1990s. And then it was a British 'summer'; aka rain interspersed with weak periods of pale sun. Even though this is supposedly the worst summer for 20 years (man in the pub told us, so it must be true), it's so much easier to enjoy it here than in Tokyo. Firstly, it's not as hot or humid. More importantly, everything is set up for summer. It's like the city has bloomed - beer gardens have opened, bars & restaurants have all set up tables outside on the street, people are in the park & everyone just seems a lot happier. There are also a lot of little festivals; couple of weeks ago there was an African festival in the square near where we live. Last Saturday was the CSD Parade & party. And on Thursday, on our way home, we happened upon another festival - Henkersfest, which K translated as 'Executioner Festival'; really don't know what that's about & K didn't know why it was called that either.

Basically, I am really glad i moved here in summer. Would have been really nasty to be greeted in my new life with a cold wet German winter.

And now I am going off to the park to study German for an hour or so. Ah, this is the life.

1 comment:

Sandi said...

I remember the first time Jeff and I went to Europe (Paris), there was nudity everywhere. And sex stores with stuff like "Lubri-fist" in the window displays. America is fairly prudish also. And our high school French was very useful in much of Europe.

Seattle blooms in Summer, too. Tons of people out on bicycles and having BBQs, outdoor seating at restaurants and bars (helpful, since you can't smoke inside anywhere) and people being much happier in general.