My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

11 May 2007

Good things and bad

First of all, I'm woefully behind in my blogging. I haven't talked about my trip to the Harz two weeks ago, let alone my visit to Kiel and Lübeck last weekend. Plus I have a few more posts cooking I want to get written down. Since the only two things on my agenda for the weekend are to plow through the huge pile in my mending basket and blog, by Monday I should be caught up.

Now, to business.

Germans are known for bureaucracy, rules and order, but, while every time I see one of these

I sincerely laugh and shake my head, thinking something along the lines of "Only in Germany would one have an Office of Order (Ordnungsamt)", my overall impression of the country has been how liberal, tolerant and permissive it is, much more so than the United States.

Most days I reflect on how laid back this culture is, usually prompted by an example of public nudity or public consumption of alcohol, neither of which is considered a big deal here.

Today was not one of those days. Today I ran smack into mindless, petty rules, regulations and order.

I had to mail a form to UMass, and since it was time-sensitive, I filled it out, grabbed the nearest envelope and headed out the door. I have both German and American envelopes, but the one I grabbed happened to be American. I've used these envelopes here to mail letters, and it's never been an issue before. Today, however, the woman at the post office informed me that mailing my American-sized letter would cost me at least €4, instead of the standard €1.70. (I know, I know, more than $2.25 to mail a standard letter is a lot by American standards; I'm pretty much used to it by now.)

"What's this?" she said, "An American envelope? It's much too large."

By a frickin' centimeter.

Only to the Deutsche Post would a centimeter be considered "much."

Luckily the woman was, in addition to being too damn obsessed with order, very nice and let me fold over the edge of the envelope and tape it so that I could mail it for standard rates. But I shudder to think what the graduate school will think when they have to rip off the tape and unfold the edge of the envelope before they can open the letter. It's a good thing they've already accepted me

That wasn't a particularly pleasant experience, and there was more bad as the day went on.
I went to the Jewish Museum this afternoon and left several hours later feeling a bit sheepish. I had raved about this museum to others, based on my visit five years ago, and I was shocked to go back and discover that it's really not that great. At all. I'm not going to get into it now; it should have its own post.

With that disappointment under my belt I came home and made dinner and listened to Emma. For a long time Emma was my favorite Jane Austen, and even though that's not true anymore, I still enjoy the book. I've had enough on my plate to read lately, so I decided to sate my Emma craving by listening to it. I'm a huge dork and love audio books and will listen to them doing housework, getting ready for school, knitting, in the bathtub, and basically in every situation where a normal person would turn on the TV or radio. I got spoiled by listening to A Tale of Two Cities. Holy cow, that's an amazing recording; many of the readers are clearly professional actors or radio personalities. It's just superb.

The recording of Emma, on the other hand, sucks. Totally sucks.

There's no soul in the reading. It's slow, methodical and doesn't flow. The reader noticeably stumbles over words three syllables or more and, quite frankly, doesn't seem that smart. Since I'm not British, I can't say for sure that Yerkshire is an incorrect pronunciation of Yorkshire, but I can say with certainty that it's thither and not tither, the final syllable of sanguine does not rhyme with "lean," and cordial does not have three syllables. Also, "read" and "read" are not the same word, and the poor, dumb reader can rarely distinguish between the two. And those are just the mistakes I can remember off the top of my head because they occur multiple times. There's at least one howler in every chapter, some error egregious enough that I can't help yelling "It's [insert correct pronunciation], you idiot" at my computer. She can't hear me, but it makes me feel better.

Now for the good: on a whim on the way home from the museum I stopped by an H&M and the cropped jacket I'd been coveting was 50% off. It's frivolous and shallow, but it made the whole day seem better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We will see a photo of the coveted jacket, right? American blogs report Germany on high alert for terrorism. Is that what you hear?? Pam

6:07 PM

Blogger Maureen said...

Well, yes, I've heard about the terrorism alerts, but they first broke three weeks ago in the German press. Old news. I have seen some extra security around in my neighborhood (in front of the Uzbeki embassy), but the alerts from the consulate are so vague that I fail to see anything to worry about. Plus, I trust virtually nothing the Bush administration says.

8:53 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i find it quite amusing to read aout your german experience. But to get to the point or better to "ein Zentimeter zu viel". When i was in the US and wanted to send some of my stuff back to germany me and my girlfriend had this huge packet and had even trouble to get it to the post office. The lady behind the corner was a very stern looking woman with glasses. And she measured it and told us sorry but that is 3 cm to big and we had to open this packet in the US postal store and to pack it all over again and cut the packet smaller... which needed about at least 20 minutes. All the people starring at us and our dispersed "personal belongings"... and now i could start about the US bureaucracy and how i even had to go through a metal detector in Nebraska Lincoln just because i needed a social security card... and a 3 month waiting time to get an appointment at the embassy for my visas... the 100 $ i had to pay that the US government will be able to track me down? what for? and so on... i thought there would be a lot of bureaucracy in germany...

4:56 PM


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