Three Months of Non-Shocking Culture Shock

A lot of people have asked me about culture shock, most assuming that I went or am still going through it. My answer is a pretty resounding “no;” however, I’m still left with a few habits that I can’t seem to shake. Is there such a thing as “culture leftovers?”

Delicious cultural leftovers. Mmm.

Delicious cultural leftovers. Mmm.

You know you used to live in Germany when…

…you put the laundry in the washing machine and settle in with a book, and then realize that in less than an hour, the machine isn’t running anymore. Your first thought is “Oh no, is it broken?” rather than “Oh, the machine has finished the wash cycle in a reasonable amount of time and I don’t have to set aside an entire afternoon to do a load of laundry.”

…you still don’t know what gets recycled and you’re afraid to throw anything away. You stare at your yogurt cups, cereal boxes and spare pieces of plastic wrapping at length, and finally make tiny little hoarder-style piles of different types of packaging in the kitchen, waiting for clarity to strike sometime before garbage day.

…people say hello to you on the street or strike up conversations as they walk dogs by your porch. “What do they want?” you think, cowering in fear. “Are they going to tell me I did something wrong? At what point am I going to stop understanding them if we start talking?” They make small talk and after a while, you remember what small talk is – they don’t want anything. And also, they speak English, and so do you. And you’re even allowed to acknowledge the dogs!

…you realize, annoyed, that you didn’t bring a canvas bag or backpack to the grocery store and therefore, you’ll have to buy one.

…you have to resist the urge to barrel to the end of the checkout counter and start bagging groceries frantically yourself. The cashier does it for you, relatively slowly and carefully (not even tossing any of your items off the end of the counter and onto the ground!) and you start to feel panic welling up on her behalf, wondering how ticked off the people behind you must be at her stupid, stupid helpful nature.

8 responses to “Three Months of Non-Shocking Culture Shock

  1. That one about the canvas bags I AM SO WITH YOU. I don’t know how many canvas DM bags I have now..

    And that’s crazy that they bag stuff for you! Here you have to do it yourself, but I’m still likely to want to pack bags – of the person in front because they started too late and are dilly dallying about it. You need to be on the BALL to be able to shop efficiently!

    • Check this out: sometimes in U.S. stores they have a cashier AND a bagger (!) at each register so you never have to do it yourself. It’s decadent by German standards, though I always feel bad watching someone else bag my stuff for me. If there is just a cashier, then he or she will bag once they’re done ringing it all up, though I usually try to do it as they go as much as I can.

      • I moved to the UK from Germany and always felt guilty when people packed my bags for me. Especially at German discounters like Aldi or Lidl packing your groceries can be considered exercise – especially with everyone staring at you. Even when the cashier is done scanning your stuff he won’t help packing. Instead he will sit there silently giving you the “Hurry up already look”.

      • My favorite is when they refuse to scan the items of the next person until the instant that you’ve removed your last item from the counter. And then it’s back to marathon speed, throwing things down to the end of the line 🙂

      • Most people that go shopping on their own simply throw their groceries back into the trolley and pack them after they paid and cleared the area 😛

  2. Pingback: The Week in Germany: Elections, Camping, and Culture Shock | Young Germany·

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