German stereotypes

I am doing my semester of study abroad in the north of Germany, North Rhine-Westphalia. I have been in Bielefeld for a month now.

Typical stereotypes about German people are the following: they are punctual, precise and cold. I would like to say something about this.

Firstly, I experienced that the metro is not always on time. In a week it can happen once or twice that the metro is late. For trains it is the same. My cousin came to visit me on a Friday night and his train arrived half an hour later than it was supposed to come. On a Sunday night I also experienced the same thing. My first train was 20 minutes late, I missed the first train and the connecting train was also 25 minutes late, so I arrived an hour later than expected. When I spoke to a German friend and asked him if it is often so, his answer was that yes, it indeed happens every now and then. How does he feel about it? Angry, because German people like to be punctual, but when they cannot control it, it’s frustrating, which is why he prefers to ride his bike. I totally understand him. In Switzerland I also prefer to go by bike or take the train earlier just to be sure that I will be on time. Even though in Switzerland it doesn’t happen as often, it still makes me feel angry when it happens. I like punctuality. Here in Germany, since I know that it is more common for that to happen, I am not angry, because I already expect it.

Secondly, I noticed a precise layout in the swimming pools in Bielefeld. In the pool in the city centre, you first have to undress yourself in a cabin, then you can go to the lockers, put your clothes and all your other stuff in and enter the swimming pool area. I didn’t like it because I had so much stuff to carry with me to the lockers.

At the university swimming pool, on the other hand, you can choose if you want to undress in a cabin or in the public women’s locker room, but it still remains really organized. However, in this pool, people have to swim on their own lanes without any spatial restrictions and there are many people who aren’t able to do that. It makes me feel angry when I am swimming! It makes me realize that I like it when there is order, like in Swiss swimming pools. Also, I don’t like it when I am not given a choice of how to do things. In Switzerland, you can choose if you want to undress or put your things in the locker and if you want to swim freely or in a lane.

Thirdly, I have met some German people, like my roommate, or a hairdresser, or a woman in an open-air museum or young people in the metro. They were all so friendly and talkative! It is amazing how spontaneous and open people can be. I was really positively surprised and enjoyed the conversations. My roommate talks to me about personal experiences, values and emotions. The hairdresser told me some funny things about Bielefeld, about the people from here and what they think or know about Switzerland. The woman in the museum explained what she had already read about a topic, about which my friend and I had been wondering. Once the metro suddenly stopped and we didn’t know what was going on and started to talk to each other, making all kinds of assumptions. It should always be like this, that we can talk about what is happening with whoever is in front of us, without barriers. In Switzerland most people don’t even talk to each other when sitting opposite of each other while travelling for four hours by train. That is sad.

Susi Rigassi

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