Culture Shock-Germany!


This post was a long time coming! and by long i mean 4 very interesting, exciting, eyeopening, hard long years of my undergrad! Not that its finished yet.. but hopefully soon.! Maybe writing this will mark the end of it!

So coming to Germany was like a new beginning of a life that i never would have imagined possible before. Off course it wasn’t the first time i was here. But the first trip hardly counted. It lasted only 10 days which was just spent in drinks and friends that i made here for the very first time. Nevertheless i would have never imagined then that i would be coming back. Funny how it happens. You think you might never do something again, so you get all hasty and try to do a lot of things in a short time, never really enjoying the small things that could have made a great memory. Quantity over quality!

But here i was just 2 years later. Now pursuing my undergrad in a completely new country. In fact in a different continent altogether! I knew a bit of the language but that didn’t quite help so much as i would have thought it should! And off course it was very different. Different even though i was here before and expecting a lot of things. Still i made a small list of things that felt at that time very-well, for lack of another word- different!

1.Windows in ventilator mode

For all the people from my country, windows weren’t that big a deal because it was always accompanied by grills! There were just two modes-Open and Close. And the idea of them being air tight was a far fetched dream, at least for the ones akin to me who had lived in government flats for government employees with middle class income.

So the windows here were a constant source of curiosity to me. Not only were they air tight, with clean see through glass, could open and close but they could also be opened it what they call the ‘Ventilator mode’. That ensures that the window wasn’t fully open but could still ventilate the room with fresh air. Hence the name!

2. Clean, White, Efficient Houses

Again maybe this applied only to me but the rooms and the buildings were very well made. Not only did they have shutters/shades on windows (used in case of too much sun/light) that could be controlled by electrical switches, the lighting system could always detect if there was movement in the room or not. They would switch off if there wasn’t any. And this didn’t only apply to rooms but lamps at your main door too. Which meant that your guests weren’t left in complete darkness at any time. Off course it meant the switching on and off even if a stray cat or a dog passed by. But we will come to know later that was rare.

Study halls and lecture rooms were also quite fascinating for me. Every one of them was equipped with not only enough table and chairs, they always had black/white boards (some of them portable) and something knows as the Overhead Projector. One could write on transparent sheets and that would be reflected (enlarged) on a white board via a bulb and a mirror. Only once did we have such a thing in our school which was only bought when a official from the CBSE was there to instruct us on the best was for studying for our 12th board exams. So in the beginning that caused much fascination in me.

3.Bigger oranges!

The first time i saw them i was drawn to them. I had never seen oranges bigger than a small child’s fist before. And here they were round , juicy and bigger than a cricket ball!  And you could even buy them in twos or threes. Of course they were still charged according to the weight but back home we always had to buy a Kg or a half but never less!. This didn’t apply just to oranges. One could buy a number of things like this, for e.g. apples, bananas, tomatoes, even melons cut in halves or quarters and wrapped with what they call as Kitchen Wrap.

4. PDA

This could probably apply to all the western countries and i knew about the openness of with which they treated such matters but the extent was only fully grasped when i was here. You could see people from time to time holding hands, hugging, kissing and even smooching their partners in public. I was introduced to the head of my dorm by -one could say- my teacher with a sentence ‘This guy and his Girlfriend are the head of this dorm. If you have any problems regarding your room please contact them’ . It was common knowledge in my country that youngsters had girlfriend/boyfriends but the idea of introducing someone like that, so openly, from a person, who clearly belonged to a generation before you, was still something i wasn’t used to.

Recently i discovered new landlords renting their rooms to new tenants had more faith in their tenants’ partners than their actual relatives because in their view, their partners would be the ones visiting the tenants more often and could, therefore provide a more accurate picture of the tenants!

5. Co-head dorms

Yes we even had co-head dorms. Meaning Girls and Boys could live together under the same roof albeit in different rooms but sharing the same kitchen and the toilets.  This ensured a lot of  complaints mostly from the girls’ side that the guys weren’t clean enough.

And to push things further we had no time restrictions on the entry and exit from the hostel.One could come and leave any time they wanted. We used this freedom to go on countless long walks in the night, late night parties and a number of other things which couldn’t quite be listed here.

6.Helping nature of the people

I remember once we went to this place and couldn’t find the right bus stop. We were just 2 min away from the departure time of the bus and hence the frenzy of the situation. And here was this old lady, bent double on a walking stick, who came hobbling to us just to show us the right stop. Not just there, i have always found people in the Supermarkets, Airports, Hospital etc who are happily willing to help other people in contrast to what I  had seen back home.

7. Weather

So the usual weather here consists of a cloudy grey sky with little or no sunshine in the winters. So naturally any bit of sunshine or a clear blue sky is always regarded as ‘Schönes Wetter’. For people like me who saw summer for 8-9 months every year with constant sunshine and no snow at all back home, sun wasn’t such a big deal. For the first few years i was always happy with weather that was mildly chilly with little to no sun and a cloudy sky. That has although changed over the years now.

8. No stray animals

Yes none at all. Though one can sometimes find some stray cats left behind when the owners have left. But no dogs. The reason being something known as the ‘Tierrettung’. If anyone sees any stray animal, they can call this office up and the animal in question will be provided for.

9. Insurance and Taxes for Dogs

So this the prime reason i haven’t been able to get a dog as a pet yet. Apparently you have to pay a ‘Hundesteuer’ and a dog insurance depending on the the dog you have. Also you need to get your pet chipped in case of loss or theft so that it could be tracked easily.

10. No insects in house

I didn’t notice it fully till the time i took up private accommodation. You generally don’t have any sort of house insects at all. In fact it is seen as a big hygiene issue if you have any. So till now i have lead a very nice cockroach and lizard free life.

11.Water and Electricity at all times

Maybe water at all times is common nowadays back home too but we still see a lot of electricity cuts. Here you get constant water and electricity at all time. Off course you have to be careful how much of it you use because the more the you use the more you pay and the costs are quite high if you live oustide of a student dorm.

So here it is.My short summary of all the things i found enticing when i first came here. There are still a lot more things i find interesting and so very different form what we have back home but maybe they would be the topic of a different blog.