Ingenious Things I’m Loving About Germany

Just over four weeks into our residence in Germany and the most common word my wife and I find ourselves using when we encounter something new and different is “civilized”… Not the word I expected to use. I expected “efficient”, for sure, but “civilized” just seems to fit better. A few examples…

  • First of all, driving:  Yes, there’s the autobahn, which, in my ignorance, I thought was more like “here’s a big road (or two or three) where people can drive really fast.”  But it’s not, it’s like our Interstate system.  Imagine if every roadway that had that iconic (to U.S. residents) blue sign allowed you to go as fast as you are comfortable driving (most of the time).  It’s really cool, and very smart.
  • But this system only works well because, for the most part, most Germans drive very respectively:  the left lane is for passing only.  After a driver passes someone, they move back into the lane to their right.  You listening, California??
  • And speaking of changing lanes:  You will almost never see someone do so without using their indicator…  I think most of the U.S. is guilty on this one…
  • Autobahn ausfahrts (yes, yes, snicker away, I’ll wait… it’s an exit, people): 300 meters before an exit, you get a blue rectangular sign on the side of the road with three white, angled slashes. 200 meters before, same sign with only two slashes. And at 100 meters before, another sign with just one slash. So civilized, right?
  • Traffic Circles (aka roundabouts):  Certainly not just a German thing, but I love them, so I thought I’d mention them…  And not those roundabouts you encounter some times in the states, with Stop signs or street lights, real honest-to-goodness roundabouts, with Merge signs…  Drive up, slow down, no one coming? Then carry on…
  • Our under-the-sink trash can: It’s on a swivel and connects to the cabinet door so that when you open the door, the can swings out.  And the top rim of the can has a little plastic “nub” so that as the can swivels, the nub pushes the lid up, so that opening the door swings the can out and opens the lid for you…  Damned civilized!
  • The repairman’s toolbox: Simple, but ingenious, it doubles as a step-stool.  You’re carrying the damn thing anyway, why not make it doubly useful?
  • Eating french fries (or, surprisingly here, pommes frites):  When handed an order of frites, it comes with this wonderful little wooden, two-pronged fork to eat with. Made from a renewable resource, the little disposable fork is also totally biodegradable. And just clever…
  • But by far the greatest thing, so far, has been the windows: ALL of the windows and glass doors in our house have three handle positions: down is locked; horizontal opens like a door, swinging vertically on the top and bottom side hinges; but up (here’s the magic) hinges the bottom of the door, so the top swings in, allowing you to easily ventilate your haus without having to have everything gaping open…

Anyhow, a few observations, surely more to come…


4 Responses to Ingenious Things I’m Loving About Germany

  1. Jorik says:

    Welcome in Europe! You will find more of these things soon ;-)

  2. Patrick says:

    Wow, I’ve never been to the states, and thus wasn’t aware that these things aren’t so self-evident as I thought… Glad you like it :)

    And by the way: Frohes Neues! (Happy new year!) :)

  3. aarontgrogg says:

    Danke, Jorik und Patrick!

    Looking forward to many new, “civilized” things and the neues Jahr!


  4. aarontgrogg says:

    And here’s another driving-related one: The all-around tendency to use Yield signs over Stop signs or traffic lights at intersections… The assumption seems to be “you’re an adult, with a driver’s license, you should be able to figure out if it’s safe to proceed or not”… Love, love, love it!

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