Although I’d been to Europe a few times before, pretty early on I had a realization: Europe is one big juxtaposition.
Maybe I only realized this now because in Germany it seems to be a lot more heightened, but I was super curious about how so many cultural factors on this beloved continent were… opposites.
Here’s what I mean:
1) The church is still the bees knees.
You’d be hard pressed to find a town in Germany that doesn’t have a church tower. Its also law in Germany that Sunday remains to be Gods day… so don’t expect to find a grocery store or anything else to be open then.
At the same time, you can openly find pornographic pictures at the back of a regular newspaper. I was SHOCKED when I glanced over at an old man looking at naked women casually at a coffee shop with his morning espresso. Nobody else seemed to think it was out of the ordinary, just reading the morning paper.
How fascinating is it that a country that prides itself on keeping Sunday as Gods day, also has some serious porn that children can have all access to if they so choose.
Maybe like many things in Europe (I’m mainly thinking of alcohol), if you don’t hide it and demonize it, it becomes less of an unhealthy obsession to people. I mean, a woman’s body is nothing to hide and be ashamed of, but it was strange to see displayed as entertainment for someone’s Sunday morning read.
2) Lets save the environment, but bottled sparkling water is the only water
Germany is seriously advanced when it comes to environmental measures. Everything gets recycled, cars get a sticker on them indicating what level on environmental friendliness they represent, and apparently diesel in Germany is much much cleaner than what we have in Canada! Seeing solar panels on houses became a commonality instead of a rarity (ahem, Canada), and wind turbines were definitely alive and well too.
It gave me hope to see a country taking climate change seriously, but one thing made me scratch my head a little… Germans LOVE sparkling water! One thing I can say about Canada is that we’ve really taken to using reusable bottles. Even the university I went to banned plastic water bottles completely (yay VIU)! But Germany? From what I could see, single use disposable water bottles were used wide-spread. My lovely German born boyfriend Sebastian even said that he didn’t start drinking non-sparkling water until he came to Canada for the first time. Its just preference I suppose, but to an outsider- seems unnecessarily wasteful!
3) Germans stereotypically love the outdoors and healthy lifestyles, but everyone smokes
In Germany, people seem to enjoy healthy activities and lifestyles in. They aren’t afraid of doing lengthy hiking trips, walking instead of driving, they eat smaller portion sizes, you name it. There are many ways that German’s proved that they value their health, until it came to one thing: SMOKING.
This is something you will find pretty much anywhere in Europe (where I’ve been to at least)…. but most people seem to smoke. Maybe it really wasn’t as extreme as I perceived it, but coming from a country where you see less and less people smoking, it seemed like literally everyone in Germany was in comparison. In Canada, there’s certain laws in place that make it somewhat socially unacceptable to smoke; from banning it in restaurants, on many patios, to requiring people to move a certain distance away from a place of business while smoking. In Germany, however, it felt like what I can imagine it was like in my parents generation: you can still smoke in some restaurants, and basically anywhere else you want. Sebastian even joked that Germans literally don’t give a sh*t if there’s a pregnant lady or baby sitting right beside them, they just keep on puffing!
Is something that’s SO unhealthy for you evened out by the other lifestyle choices that they make that North Americans typically don’t? Hard to say.
With all of these things that I curiously noticed while on my travels, I can imagine that people see more than a few flaws when they come to Canada. We often don’t see what we’re used to, and that’s just being human. I can say with full certainty that despite their flaws, Germany sets an example on SO many fronts that Canada can learn from… juxtapositions and all.
Germany, stay awesome, quirky, and proud of being you. You will always have a piece of this Canadian’s heart.