Culture · Life

Living Abroad: The Rules

When I moved to Germany I knew I would have to adapt to a lot of things: new food, a new language, new weather, and so on. I was ready for these and so far I have adopted pretty well I think. However, there were some lifestyle changes I was not expecting. We all know that Germans can be sticklers for rules but I am finding them in the strangest of places. Here are some of my favorites.

Rule one: Do not cross the road when the red man is up. Ok so we all know jaywalking is illegal and can also be highly dangerous but when there isn’t a car to be seen for miles I have no intentions of standing in one spot like a moron so I walk. If you choose to follow my rule instead, cue heaving tutting from fellow pedestrians or abuse from people in cars (when they eventually catch up with you).

Rule two: Do not spend more than thirty seconds being served at a till point and certainly do not ask any questions to the person serving you which may result in your service taking longer than thirty seconds. Breaking this rule results in the people behind you invading your personal space and tutting loudly into your ear.

Rule three: Do not ask for an alternative at a restaurant. If perhaps your burger has tomato but you would prefer cucumber, do not waste your breath in asking for a swap. Asking for alternatives in a German restaurant is a classic case of ‘computer says no’.

Rule four: When walking on a pavement and directly towards a person coming in the opposite way, do not do the ‘oh sorry, which way shall we go’ dance that we love to do in Ireland. Both parties involved steer off to the right to avoid collision. This happened to a friend of mine once who forgot the golden rule of walking (besides putting one leg in front of the other) and collided with a man on the street. The result was a roar down the street reminding her ‘right before left, bitch’. Nice.

Rule five: Do not smile at strangers on the street. This is hard for us Irish people who love a good ol natter with strangers; we cannot stop after a simple smile and a ‘hello’ it seems. Smiling at strangers results in them labeling you a murderer, a rapist, a freak, and any other label you do not wish to acquire. In replacement of ‘smile’ you can also include other friendly acts such as lifting a pram up steps, helping with heavy bags, and so on.

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