This post is dedicated to some of the things that are funny, different or cool to a foreigner. This is the second installment of such a post. I wrote the first one last Fall and you can read that one here.
So to start:
I can’t remember if I’ve posted my thoughts about the Autobahn before. I have to admit the Autobahn is really a cool concept. I think it’s safe to say that the German’s love their cars, Audi, VW, BMW, Mercedes. All German auto makers. There seems to be a different mentality about driving and sometimes I think aside from the interest in cars, it’s because the country is smaller. It seems (and again this is only from out outsider’s observation) that here in Germany, people take driving a bit more seriously. To back that up I will offer that getting one’s driver’s license is quite an expensive endeavor and requires each applicant to go to driving school, logging in the process on average 30 hours of practice and theory. Four hours Autobahn practice, 5 hours on country roads, 3 hours practice in the dark. This has a cost associated with it anywhere between $1500 and $2000. Upon hearing that, I thought I might take driving more seriously too if it was so much work to get a license. (Lucky for me, Germany honors driving licenses from most east coast states, so I only had to apply and wait about six weeks and I’m happy to report that I have my German license now!)
Aside from the investment in becoming a driver and the expense of the German autos, the general rules of driving don’t seem to vary that much state to state. For example, no one passes on the right. No one. Ever. And for the most part if you see a fast car coming up behind you, you just move over to get out of the way. This fact (in my mind) is what allows people to safely and confidently drive 120 miles per hour on a regular basis. (Yes mph: 120 miles per hour is about 200 Kilometers per hour.)
Because I have spent the better portion of my life trying to slow down and obey the speed limit in the USA, it has taken me a while to get used to the idea that here, you are allowed to drive as fast as your car is designed to go. But now that I’m used to it, I love it.
The first time I saw this, I thought maybe it was a faded sign and that I just couldn’t see what should be in the center. Then I made a joke that this sign must mean we were in a “no zone” where you’re not allowed to do anything. BUT it turns out that this sign designates that you have entered a “yes zone.” Yes you can speed! It indicates that all other posted speeds before this sign have ended and you can now drive as fast as you want. How cool!
Each town has numerous pharmacies (Apotheke) just like we have in the US. Every individual can choose their pharmacy. However, here there are no pharmacies that are housed in drug Stores or grocery stores. Pharmacies are always separate and they are not chains. In this case you really can shop around to find a pharmacist you like or a pharmacy that carries the products you like. Another difference is that medicine seems to be a bit more heavily regulated and so you have to consult with the pharmacist over just about everything. The doctor’s seem to trust the pharmacists for the most part and always encourage you to just ask them what you should take. I mean you can still get a prescription from your doctor and pick it up at the pharmacy but if you have a cold or something that doesn’t require a prescription, you consult with the pharmacist. This is probably good and healthy but often I just want to browse around and figure out what I want, especially because communicating about what you need when you are sick is never easy in a foreign language.
Still, there is something cool about the pharmacies too. On Sundays shops are closed including pharmacies, but every weekend there is at least one pharmacy in each town or city that is open and that one even has a pharmacist there overnight. There is a sign at each pharmacy telling you the name, address and schedule for which pharmacy is open on which particular weekend. The other cool thing is that doctors take turns doing the same thing. All the doctors in the town take turns having their weekend or night when they are on call.
And– can you believe this, if you need the doctor on a saturday night at 6pm lets say, he or she will come to your house! What? So cool right? Anyway, here is a photo of the schedule as printed in the local paper last week.
Each town also has numerous stores that in the US, we would call “drug stores.” These are stores similar to our CVS or Riteaid but they are actually even bigger and they don’t have a pharmacy or any medicine besides vitamins. In some ways the cosmetics and parfume departments make them more like a Sephora. These stores also carry many more school, office, home and even sewing supplies! For those of us who love browsing around Sephora and smelling all the parfumes, trying all the blushes and eyeshadows, these stores are great fun. Sometimes in the downtown locations, they are even multi level stores. They even carry brands like Lancome for example, that you can’t find at a regular drug store in the US. Here is an example: I needed a new eye shadow compact, but there exists a tension between the fact that its only one or two colors that you need to replace because you use them most. Even so, you have to buy an entirely new compact. I looked in the States at the MAC counter because they have a customizeable compact but it is not cheap! Anyway, here I found the exact same thing for a fraction of the cost. I found it a few months ago but didn’t actually have time to stand around and obsess over colors until the other day.
So here you can see, you buy the compact itself, then you choose your individual eye shadows. All the compacts from this brand are magnetic so that the eyeshadows stay in but can easily be changed when you run out or want a new color. They have compacts with 2 or 3 or 4 spots and probably bigger ones too. The compact with four spots was about 8 Euros and the individual eye shadows 4 or 5 Euros each. This is a far cry from paying $22 for my one favorite color at Stila. The company is called Art Deco. I think it comes out of the UK.
The last thing for today’s post just a funny thing. There is a bakery/coffee shop when you enter the grocery store. I always pass it and think this photo on their wall is weird. Finally, this week I stopped and took a photo for you. I don’t really get it. I mean I get the guy with the milk foam mustach. But what is with the girl? See what you think. Is it supposed to be funny? Or weird? Maybe it is supposed to be sexy?