Cold beer, warm lunches, coffee, cake, socks and sandals. Naturally, there is no one German way of living, but there are some trends that I’ve come to recognize fondly as “German”. Here are a few I think are neat.
A beer by any other name is not a beer
There is a law from the 16th century that still governs beer production in Germany. It’s called the Reinheitsgebot (the German Beer Purity Law). It ensures that beer contains only four ingredients: water, yeast, malted grains and hops. This means that your typical cherry beers or experimental blends with herbs can’t actually be called “beer” in Germany. The law applies to beer brewed in Germany – naturally, imported beers are sold here too. And with the recent wave of craft beers (or should I say, Biermischgetränke) hitting German bars, we all still have plenty of access to beverage innovation.
Breakfast really is spectacularly important
Americans might have their family dinners, Italians might have their long lunches, but in Germany, it’s all about breakfast. Breakfast on the weekends is a long and leisurely affair. It goes for hours. There is no hurried gulping down of cornflakes here. There is a beautiful 2-3 hour long session involving the buttering of bread rolls, the consumption of meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, jams and honey, the drinking of tea and/or coffee and the listening to the radio, reading the paper or engaging in conversation. Look out for specialities like Mettwurst, a spiced raw minced pork sausage on half a bread roll, preferably with raw onions, salt and pepper. Make sure to ask your guests exactly how they like their boiled eggs, and pull out the breakfast boards and good quality butter knives. They’re like little mini chopping boards for one person. Adorable.
The coffee and cake window
A typical Sunday. No loud music, no leaf blowers, no washing machines. On the German agenda is long breakfast (see above), followed by a leisurely walk around the village, city or park with the family and a hard-earned stop for Kaffee und Kuchen somewhere along the way. Just be careful to observe the coffee and cake window. 2:30pm is too early, 4:30pm is too close to dinner. Coffee and cake should fit snugly into the space between 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
Socks and sandals
Yes, you’ll see them, particularly among the older generations. I remember the day I saw my little girl wearing socks and sandals for the first time. Her German father had dressed her. I stopped and swallowed. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first. Then I decided it was appalling. Then after a few hours of successful walking with said toddler, I had to admit, it is very very practical, especially in those tricky season crossover times. When I’m inside, I’m wearing socks and I have to duck outside, oh it’s more than tempting. My sandals sit by the door, looking up at me, whispering. It would be so easy.
I let my little girl wear socks and sandals if she wants to. I’ve been known to pop out to get the mail under such conditions. I have not yet ventured any further (baby steps).
Germans are Recyclers with Legendary Status
I’m not even going to make a joke. I have such respect for how seriously Germans treat recycling. Outside our apartment, there are seven different sorts of bins. I know of eight or nine in total: green glass, clear glass, brown glass, plastic, paper and cardboard, electrical waste, organic waste and whatever’s left over. Plus, there’s the bottle depository for when you get money back and the depository for batteries and pollutants, both of which can be found at supermarkets and shops.
I learnt a lot about trash separation when I got here and I’ve never looked back. At first, I looked at my husband like he was an alien when he had conniptions watching someone leave their glass bottles on a table. Now, we give each other a high five. Hell yes, babe, we just made 75 cents!
Got some German quirks of your own to share? Please keep it light – no bashing here.