All is ‘tickety-boo’ – Feeling German


Bill Bryson wrote in one of his books*: “In a funny way nothing makes you feel more like a native of your own country than to live where nearly everyone is not.”

This can be so true, especially in situations when you assume that things would be the same as back home. I mean, I didn’t move to another continent or planet. This is still Europe, most people travel further for their holidays. But then you get into these embarrassing situations when your assumption was wrong and people look at you slightly bewildered. It has happened to me, still does and probably always will.

I particularly remember one occasion. It was towards the end of my first year in Wales and winter was fast approaching. I had bought a new car earlier that year (basically because someone else wanted to test-drive a left hand drive and afterwards see how well it burned) and, as a responsible German car owner, went to my local garage to acquire some winter tyres. See, here’s the thing about driving a car in Germany. Come autumn/winter you have to get winter tyres. By law, during periods of ice, snow, sleet and low temperatures, only vehicles are allowed to be driven that are equipped with them. If you don’t have them you can get fined and in the case of an accident lose your insurance.

So there I was in the reception of the garage explaining myself to the woman in charge. “I’d like some winter tyres.” “We don’t do winter tyres. What do you want them for?” I don’t know, maybe feel safer during winter whilst driving down that steep hill in my village being surrounded by a ton of steel; makes it much more fun if you are in control of your car, don’t you think? Obviously I didn’t say that out loud but explained where this notion came from and that it was common practice in Germany. Meanwhile a small crowd had gathered around us, wanting to know why that crazy foreign woman was stopping everybody else from being served. “Oh, you don’t need winter tyres here. We hardly ever get any snow. And if we do, it doesn’t stay long.” I wanted to laugh out loud because that previous spring, actually the night my old car went on its unforeseen trip, it had snowed quite a bit and stayed for a couple of days as well. But who am I to argue. So I bid my goodbye and went outside. As I was standing next to my car, I had the feeling that everybody was looking at me with a smile in their eyes and a small head shake and I realised that I was a stranger in this country no matter what. And I felt even more German.


March 2013. Not sure winter tyres would have made any difference then. There was more to come and it stayed for weeks….

*Bill Bryson “Notes from a big country”; Coming home


17 thoughts on “All is ‘tickety-boo’ – Feeling German

    • Thanks, Jenny. Sometimes I’m trying to ‘teach’ the people around me, especially my colleagues, but there’s just too many of you in this country 😉 But it’s experiences and surprises like this that make living in a foreign country an adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, Ellen, that would be a job in itself!

        I live in Brunei, Asia these days and my British roundabout obsession continues. There are a few here, a road planning novelty in this country. Bruneians don’t get them. At all! Sometimes I find it frustrating, other times just highly amusing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Brunei, wow, I guess that’s got some completely different challenges in store.

        They’ve started building more and more roundabouts back home in Germany now (even really big ones), so at least that gives me a bit of an advantage now when I’m out and about with friends.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, life in the tropics is interesting!

        I’ve never driven in Germany but I’d imagine it’s a pretty organised system. When you’ve grown up with them, roundabouts seem like the most natural thing in the world. Here there are lots of gaps in the central reservation for drivers to do u-turns at instead. It just seems like an accident waiting to happen (it quite often is, come to think of it!).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Life is so much simpler when you know the rules!

        You are right Ellen, I don’t miss the British rainy days. Although it does rain here. A lot in fact! But it is warm rain. It still feels odd to me! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tropical rain! Most days it evaporates pretty quickly once the sun comes out. We’re just going into the monsoon season. My house looks like it is surrounded by a little lake! I hope you managed to get out and enjoy the nice(r) weather Ellen.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I did. You just have to take advantage of the nicer days.

        Thankfully I live on the top of a hill so most of the rain just runs down the street and I don’t get any flooded areas near my house.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sometimes I even ‘follow the sunshine’. I have a look on my weather app on the phone and just figure out where it’s nice. And if it’s not too far away I might just go there for the day 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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