German & Belgium Customs
Because I’ve been trying to talk about what we have been doing, I have not mentioned many of the cultural differences and customs that I have encountered. Let’s begin with Germany.
· TRANSPORTATION: In Germany (and Belgium) people ride their bicycles for transportation, not necessarily for fitness. In many of my photos you will see bicycle “parking lots”. Thus far, I have not seen many fitness centers or gyms. While I’m sure they have them here, they are not as numerous or visable . I think this is because people exercise so much in just getting from place to place. I also noticed that there is an intricate public transportation system which includes trams (motorized, electric trains on tracks), buses, and trains (local and international) automobiles. While many people own cars, they are considered a luxury. Even if one has one, it is not used unless one is going a far distance. People ride their bicycles to the market, the doctor, or the laundry. While I think from an American point of view, that the public transport is expensive, when you consider the amount of a car payment, auto repairs /maintenance, and insurance, I guess it really isn’t that much.
· SMOKING: While smoking has decreased in the U.S., smoking is still quite popular here in Germany. In the last few years the government has tried many campaigns to help discourage smoking including placing gruesome images of people with cancer related diseases on the cigarette packs.
· DRINKING: While people all over the U.S. drink alcohol, it seems like people are constantly drinking here. Not only is wine and beer customary with lunch and dinner, some employees are allowed to drink on the job ! I wonder if this causes a high rate of alcoholism. Alcohol is EVERYWHERE. In every coffee shop, convenience store, market and gas station. And not just wine & beer. One can buy milk and vodka in the same place, any time the stores are open.
· HOLIDAYS: Germans get off of work for A LOT of religious holidays. Not only are they off on Easter and Christmas, they have 18 other holidays not counting the 4-6 weeks they get off for vacation and ‘Carnival’ which takes place the weekend and the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (beginning of Lent). In addition, all stores and shops are closed on Sundays. (only restaurants and pubs are open along with hospitals, etc).
During the week, most shops close by 6pm – they are allowed to stay open till 8 in some cities.
§ Speaking of holidays, Carnival or Fasching is celebrated all over Germany, and it’s a BIG DEAL ! Groups have costumes, themes, and parades. These festivities warrant that schools and business close. Click the link above to find our more about Fasching.
· WORK LIFE: On average, Germans seem to have a good sense of work-life balance. Cashiers do not stand at their registers, instead they sit during their shifts.