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?”
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.