Für Hilke, weil es ein "self-fulfulling profecy" ist...
Everyone has always heard that the Germans are very strict--things are they way things are, and period. There is no conversation and no debate about it. I've had a few experiences with this fact, and though sometimes I wish they would be a little more Latino, a little more lax, I do enjoy living in a country where things are clear, and they are the way they are.
This weekend, Herr and Frau Siedenburg took us for a ride in Boksee (Nicole and Hendrik were not there; but then again, they had no idea we were going to Boksee). Honey had to practice his snow-driving skills before taking his test (which he takes on Monday). I will cut the story short (much to Hilke's dislike) and only emphasize on what matters. After a slight misunderstanding, we were told to come at 1 p.m. (the Germans say 13 Uhr). We went for a ride around town, saw a frozen lake, a church dating back to the 13th century, some wild deer running about in the white plains, and loads of snow. At 12:46 we decided to go back to the Übungsplatz (where Honey could safely drive). As with every technological place, the entry is automatically controlled. One must press a button, automatically receive a ticket, and then the barrier is lifted and one may enter.
Herr Siedenburg pressed the button.
We thought it might be damaged.
He pressed it again.
And a fourth time.
And still nothing happened.
Being convinced that the machine was broken, Frau Siedenburg got out of the car, and walked into the office in an attempt to ask for help coming in, since the machine was clearly malfunctioning.
The lady (I was not there to see it, but I can imagine what her face and tone were like) told her that, as she had herself told Frau Siedenburg earlier, the Übungsplatz is opened at 13 Uhr, and it was not yet 13 Uhr. The machine does not begin to work until 13 Uhr, because the Übungsplatz does not open until 13 Uhr.
Frau Siedenburg came back to the car. It was, in fact, not yet 13 Uhr. It was 12:54. And 12:54 is not 13 Uhr.
I wonder what is better. I really do.
On the one hand, I think it's awesome that things are the way things are--if it says 13 Uhr, why would you want to go in 6 minutes earlier? But then again, I also think it is sometimes ridiculous. What are six minutes? Really? Are the costs of maintaining the driving field going to rise to ridiculous heights because of 6 minutes of over-usage?
We had to wait the six minutes, and at 13 Uhr, after Herr Siedebunberg pressed the button, we were able to go in.
On a similar (but different) story (ha ha, like in Thailand--same same, but different), I was crazy about buying a pair of boots. I walked around with Tatiana (Honey's sister) through the entire Fussgängerzone trying to find the perfect pair; I went into more than 6 stores with Honey trying to find the ideal boots. Finally, one afternoon (with Tatiana and Federico--Federico seems to be my lucky charm when trying to buy good stuff) we walked into one store and there they were... looking at me... glowing... with the typical ray of sunshine shining on them... my size, my style, my color... mine... as I was trying them on and deciding (well, making sure) whether they were the ones for me or not, the lady from the counter approached us and said they were closing.
"Just a couple of minutes," I begged. "I'm trying to decide."
I thought I was being cute; afterall, I am the customer, and I am always right. Not with her. Not this time. Not here.
"No, really, we're closing now," she said.
You see, in Colombia people would rather go home late and lock you inside the store until you bought something. We do close, but that means we won't let more people in. Those who are in, can stay for almost as long as they want (as long as it's reasonable). We believe in selling. We need to sell. If we don't sell, our economy falls.
But in Germany, when they say they close at 6 p.m. (18 Uhr), they mean at 6. Not at 6:01, not at 5:59. At 6. Why is that not wonderful?
We went to a Weihnachtmarkt yesterday, and they too closed at 6. There were so many people there, so many potential customers, so many possibilities to sell yet one more item--but, alas, 6 p.m. came and all the counters closed.
In a way, I'm jealous. I am jealous of an economy and a culture whose life does not revolve around work and money. They work from 8 to 6 (or on any schedule they work) and when the work day is over, it's over. It's O.V.E.R. There is nothing more to do, to sell, to say. They don't need that extra Euro, they don't need that over-time payment. They need to go home. Or to drink a beer. The Germans drink a lot of beer.
But, in a way, too, I'm sad for them. Sad that they are so comfortable in their own security that they don't take chances. They are so attached to the rules that the don't take risks (not all of them, though. The Siedenburg Twins take more risks than all the adventurous people I know together have ever taken! They make Tico seem boring!). I'm sad that the Germans have such a perfect socio-political-economic system that they can say no to a customer. The customer is always right in Germany--as long as the customer chooses to be right during office-hours.
Maybe the Germans like Latin America so much because of our lax lives. And maybe we like Germany so much because of their order. It's a give-and-take...
But, in any case, es ist, was es ist.
By the way... I did buy my boots :-)