Swapping Homes Anybody?


Saturday, September 21, 2013

If you were to go to Germany...would you know?

Our swap partners prepared a really nice manual telling us lots of facts around the area and tips what to visit. Although we always prepare a manual for our house about how to use certain appliances our favorite restaurants etc, this one was packed with suggestions where to eat and suggestions for day trips, even to France and to Switzerland- a mere 2 hours drive.
If you were to visit Germany, would you know that shops are closed on Sundays? Except for gas stations and bakeries until lunch.
Another surprise may be to find out that most shops don’t take a credit card. Especially grocery stores want cash. The one that is least popular is American Express. I was in one city center store of one of the bigger chains in Stuttgart that advertised a new service on their loudspeaker: Pay with your banking card and get cash back. A welcome novelty indeed.
I’m starting to hate shopping for groceries. While I still get my favorite foods which are not available in the US, I don’t like the shopping atmosphere. Everybody is in a hurry when they reach the check out and is pushing, impatient. If you don’t pack and pay fast enough, you get nasty looks from other customers and the cashier; even remarks. I have been kicked with their cart in my heels when I wasn’t fast enough. Forget about having your groceries packed or even helped out to your car. Publix, I miss you!
Germany’s recycling system is starting to drive me mad. It was introduced in about 1990. People have several garbage cans outside, but the system varies from town to town. We learned the terms Rest Muell  (trash)but Round Muell is still a mystery to us. Round?
As an avid environmentalist and former organic farmer’s wife, I ‘m used to separating my trash but I’m getting fed up with it because it seems so complicated even to me. Having to learn the lay of trash in each different town is a nuisance. The locals who are used to one system won’t feel it that much. But we Intrepid Homeswappers get around …and observe.
If you’re used to a garbage disposal, the system seems to be outright annoying. What do you do with left-overs, especially when they contain some liquid? Flush them down the toilet. The recycling industry overall  will be as profitable as Germany's flagship, the motor industry already is by 2016- according to the mayor of Stuttgart. He is a member of the Geen Party and rules the home of car producers like Mercedes and Porsche with an environmental agenda. How do Germans combine their green conscience with their love of glossy, high powered cars? By reducing their fuel consumption and lowering their carbon footprint whenever possible. Thee modern German cars switch of the engine automatically when you sit at a red traffic light.
In Germany you recycle plastic and beer bottles  and get a small sum of money back (Pfand/pledge). – never wine bottles for some unknown reason, however.  In the Netherlands they don’t. have this system.  Having dragged all the bottles back to the store, there was no way to dispose of them but schlep them back home to the houseboat. In Amsterdam, they had 2 types of containers in the boardwalk right outside every other house for glass and paper.
Did you know:
-that the highest tax bracket for top earners is 42%.  The upcoming election on 22 September would let Angela Merkel stay in power for another 4 years. Her opponent, a Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck, intends to increase this tax bracket to 49%. Angela Merkel is considered to be the most powerful woman in the world at the moment and has a high likability rating of over 60%.
Although the election had entered its hot phase 3 weeks ago, there had been no commercials for parties on TV. Posters were only allowed to go up 6 weeks prior to election date. Last night was the first and only televised debate.
Unemployment in Germany is low at 6.8%. (That doesn’t sound that low to me…).
133,000 immigrants became Germans last year and got a passport. A third of which were Turkish nationals, probably already born in this country.5% were other European Union citizens. No explanation as to the rest.

Another statistic FYI: Germans are becoming lazier. They have 4 hours leisure time on average. Their favorite hobby is couching in front of the TV. Among their other hobbies the first sport takes position 17, (going to the gym). The first outdoor activity takes position 24.
My homeland has duly changed since I left it around the time of Reunification. Or is it a matter of watching the past with pink glasses; that everything was better in the olden days…?

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