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.