What is it that makes living in a foreigh country so exiting? So fascinating? So…. mysterious?
Is it exotic looking buildings, unfamiliar sounds, a language we don’t understand? Yes – but more than all of that the mystery is in habits and unwritten rules which differ from what we are used to. All these litte things we never thought about – and we preferably don’t have to think about because it makes the daily routine so terribly laborous. Being a German Expat from Rhineland in an assignment in The Netherlands feels like “Expat light”. It is only some 350 kilometers away from home, the climate is comparable, people on the streets look like the ones at home, no time differences to cope with – easy! If there just would not be the devil in the detail. The common German stands in stiff surprise looking at many day-to-day experience.
Like what? Imagine the following: You leave in the best of moods the office on a normal day. It is around 5:30 and you feel
… This is THE perfect day to have a look at those gorgeous shoes I have seen in town, try them on and make them mine! Yes!!
So let’s jump on the bike, get into the city centre and a quarter to six we are in from of the shoe shop the object of our desire is waiting for us. But while we lock our bike we see hoovers swirling around the shop, the cash desk checked and closed for the day… all intents for raising attention are being actively ignored (it’s a good day. On bad one we get thrown out without much ado). What is happening is that the opening times until 6:00pm means in The Netherlands, that not only the shop closes at 6:00pm but that all the people working there will do their best to go home at that time – so they prepare before that. Never heard of in Germany like this… These opening times plus the unwritten rules that come with it means for me that I will never manage to go shopping during the week. It did cause a severe culture shock to me when I was living in The Hague for the first time. I was in front of closed doors over and over again – all of The Hague closed down at 6pm… at the bottom of my heart I still don’t get it. The average employee concentrates shopping activities to Thursday evenings (which are slightly longer), Saturday and Sunday (from 13:00 – 17:00).
Exceptions are supermarkets. They have significantly longer opening times which saves me! And here we find another difference to Germany: Besides of groceries you may find medication here as well. Whether it is Aspirin, Antihistamin & co – just grab it. And as pharmacies are having even more restricted opening times than normal shops I happily accept it.
So who says that there is no fascination in a daily routine?