20 October, 2014

The differences are finally getting boring... But here we go anyway!

I asked on Facebook recently which posts/types of posts readers have liked the best. Although the response I got suggested that more posts comparing social issues are desired, I decided to get this post out of the way since it's been sitting as a draft on my Blogger dashboard for months now. Get ready for another (short) round of Random Differences Between the US and Germany!

1. Beer is EVERYWHERE in Germany

I already wrote in my post about drinking culture (click HERE for that post) that the social situations in which alcohol is considered appropriate in Germany are much more numerous than in the United States. But I may not have exaggerated that enough. Beer in particular is everywhere and can be nonchalantly consumed practically any time of day.

I was reminded of that one day when I was eating in the Mensa (university dining hall) with Maxim. He drew my attention to one of the vending machines, and what did it have in it? Beer, of course. Any student who wants to can casually have a beer along with lunch and no one bats an eyelash. Since the drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine and the vast majority of university students are 18 or older, there is no need for ID checks and no one polices who buys what.

But what if you buy a beer in the Mensa and don't finish it? No problem, you can just take it with you as you walk to your next class. Unlike the US, which has strict "open-container" laws prohibiting carrying an open container of alcohol in public, Germany has no restrictions on alcohol consumption in most public places. Walking down the street in the middle of the city with an open beer in your hand is perfectly legal. I still haven't gotten used to that. It's so ingrained in me to be fearful when carrying a drink around outdoors that I still find myself looking over my shoulder for cops. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Speeding Tickets

When you're driving down an American highway, you always have to keep an eye out for police cars lurking in the shadows waiting to catch people for speeding. If you are one of the lucky few to get caught, the police will follow you down the highway until they can signal for you to pull over to the side of the road. Once you are pulled over onto the shoulder, the cop will then write you a ticket.

This never happens on German highways. The Autobahn (which, contrary to popular belief, is not one road but is just the German word for highway) is much too dangerous a place to be disrupting traffic to pull someone over for speeding. And since there are no speed limits on most stretches of German highway, pulling someone over for speeding is just not necessary. In the areas where there are speed limits, machines with cameras do the ticketing instead of cops. If you are unlucky enough to get "blitzed" (when the flash goes off to show that a picture has been taken), the person to whom the car is registered will get a ticket sent to them in the mail. Easy peasy. It is possible to get pulled over by the police on the Autobahn, but speeding is not a good enough reason. A good enough reason might be, for example, if you are wanted by the police and they recognize your car.

3. Four-Way Intersections

The manner in which some four-way intersections are handled in Germany, specifically the ones in residential areas or less commonly used roads, is one of my biggest pet peeves.

In the United States, four-way intersections in residential areas generally have a stop sign at each of the four roads (this is also called a four-way stop). This means that all four directions are required to stop before driving through and there isn't one road which takes priority when more than one car wants to drive through at the same time. This is, of course, incredibly annoying when you are clearly the only car at the intersection but still have to stop.

I was expecting a more common-sense approach to this in Germany, since Maxim told me that often at four-way intersections they simply decide which road has the right-of-way and place stop signs on the "secondary" road. This would make sense, but that's not how is usually works in reality. Instead, there are usually no signs at all. Of any kind. No stop signs, no yield signs, nothing. It's sort of like the American four-way stop approach, meaning all directions have equal footing, but with a touch of anarchy. Drivers simply have to slow down when approaching the intersection, look both ways and hope that no one races up from the left or right and blind-sides them.

That's it for this post. I'll have more exciting travel posts coming up soon! :)

1 comment :

  1. ha, it's taken us a while to get used to being able to walk around with alcohol in hand. It's illegal in Australia and we're used to hiding it in drink bottles...