Incredibly, I have recently come to my 6 year of living in Weimar anniversary. Perhaps because I willingly moved here with the notion that I wanted something different, there hasn’t been too many culture shocks for me or major adjustments. I knew life would be different here and I was ok with that.
I was unsure about things such as food and language, naturally, but I was looking forward to learning and experiencing about how my life would be challenged in these aspects.
If you’ve ever travelled outside of your home country, you’ve no doubt experienced the ups and downs of adjusting to the differences in the new country you’re visiting: the eletrical outlets, the currency, and other general differences. Very often, it becomes a cute anedote and a little memory of your time abroad.
Living in Weimar, there are some things that I never thought I would grow to accept and embrace. And there are those things that I realise I don’t want it any other way.
1. The way I sleep
I am not talking about sleeping positions; I am talking about the bed. Admittedly, I begrudingly accepted taking my boyfriend’s bed when we moved in together, made up of two single beds in a double bed frame. How are we supposed to cuddle, when you are way over there? It didn’t take me long, however, to appreciate being able to make myself comfortable after a kiss goodnight and not having any pressure for cuddling or face-to-face sleeping.
This was not the only difference when it came to the way I slept. In Australia, we would sleep with the fitted sheet on the mattress and a top sheet to place between yourself and the doona (or quilt, blanket, duvet- whatever you call it in your corner of the world). Since living together, we soon got rid of this too and I stopped longing for it once I realised that making the bed was not quite a chore any more.
2. Including the tip when paying the wait staff
Every country has their system of paying, even in Europe. In some countries, they leave the bill in a tray and you often have to wait a while to hand over the money. Other countries, you need to pay at the bar, or you pay directly after receiving your order, espeically if you are in a piazza/square just ordering drinks.
In Germany, all the waiters walk around with a little pouch/wallet thing so when it comes to paying the bill, once you’ve got the bill and you see the total, you just pay your waiter there and then. He/she will wait for you, which can be a bit nerve-wracking at first when you’re trying to quickly work out how much to tip. However these guys are used to this and never have I experienced a sigh or huff of impatience or disgust at the amount I’ve tipped. Only in Berlin, when they had (incorrectly) mistaken us for clueless tourists and inistsed we must tip (for the record, I did, but obviously he thought he could squeeze us for a bit more). I was super proud at that moment to bust out my German to prove him wrong.
3. Sundays shops aren’t open
What if I run out of milk/bread/ice cream/apples? This was my first ridiculous thought when realising that no shops, not even supermarkets are open on Sundays. It didn’t take me long to make some adjustments to my shopping habits to make sure I had enough food for Sunday, as well as prepping for lunch for work on Monday. That means, trying to get to the supermarket early on Saturday before the fresh produce runs out (avocados are always there during the week but never there when I want them on a Saturday). Instead of wasting time in the local shops on a Sunday, I take the time to catch up with relaxing, meeting family and friends and even enjoying the great outdoors. My Sundays are a great way to start the working week stress-free.
4. No chit chat with the store assistants
It’s common for native Thuringians to comment on the lack of customer service here. Unfortunately they are not wrong. The difference is that it doesn’t bother the locals so much; its just the way it is. I have also changed my attitude a little after experiencing this lack of typical customer service. It’s not personal and actually, it’s more authentic. When I’ve travelled back to Australia, I am often caught by surprise by the cheerful greeting, the pause as if she’s actually waiting for my answer to see “How’s my day been?” and then for her to ask what I was doing that day! Unbelievable! Some people may think it’s nosy, but no it’s just the Australian way that I look forward to experiencing when I get home. My guilty secret is that I also like passing through the shops in Weimar like an invisible person. So much more efficient and easier.
5. Uncommon use of credit or debit cards
I have heard and read many times how we are turning into a cashless society. Well, not in Germany or perhaps not in Weimar. Credit cards are not common and if you dare to pay with a debit card, it’s almost never the most convienient option. I remember in the first couple of weeks of moving to Weimar, before my newly set up bank account had sent me a debit card, I had to visit Ikea and I purchased basically every piece of furniture needed for comfortable living. That meant, I needed to take out 500 euros at a time from my Australian credit card to pay for it all. At Ikea, cash or debit cards are only accepted. Not sure why Ikea,of all stores are trying to curb wilful credit card spending.
I much prefer having cash always on me and it has definitely helped me to keep track of my spending. I used to just whip out the card when I wanted to buy something but that would mean the occassional embarrassing experiences of a card decline. Now, if I don’t have the cash in my purse, I often tell myself that means I should probably skip that purchase.
I am sure there are many other instances of cultural differences that are actually more convienient than the way I’ve been doing it for most of my life. Or maybe it’s just about adjustment and acceptance of new way of doing things.