It’s been a month now since I moved my life over to Hamburg, and I’ve been reflecting a little on what I’ve learnt. I’ve been telling you a bit about work and play, including everything from linguistic LOLs (sorry, alliteration warranted the use of a lol) to neighbours who need to invest in a little sound-proofing.
Something which has really struck me, however, has been all the little things I take for granted back home in England, which are just different here. Manners and politeness, for example. For me, every trip to my beloved Sainsbury’s usually concludes with the often unnecessarily flamboyant positioning of the divider between my shopping on the conveyor belt and that of the person behind me. I say ‘unnecessarily flamboyant’ because I want to make sure the person behind me has seen me doing this. It’s a small gesture, but a good one, I think. Normally there’s a brief ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ exchange, and we carry on wordlessly in the queue.
But not here, dear Reader. No, no.
Here, it feels like those precious little dividers, which to me represent manners and personal space (yes, I know I’m sad), seem to be just decoration. They just sit there, cast aside, unable to fulfil their purpose. If my undoubtedly confused and mildly curious expression most of the time doesn’t already mark me out as a foreigner (and the fact that I take photos all the time. All I need now is to put on some socks and sandals and I’ll be a proper tourist), then my use of these little dividers certainly does.
Don’t even get me started on how quickly they scan through all your items while the person in front is still packing away their own, which then gives you hardly any time to pack away your own before the person at the till scans through the next customer’s items, leading to a bit of a jam. This could quite easily be solved by relaxing German efficiency for a second and taking a quick breather between customers.
Although I’m not sure anyone around here actually knows what a breather is.
Somewhat tenuously, impoliteness and messy manners leads me on to the organised chaos that is a Flea Market (der Flohmarkt auf Deutsch). Hamburgers just can’t seem to get enough of their second-hand goods. Seriously. You may well know that Germany more or less shuts down on Sundays, but when having a wander around the city yesterday, I happened to stumble upon yet another Flohmarkt. I say stumble, but all I needed to do was follow where all the crowds of people were flocking to.
The picture doesn’t really do it justice, as there were probably another 30 stalls going down this street, which, from Monday to Saturday, is one of Hamburg’s busiest shopping streets, directly across from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) which also has a mall which is open 7 days a week. If the Hamburgers aren’t in the Hauptbahnhof’s mall on a Sunday, they’re at a Flohmarkt.
Going from getting something at a reasonable price to getting something for no price at all, being in a country during election time gets you an awful lot of freebies. I’ll confess that I didn’t even realise it was election time here until someone thrust a bright orange CDU (Angela Merkel’s party, who actually won yesterday, apparently) biro into my hand while walking down the street in a lovely part of Hamburg called Altona. In addition to the pen I also now have a mirror and bottle opener, as well as social-networking-themed stickers, which as far as I can tell were thought up by someone who has never experienced social networking in their life. Suffice to say I have not used my ‘lol’ sticker on anything.
Once more in Altona last week, we were given little packets of Haribo, again by CDU campaigners. Although, as my friend Harry, who is not only a University of Nottingham linguist like me, but also a teaching assistant here in Hamburg, pointed out, he wasn’t sure about the party’s idea of giving out sweets to potential voters, likening it to methods used by paedophiles. Moving on…
In the last month I have also learnt that I live under a flight path. Ok, I have something of a confession to make: I only found this out 3 days ago. I assumed that the noise of the planes was a given here, as I live about 6 miles from the airport, but as it turns out, the planes aren’t that loud unless you live under a flight path…
So you can imagine my surprise when I was sat at my desk last week, only to look out of the window and see, for the first time since living here, a plane flying really low over my flat. Panic ensued, and I had visions of appearing on TV while being interviewed by the local news, having witnessed the plane before it crash-landed. But that didn’t happen, thankfully. I realised I might have the wrong end of the stick when I saw the next plane flying over, and then the next. Oops. Below is a very faint image which captures my stupidity perfectly.
And last, but most certainly not least, is the discovery I made today, dear Reader. And that is that there is such a thing as Tweetie Pie USB sticks. Yep.
I’ve decided that it’s perfectly socially acceptable to be really excited about this at only a few weeks shy of the age of 21. I hope you agree with me! I needed a USB stick, honest.
That is all the news from me for now- thank you so much for reading, and for your continued support and messages which I receive. It really means the world 🙂