Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The German Experience

It's been a turbulent month, at the end of which I am now squeezed into a mini aparthotel with the three teenagers and a suitcase, whilst all of my worldly possessions including my make up and comfortable shoes are, according to someone from the freight company 'delayed, and apologies for the delay.'
So I'm experiencing Germany as a red faced fat lady with sore feet wearing dirty jeans in a heat wave.
Add to that that fact that remembering to drive on the wrong side of the road when there are already four lanes on the right side, can cause profuse perspiration, despite the fact that the nice man in the Sat Nav never calls me an imbecile when I miss the turn and curse. So yeah, you've got the picture, I've very quickly become German myself.
Yesterday I went to the tax office to get some documents and have my tax bracket clarified. Apparently I now have 1.5 children. The nice polite civil servant explained that as the children have two parents, the tax benefit is split in two, so it equates to having 1.5 kids. I asked would it not make more sense to just say I get ex amount deducted for three children given my circumstances, but it turns out that it does make sense,  just not the way I understand it. So off I went with my one and a half kids, or off I ran more like it, as the time was up on my parking ticket and I started to fret. This is Germany after all, and going over the time at a parking space is a serious crime. What would the ticket look like? Would it be one of those nasty stickers right across the windscreen? Would work take the rental car back off me for being reckless? Oh come on, I thought to myself, I'm only ten minutes over the time and this is just mental stuff, it's not really like this here. But then I approached the parking area and couldn't see the car. Damn, they'd towed it away. Ah, no, next row, there it was, and yeah, there he was too, in his important uniform - the parking ticket man issuing me a ticket.
Parking Attendant, Traffic Warden, Getting Parking Ticket, Parking Ticket Fine Mandate - Picture, Stock Photo, Stock Photograph
Down with this sort of thing!
I began to run and wave my arms at him (to picture this, remember above description of what I now look like). The only thing I knew was to talk to him as if he were a Galway parking inspector: the rigmarole, and the please let me off and all that. He listened politely and gave me the ticket.
'But do you not give ten minutes grace or anything?' I asked
'We do' he told me, 'but it's 13 minutes now.'
'Ah, well then, that makes sense.'
But then I got the ticket - a fiver!  I had just spent all that time in mad Irish lady mode to try and get off paying a fiver. I was so happy at the cheap fine that I even smiled at the man before muttering 'auf wiedersehen pest' under my breath.
Of course I wasn't overjoyed getting fined in my first week in Germany, but in Ireland I always had this rant on how the punishment doesn't fit the crime. 80 euro for parking half an hour too long at the Claddagh, hellloooo...

So in between that event and a trip to the four letter word furniture store  I**A, I ran into a chemist to grab some painkillers for my thumping head.
'Hi, give us a box of fast acting paracetemol there love', I said in my best German.
'A headache, is it?'
'What's it to you?' (Is what I said in my mind, because living with teenagers you pick up that sort of slang).
'Yes', is what I said in reality. So off he goes and comes back with some free samples of magnesium and some other vitamin stuff and a glass of water for the tablets. I'm well impressed. I decide I like Germany so far.
We measure our new apartment and realise that nothing will fit in it. The headache bounces back. It's time to make dinner but the Pizzeria across the road has a sign up that reads 'All pizza, pasta and salad dishes, 5 euro.' I go over and look for the small print, there's none. We pile in. I text a friend to share the good news but get a text back telling me the place up the road does main courses for 3.50 and 4 euro.
I wonder (out loud) why someone in Ireland isn't clever enough to do this, and my son reminds me of the high rents and the wage agreements.
On the way home I see a man carrying his dog in a basket. A nutter on a bicycle is shouting blasphemies and a sign at the tram stop tells people that the next tram will be along in 3 minutes.
I think I'm going to like this place