Our apartment is a little austere, so we’ve been on the hunt for kitchen supplies, lamps, and other household goods. Bielefeld has a main shopping center that has anything that you could need, but we’ve been trying to seek out places that cater more to our, um, financial inclinations. We asked for advice on where to get a cheap DVD player and we were sent to a place where prices started in the hundreds. There are a few “Secondhand-Laden” in the Alt Markt section of downtown Bielefeld, but it turns out that they are more “vintage” than “thrift”. We haven’t found anything like a Goodwill yet. Some preliminary reading on the indispensable Toy Town Germany forums informs that there aren’t very many stores like that here. We’ve seen a few 1€ stores, and have found some good deals at Aldi, Lidl, and Kik.
We saw signs that there is a Trödelmarkt (flea market, more literally “junk” market) every Saturday in the parking garage across from the university, and headed over to check it out. We had no idea that it took up about four floors of the parking garage, and included meats, eggs, vegetables, pastries, and brotwurst (more on that below).
*Big sigh of relief* I felt like I was home, in a comfortable place where I could have fun and find the things I needed. There were a lot of languages being spoken at the market – sadly, I understood more Russian than German, heard an awful lot of Turkish, and tried to speak to the vendors in German but ended up saying “Hola” instead of “Hallo” to every single one.
At the Trödelmarkt, we got a DVD player for 5€ and a cord for 2€. Of course, we had to buy a DVD for 3.50€ so that we could make sure that the player worked. (It’s a bit noisy, but it does the job). We should also be able to get bikes there so that we don’t always have to take the tram around.
Something I enjoy about walking around here is the fact that people leave each other pretty much alone. Yes, that sounds antisocial, and yes, I partially do mean it that way. But, as in other European countries, you’re not expected to make eye contact or smile as you walk by a stranger. Something that particularly stands out to me here is that it’s okay to accidentally brush against other people, or to stand right next to another shopper as you both examine at the same items. No one says a word or feels that they are in the way. I saw a man in the grocery store suddenly back right up into a woman who wasn’t facing him, and she was knocked forward a few steps. They laughed, and he apologized, but that is the only time I’ve heard someone apologize for bumping into someone else. I, meanwhile, weave through crowds of people, mumbling “Entschuldigung” in response to…well, I’m starting to realize that it’s absolutely nothing. I took a step where someone else might want to take a step? Someone had to turn sideways to squeeze by in a narrow aisle? The more I think about it, the crazier I feel. We apologize for every. Single. Thing. As a friend of mine has said, we should stop “apologizing for our presence.” It’s hard to do when we were raised to think that any unplanned contact is social anathema, and we should avoid it at all costs.
Likewise, people here are nicer and more patient about waiting than in America. There is no angry honking or exasperated gesturing when someone has to wait an extra few seconds for another car or a person crossing the street. If I’m standing in front of a vendor or a map or anything that someone else wants to to look at, they patiently wait. They don’t feel like it’s the end of the world, and I shouldn’t either.
It seems there’s no such thing as small talk with strangers, which is great at this point, since I wouldn’t understand it anyway. By the same token, I’ve never had a customer sales person approach me to ask if I needed help. We’ve been pretty much on our own in regards to figuring out how our living arrangement works. We finally flagged down the Hausmeister (janitor/caretaker) of our building and cleared up a couple of things with the help of lots of pointing and our mini-dictionary. A professor at the university summed it up well: “Something that you will find in America that you will not find here is help with adjusting, such as advice, or just asking if you need anything, if everything is okay. Just know that in Germany you will have to ask, but someone will always help you.”
Oh, and the DVD we got?
I guess our Saturday nights haven’t changed much. It was either this or Nie wieder Sex Mit der Ex.
New Vocab learned from the movie (There is a much longer list, not on this blog, of the rest of the vocab we learned. I can totally handle getting in a German bar fight now):
vertrauen – to trust
Kerl – guy
toll – great
puste – breath
hübsch – pretty
furchtbarer – terrible
klasse (adj) – great
vermutlich – presumably
wachs – wax
zufall – accident/chance
ziemlich – quite
merkwürdig – odd/strange
peinlich – embarrassing
Das ist toll – That’s cool!
verrückt – crazy