Australia vs Germany. Cultural Differences. Part One.

I’m going to start writing a regular series of articles about the interesting little differences between my life in Germany and my life in Australia. I hope that I offend neither country in doing so as there are positive and negative aspects about all countries… If I do offend though, you know that the concept of a country is an imaginary one anyway, right? #leftistideals

Feel free to comment below with your thoughts, abuse, or to add any other differences or peculiarities about either country.

1. Supermarkets

In Germany, you'd better be an efficient shopper at the checkout.

In Germany, you’d better be an efficient shopper at the checkout.

The typical stereotype of Germans is that they are ruthlessly efficient and have little time for superfluous activity and silly behaviour. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve found this stereotype to be betrayed time and time again. Germans are actually fun-loving, silly yahoos like the rest of us. EXCEPT at the checkout of the supermarket. In a German supermarket the stereotype of efficiency, robotic behaviour and humourlessness blips terrifyingly to the surface.

It took me about 6 months before I started feeling comfortable in a German supermarket, at first I didn’t know the protocol and this had drastic and violent consequences. The main difference is that whoever is on the checkout is about 7 times faster than our checkout chicks and chickens in Australia. They have to be, because often only one checkout is operating for the entire supermarket (they haven’t started using self service machines yet, Germans probably wouldn’t trust them) and they CERTAINLY won’t ask you “how’s your day been?” or “planning anything fun for the weekend?” like we do for almost every customer; they don’t have time and what’s more they find the very notion patently absurd.

Also, you know those wacky shopping seperators that no one in Australia uses or even knows what they’re supposed to be for? In Germany they sure as hell use them, and if you don’t then the customer behind you will almost certainly slam it onto the conveyer belt pointedly and look at you as if you’ve just spat on his Birkenstocks. They don’t have time for the “oh no sorry, that’s not my bread…” routine.

At Edeka this effect is not so bad, but once you hit the discounters (Aldi, Penny, Lidl, Netto etc) you’d better have your wits about you lest you want to screamed at by a 50 year old checkout operator with purple hair and incorrectly applied make-up.

3. Recycling

Germans do a better job at reducing this kind of abomination.

Germans do a better job at reducing this kind of abomination.

This leads me to my next point; recycling. Germans take recycling seriously!! 10 points for the Germans!! If you go to a supermarket be prepared to BUY your bag and damn well pack it your self!! No one seems to remember but before about 2007 you were expected to pack your own bags at an Australian supermarket, but now without exception the checkout operator will do it for you; and this has dire consequences for the environment.

I was at an Australian supermarket the other day and I bought a watermelon and three bananas. The boy behind the counter asked me “would you like your bananas in a separate bag to your watermelon?”, I said “no, that is the singularly most irresponsible and wanton thing I’ve ever heard” (I didn’t really I just said that I didn’t need any bags). What happened Australia? You would think that our pristine beaches would remind us of the importance of preserving their natural beauty but apparently not. I suppose this boy asked me if I wanted them in separate bags because he has to deal with other customers’ ridiculous bagging OCD and arbitrary rules for what belongs together in which bag, he’s just preempting what I might want based on his previous experience.

No in Germany you buy plastic bags, and even then your German friends will guilt trip you about not having brought your canvas bags from home. Not to mention the awesome nation wide Pfand or deposit system for plastic bottles and cans that Germany has, or the fact that they derive such a huge portion of their energy from wind farms and don’t have their most important politicians denouncing the sight of them as ‘offensive’. Germany is a real country when it comes to the environment.

2. Water with Bubbles

Well… at least they recycle the bottles?

Germans don’t drink normal water, they find it ‘disgusting’ and most refuse to drink anything at all unless it has bubbles in it. There’s not much to say about this, except that it’s suspicious.

4. Sitting outside at cafés

If it's sunny, the Germans are outside.

If it’s sunny, the Germans are outside.

Right now I’m sitting in a café in Leederville, Western Australia, it’s 32 degrees, no wind and there’s not a cloud in sight. 7 tables are occupied inside the café and 1 outside table is occupied. This is unheard of in Germany. If it’s remotely sunny and the temperature is above 12 degrees (it doesn’t matter how windy it is) they will be at an outside table and the inside of the café will be deserted. When you suggest to your friend “hey… it’s awful outside… do you want to sit in here maybe?” they’ll say “haha, you are so funny, it is sunny!! Don’t you want to enjoy the sun? We only get 2 months of summer here so we need to enjoy it!!” (they actually get about 5 months of sun, even in Hamburg, but they’ll without exception tell you that it’s 2 months). No Australian boy, you’re sitting outside today.

5. Electro

Germans are more hardcore than Australians and can control their aggression and drinking.

Germans are more hardcore than Australians and can control their aggression and drinking.

Germans don’t know about the existence of other forms of music yet, and any club worth its salt will be playing 4/4 electronic music at about 114 BPM all night, every night. For the less musical of you that’s pretty slow!! And some people find it difficult to dance to. Not the Germans though, they need it that slow because they’re awesome and will be partying until 8am, anything faster would wear them out sooner and make them less energetic for loose sexual encounters. Also it makes for a great social atmosphere on the dance floor because no one is too physically involved in the dancing and people are happy to be approached. Germans are approachable and friendly, not cold and reserved as the stereotype would have you believe. I’ve been told to ‘fuck off’ when I’ve been out in Australia, but not in Germany, so…

Now go and find out what the best cafés are in Hamburg.


My Vegan Story: What led me to veganism?

There’s this thing happening on the internet to kick off 2015 called #myveganstory where people who have made the switch post about what the catalyst was for them to do so. Here’s mine.


In 2005 I did Introduction to Philosophy at Murdoch University and the subject for week 2 was “Do Only Humans Matter?”. After reading Peter Singer’s 1979 essay ‘Equality for Animals’ I had decided unequivocally that humans have no business killing animals for food. But strangely, I didn’t adjust my behaviour accordingly and continued to eat meat for the next 7 years. Sometimes at the table the thought would occur that I was going against my intellectual and ethical understanding of right and wrong but the thought would leave almost as soon as it had appeared. Such is the strength of cultural conditioning, cognitive dissonance and the primitive refusal to give up old habits when it comes to something so primal and essential: eating.

In 2012 I met a girl who was a vegetarian, and I started again to discuss Singer et. al., but not in a serious way, almost as if it were all just theory. Because after all, I didn’t have to actually see animals suffering, I could just pick my meat up from the supermarket or the restaurant and not think about it. Nele suggested to me that we all have a responsibility to know where our food comes from and to be realistic about the ramifications of this. And with this point I couldn’t disagree.

I spent a few days scouring Youtube for videos of abattoirs, food videos that related to the environment and lectures on food ethics. About two weeks later I bought a bad ham sandwich as a quick breakfast from the Perth Railway Station and couldn’t eat it because it was so revolting and badly made. I reflected on the suffering that I witnessed with my eyes on Youtube and it started to make its way slowly into my heart. I discarded the ham sandwich and felt not shame nor guilt, but a sense of inanity that an animal had to suffer and die for food… even such horrible food. After this I was a vegetarian.

The logical inconsistency of being a vegetarian and not a vegan began to catch up with me and after a terrible cappuccino in Hamburg, Germany I ditched milk and eggs as well.

In a way it’s a frightening world being a vegan. One in which there is suffering on an unimaginable scale, a scale at which humans have never before been asked to suffer… and no one seems to care. But in another way there is a sense of pride that you were one of the first to open your heart and your intellect and see the world as it truly is, and to live a life that at least causes the least amount of suffering possible (not 0% suffering but as close to the mark as possible).

Nele and I are now both vegans and she is also now my wife.

I’m happy that it happened. It’s not a religion, it’s not for self-righteous people: it’s a social justice issue.

‪#‎newyearsresolution‬ ‪#‎veganeasychallenge‬