Sunday, December 24, 2017

Easy Merry

You're supposed to burn the candles one per week leading up to Christmas, pointed out a German woman who'd come home last week. I had had no clue that there was a candle lighting tradition and had simply picked up four candles on a bed of foliage as it looked pretty and having lit one, it seemed a shame not to light the others. 

We have no Christmas tradition and make up our own stuff. Neither me nor my husband grew up celebrating the festival and so have nothing to recreate from our childhood or pass on to our kids. Our Christmas tree is a stand for all things special - from drawings to medals to flags and our Christmas lunch is usually something I've cobbled together on the day. Yes, there is gifts for the children but it's not very different to other holidays - for me at least.

On Christmas day we might go for a walk or watch some TV. This year, perhaps some skiing, if the slopes are open for business. But barring that we are newcomers to this festival, which of course has little religious connotation and instead is almost entirely about buying. And to that effect, we have bought into it but, as for the rest, it's all a bit rough and ready.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bloody Germans

Two words describe my relationship with this country. Love, hate. And I experienced both this week. Earlier this week, I was out shopping in the supermarket when a simple mistake on my part meant that the lady at the till had to check something over and then had to take it off the bill when I realised that the price was not what I thought it was. She sighed, rolled her eyes at what I was making her do and rolled her eyes once more when I lost my patience with her. I apologised for my lack of German and told her that her customer service was appalling and that I was not going to continue shopping there and left. An old man who saw me strop, said something rude in German to me and waved bye. As I sat in the car park, I was terribly flustered from the encounter and fumed at the sheer rudeness of it all. Given that this is not the first time that I had encountered poor service and with each time, I find wondering what it is about this country that its citizens think it's okay to be so rude to others - even when they are only doing their job.

Later that very afternoon, as I was trying to park my car, a lady flagged me down furiously to show me the parking spot that she had just vacated where I could park mine and then handed me a parking ticket which had another 2 hours left on it. Later still as I sat on a bar stool in a small cafe eating a beautifully cooked vegetarian lasagne, a woman seated next to me - also a lone diner - could scarcely believe when I told her my children's age and kept wondering how that could be so, when I looked so young (nice!). These two encounters found Germany's prices rising in my personal stock exchange. But no one, least of all me, could have foreseen the crash that was about to happen less than 24 hours later. 

Here's a view from my kitchen.
I admit, it's very pretty here but if I had to
pick between great views and polite people, I'd
much rather the latter.
Any local that I meet for the first time will find me apologising for not being terribly good with their language but that I will try to speak it. And so it was that I started greeting someone yesterday when she turned to me and wondered if I really didn't know the language or if I was "just being lazy to speak it." Naturally, I was taken aback at how brusque she was but replied something rather weak about how I'm learning German and moved away. But I wondered how anyone could be so brazenly rude to your face and get away with it. The trouble however, is that  I came up with a retort 12 hours later ("Are you naturally rude or are you just being German?") whereas in the immediate moment, I could just about muster a mumble.

Germany's stocks are trading at a low at the moment. It would need an impossible act of kindness to look up from here.