The Germans are known, worldwide, for being extremely ordered and anal. I can say that along with the stereotype that many Americans know frighteningly little about world geography, this preconception about Germans tends to be true. I’m not by any stretch the most laid-back person I know, in fact it’s highly likely that I’m not even in the top 100 of the most laid-back people I know. And yet I find myself, sometimes on more than one occasion per day, wanting to scream “Hey, German man/woman/boy/girl/dog, CHILL the f&*k out.” And yes mom, the profanity is necessary.
One thing I have come to learn, though, is that while Germans do love order, rules and more rules, they are really very selective about what kinds of rules they follow. There are many rules that they simply ignore, and some others that are followed literally to the letter under probable punishment of death. For example, please feel free to hang around outside the grocery store (also conveniently located about 40 paces to the police station) in groups of about 10, becoming drunker and drunker all day long while smashing bottles, yelling, wearing black to express your angst, and frightening customers. At home we would call this ‘Loitering’, ‘Public Drunkenness’ and ‘Drunk and Disorderly.’ Here, it’s pretty standard. Or if you feel the need to urinate say, while you are in public, PLEASE don’t hesitate to do so! Outside the hockey game or in an alley in the shopping area, all sorts of walls and/or shrubbery are waiting for your urine to rain down upon them…in broad daylight if the mood strikes! At home this might get you on the Sexual Offender registry.
However, if you are driving in Germany please be aware that the blue sign with a scene of children, cars, trees and a road indicates that you must drive either a) the speed of walking or b) 7 kilometers per hour (4.5 miles per hour). I suppose it just depends on whether you can walk faster than 7, and I hope you can. I learned this lesson the hard way today, when I was pulled over at a check stop going 30km/h (17m/h). I was then informed (auf Deutsch, of course) that even though there is no speed limit sign with an actual number on it (we wouldn’t want to make it too easy and/or clear), the previously mentioned sign with an elaborate scene drawn upon it is meant to indicate the numeral ‘7’. Of course. Not 5, not 10, but 7. A sign with a number (regardless of how silly that number might seem) was just too obvious I suppose.
I wasn’t actually that upset by any of this, unlike the way I normally feel when Germany gets me down. The policewoman, who was trying so hard to figure out what the hell to do with a criminal who neither spoke English nor has a German driver’s license, actually had me feeling sorry for her. She was clearly new to this crime fighting squad and wasn’t all that quick on the up-take. Maybe I was too busy enjoying the irony of that fact that not only do I not have a German driver’s license, but I actually was not carrying ANY driver’s license at all…but this was not a problem. When the policewoman asked her superior what to do, he told her to take down my info on the back of a piece of paper so they could mail me my ticket. Seriously.