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Whenever people use the term shocking, I get the feeling that they are just trying to be dramatic. There really is no need to use the term shocking to describe anything that’s not life threatening let alone in a blog post headline like I was planning to do. My first headline had 'shocking' prominently displayed in it but after going through it, I had to admit to myself that there was not just a tinge of drama in it but a healthy dose of laziness. The following are things that you are unlikely to find in Germany but describing them as shocking would be stretching it too thin.
When I first heard about Uber, the ride-sharing company, I wondered whether the founders were German. The German word for ‘over’ is ‘über’ which is literally one of the most common words used in German. But that is the only ‘über’ you will find in Germany. Uber the company doesn’t operate in Germany. After so many court battles and a populace that is suspicious of their service, it seems like they finally gave up. There are some fringe services offered by the company but UBer as most of the world know it is practically dead in Germany. Instead you will find traditional yellow taxis usually Mercedes, trams, buses, trains, bicycles and everything else.
As a University student in Baden-Württemberg, I got to meet students from Eastern Germany. I initially had no idea that they were different in any way from their West German counterparts. To me, they were just Germans. I used to sit next to a tall girl with very black hair called Christiane. Because of her very black hair, I had the feeling that her skin was deathly white. Christiane hardly talked, but once in a while, she would burst into joyous uninhibited laughter. People always reacted surprised because of the spontaneity of her laughter and the fact that it somehow always sounded like it came from a wall.
They would look up with irritation and then slowly there would be the crinkle in their eyes and the upturn of the corners of their mouths and before you know it, full blown laughter. Most of the time, she would explain what had amused her so much, but it never seemed to matter. Her laughter was reason enough to laugh.
I once had lunch in the university Mensa when I was joined by Christiane. As so often happens to foreigners in Germany, the discussion turned to questions about how or whether I liked it in Germany. As I moaned about the horrors of not understanding the different dialects and the agony of managing the most mundane stuff, she nodded slowly and told me that that was exactly how she also felt. She came from a small village near Leipzig in East Germany and for her, West Germany was just as mysterious and challenging as it was for me.