Talking politics and why that involves traffic lights

Don’t click away again! Yes, I’ll talk politics for a bit but I will not even once use the name of a certain person currently gving many of you in the US headaches and causing outsbursts of frustration. Instead, I’m back with another episode of my little series hightlighting differences between Germany and the US. Given we’re about to elect a new Bundestag [the political institution deciding pretty much everything in our country], I thought it’d be interesting to give you a little glimpse into how we do things over here. Plus a few more fun little bits and bobs.

Thinking out loud again here.

Thinking-Out-Loud

President who?

Unlike in the US, the president is barely present in most Germans minds on a daily basis. Actually, I’m tempted to guess the majority of us wouldn’t be able to tell you the current president’s name – Frank-Walter Steinmeier if you’re curious and no, I didn’t have to look that up; proud moment? 😉 – or his functions. Yet ask for the cancellor’s name and hey, sure thing, Merkel! Angela Merkel has been the German chancellor for what feels like forever now and is very likely to be re-elected once again on September 24th (our “Bundestagswahl”/ elections for the German Bundestag that take place once every four years). Elections themselves – there are multiple; this ‘big’ one for the Bundestag all Germans vote for on the same day and individual ones for each Bundesland [federal state] – are a huge topic in themselves. For now, I’ll just list a few interesting facts and won’t go into the details about the actual voting system – think Überhangmandate (“overhang mandates”), the “five per cent hurdle” etc. – since not even all Germans understand it. It’d take some more time to explain but let me know if you’re interested.

Stay however long you please! 

The above is true for the Chancellor. As I said, Angela Merkel has been ours for a long time – twelve years or three voting periods – and is very likely to win again in this election. Rumor has it she won’t candidate again yet if she wanted would be free to do so.

Reichstag Berlin at night

The ‘Kuppel’ of the German Reichstag, meeting place of the Bundestag. // Source

Small but mighty

While in the US, either Democrats or Conservatives end up winning elections and as such filling the seats in parliament, Germany is more divided. Yes, here, too, the ‘main’ players are two big parties – the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and CDU (Christian Democratic Union) – but them aside, the field is much more varied. Among the very small ones on the sidelines are – to name just a few – Die Piratenpartei (Pirate’s Party; no joke!), Die Violetten (The Violets), the Feminist Party and even a vegetarian party.  Why these small ones are still important? Because they create a larger spectrum of opinions presented in the Bundestag. Plus, the more established ones who get a certain amount of votes force the big ones into coalitions.

What Jamaica and traffic lights have in common

Answer: They’re names of German coalition types. Because multiple small parties get a right to seats in the Bundestag, too, the ‘big’ parties can’t play the policits game alone (no majority of votes). The coalition names stem from the colours associated with the various parties (i.e. green for Die Grünen, the environmental-focused party, red for the SPD, black for the CDU, …). Meaning that the Ampel-Koalition (traffic light coalition) would be the SPD (red), FDP (yellow) and Die Grünen (green) forming the government.

So once the election is over, the big party who won the majority of votes – sssh: this is going to be the CDU once again this time around – gets together with the smaller parties who managed the five percent hurdle. Eventually, those long discussions result in who gets which ministry and the new government is complete. As I’m sure you’re fed up with talking about politics now so let’s move on to a different topic.

 

Bring back, bring back oh bring back my baby cart to me, to me

Disregard the unfortunate rhyming above. The hidden statement here: German groceries want you to bring your shopping carts back. Orderly. That’s right: no just randomly leaving yours somewhere in the parking lot or around the store. Their tactic? Money. Want a cart? Bring a coin. Outside stores, carts are strung together and you can fetch one by inserting a coin – usually 1 € – into a slot on the car, by this untying it. No worries: if you’re a good customer 😉 and bring your cart back to where you got it, you’ll get your money back. No losses for the store = no losses for you. We’re fair players here. And because we want our every penny back we also …

Return bottles to the store

Yes, that’s right. Stores don’t stop at the carts there. Thirsty? Grab a bottle of your favourite beverage from the shelves but be aware that the price noted there isn’t what you’ll actually have to pay. At the check-out, the store system automatically adds a so-called ‘Pfand’ – typically 0.15-0,25 € per bottle depending on its size – to the price stated on the shelf. Don’t worry, though: you get your Pfand back when you return your empty bottles to the store. And if you’re anything like me you feel just that little bit feisty in getting a – actually only mental – discount on your next purchase that way. Imagined benefits are still benefits, right ;)?

… and that’s it for another post on those small but significant differences in everyday life in Germany vs. the US.

Happy Thursday!

Happiness-inducing today: Many little things from the past few days like a conversation with one of my colleagues, another long-ish one with a – rare exception here! – friendly cashier and sunshine amidst a stormy and rain-heavy day.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

Share your random thoughts with me!

What’s are some differences you’ve noticed between your homecountry and other ones you’ve visitied in the past?

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Of nudity, happy mums and small talk aversion

Hi!

Has it really been almost a week since we talked macros? It’s been somewhat of a rough time since. My family experienced a huge loss on the weekend and writing a Week in Review just didn’t happen. I do not want to talk about our loss any more but also couldn’t pretend nothing had happened. Rather than talk about myself, I decided to finally share another post in what I’d planned to be a little series on German life. There are a lot of differences between life here and in the US– we’re talking some juicy facts today ;).

A final note on my posting schedule for the week: As I’ll be traveling and attending the funeral on the other end of the country and won’t be back until – at the earliest – late on Saturday night I’ll try but might not be able to share the good good links on Sunday, either. In that case, be back on Monday for some of my latest favourites.

[As I have yet to figure out the whole technology issue – hoping to get to it soon, though – the pictures in this post aren’t entirely fitting but I had fun bringing back some  older favourites]

Thinking-Out-Loud

We don’t beat around the bush. Or: small talk wasn’t invented in Germany

Truth is: we like to cut right to the chase. Mailing somebody with business inquiries? There’s no need to ask how they are first. Just let them know what you need in a polite way and that’s it.

When you call somebody, don’t be surprised when they pick up the phone saying just their last name [say, “Maier”]. It’s unusual to say “hello?” upon picking up. If you read my previous post on differences between Germany and the US you might remember how “friendly” – cue the irony – cashiers often are. In that case you won’t be surprised to hear they’re not exactly going to chat you up for a short conversation. Because they want you to leave the store –fast–.  Okay, so we don’t all hate small talk. We’re just unlikely to be the ones initiating it.

Let’s get naked.

Or: Germans aren’t as afraid of nudity. Bare breasts on magazine covers at the supermarket? Check. Beaches that explicitly invite you to show off what you’ve got 😉 [German term: FKK-Strand]? Check. And if your doctor needs you to undress certain body parts for examination there’s neither a paravent nor will he usually leave the room as you strip off your clothes or hand you a paper gown. Ready for an even more ‘shocking’ fact?
 
Work and such

Prostitution is a legal business

Now this one I certainly don’t know from personal experience – I prefer keeping my clothes on at work ;). However, the fact is true. While you won’t exaxctly see prostitutes walking down the streets of your average small town neighbourhood there is in fact a certain ‘house’ – colloquially referred to as a “Puff” – smack dab in the middle of a neighbouring village. And if you’re in a larger city like Hamburg you absolutely can see the ladies strutting down Reeperbahn, waiting for business. Speaking of businesses and work …

Mum’s staying home – and dad might as well

This refers to one of the blessings new parents have over here. An expecting woman can legally – with very few exceptions – not be fired from the moment she gets pregnant until a minimum of two months postpartum. The mum-to-be is also legally granted “Mutterschutz” (pregnancy leave) from six weeks pre-birth until up to three years after birth if she decides to stay home with the baby. Her employer can’t fire her during this time, either, and parents receive “Elterngeld” [think – very simplified- the state paying a compensation for the usual income depending on the latter; at least 300 €/per month, max 1.800 €]. Additionally, the baby’s dad can apply for “Elternzeit”, too. My sister’s husband did this and was on parental leave from his main job [starting his second side business on the leave – with the approval of his boss] for some time, too.

 

Money, money, money

The one topic all Germans can agree on: GEZ

GEZ, short for “Gebühreneinzugszentrale” has to be one of every German’s most disliked institutions. They’re the friendly people who decided that every household has to pay a set monthly fee of €17.98 for TV, radio and New Media and – that’s the clue – regardless of whether you use those or not. Sounds great, right? Not.

Pay now, use later.

If you live in an apartment/house/whatever else and use electricity and the likes this is true for you. Yes, that’s right. You’re paying for the so-called “Nebenkosten” like electricity and gas in advance. If you end up using less than the providing companies assumed you’ll get money back at the end of the year.

Sunday, silent Sunday

Feel like your lawn is more than ready for a cut again? You’d better not plan on mowing it on a Sunday in Germany unless you want to get in contact with the authorites. Yes, mowing your lawn on Sunday is legally prohibited. As you might remember you can’t do your regular weekend shopping on this day, either.

That’s it for now though there are plenty more differences to share another time.

Happy Thursday!

Happiness-inducing today: The brightest sunshine in between all the rain we’ve been getting lately.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

Share your random thoughts with me!

If you’ve ever been to Germany: What’s something else you’ve found odd or was different?

If you’ve never been to Germany but noticed differences between your country and another one you’ve visited: share those! It’s amazing how different cultures are.

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Cars, cooking, cash – differences between Germany and the US

First things first: Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the US! I hope you’ll have a wonderful day with family, friends or whoever you choose to spend it with.

It’s been a hot minute since I previously joined Amanda on her venture of leisurely letting thoughts wander aka Thinking out loud. I’m not entirely sure how much of the blog world will really be around today so I opted for a non-heavy topic fitting whichever day you read it: Differences between the US and Germany. While I’ve yet to visit the US myself being part of the blog world for a long time – far longer than I’ve been blogging for myself – I did notice things here and there all the time.

Ready, set,: thoughts out loud!

Thinking-Out-Loud

 

 

Going places

Say hi to Deutsche Bahn!
A lot of Germans travel via train evidence of which can be found multiple times on my blog. It’s convenient, cheaper and more accessible than flying. And if you like surprises  [beware of upcoming sarcasm] Deutsche Bahn – the main trailway company – regularly has you in for those with delays, broken air conditioning in the summer heat and else. We make it sound more awful than it is, obviously. Well, unless we remember that time your connecting train on a long distance journey was cancelled, you spent an hour standing on a crowded platform in cold wind and seriously questioning if we were going to make it home that day still, all while being sick. Thanks for nothing, Deutsche Bahn.
But hey, we accept that for long distance travels because …

Berlin

Gas is way more expensive than in the US
Last time I checked the gas my dad’s car needs was 1,35 € [around $1,42] – and that’s per litre, not gallon. That’s why won’t see any trucks or similarly big cars on the streets often here. Big hooray for public transport.

Restaurants, supermarkets and home

Running to the store on Sunday? No way.
You guessed that right: stores are closed on Sundays. Exception to this rules can be found in some bigger cities, usually stores located in central stations. And if you run out of snacks at night you might be out of luck, too. Most supermarkets close at 8 PM. Again, cities can be the exception with certain ones not closing until 10 or at the very latest – and I’ve only seen this twice before – midnight.

Just like your car you’d better not be super thirsty.

Because there are no free refills in Germany. In fact, some restaurant owners make the majority of their profit through beverages,  not food. The only exception being IKEA – thank you for introducing me to this novelty as a child, Sweden – where you can drink to your heart’s content.

Got cash?

If you plan on visiting Germany: a) let me know [duh!] and b) bring some cash. Well, you might have to do that in anyway because of the different currency but really: we like to pay in cash. Sure, I keep my bank card in my wallet at all times but only really use it to pay if I’m making big purchases. Some stores even have a minimum amount of spendings you need to reach before they let you use your debit card. And once you’ve paid …

Hurry up!

Because cashiers want you out as soon as possible. This is one thing that seriously annoys me. At best, you’d have your purchases stashed away and be on your way out right after you finished paying. I’m not entirely sure of the situation in the US but a friend from the UK told me you could take a lot more time to pack over there. There’s also no employee to help you bag up your stuff because hey, that could make you feel entirely too welcome at the checkout.

Take your shoes off, please
… and grab a pair of slippers. We do not wear shoes other than the latter in the house. I was surprised to hear people apparently walk around in their outdoor shoes at home in the US. Is that true? Sexier than the Birkenstock-like sandals I’m wearing as I type this for sure ;).

Cooking and baking

Let’s do the math!
… or just break out the kitchen scales. You might have already known that we do not measure in cups over here. Honestly, cup measurements used to seriously confuse me when I started reading blogs and trying US recipes. How many potatoes are you supposed to buy when a dish calls for two cups, diced? By now, I’m way better at this yet still prefer using scales. So much more accurate. [Completely subjective opinon of course]

kabocha!

You’re putting what into your dessert pie?!

Seasonal fact:pumpkin is not eaten the sweet way in Germany. We go savoury. Actually, you won’t find canned pumpkin on the shelves of any store, either. It’s only through social media and also very very slowly that some people – usually inspired by Instagram – start making their own pumpkin puree to use in sweet dishes.

Wrapping it up here even though I could come up with way more examples. But over to you and your experiences in other countries  – let me know about them in the comments!

Happiness-inducing today: More of that glorious autumn sunshine I mentioned in my previous post.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

Did you know about any of these differences between Germany and the US?

What are some differences between other countries you visited and your homecountry?

… and whichever random thoughts come to your mind here.

 

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