Germans do all sorts of weird things. For several months, I stubbornly tried to maintain my facade of aversion to these activities, but now I have finally given in to their seductive siren’s call.
Here are a few examples of weird things Germans do that I now do too:
- Drinking carbonated water. It is bubbly. It is water. And it’s called Sprudelwasser! It is impossible to resist such a drink.
- Eating long breakfasts. I have gotten to the point where if my breakfast is shorter than one hour, I go ahead and call the day off, because nothing good can come from a too-brief breakfast. I now also require a minimum of two pretzels before noon in order to function as a productive citizen of the galaxy.
- Watching German TV. Germany’s Next Top Model! Heidi Klum is on it, and she speaks German the whole time! I know! I couldn’t believe it either. There is also a show called Tatort, which is like CSI but 30 years older. I have watched one third of two episodes. You do the math.
All of these things are weird, but the strangest German behavior that I have adopted as my own involves windows. Windows in Germany are not like any window I’ve ever seen before. Instead of having two panes with a bottom one that slides up, they have one pane with a handle on the side that looks like a door knob that you can turn to open the window like a door. Since you already know all about my complex and strained relationship with doors of the German persuasion, you won’t be surprised to hear that I have experienced similar strife with these windows.
During my first attempt at opening one, the window did not open; it fell top-first. The first thing I thought was, “No! Not yet! I still have too much ignorance of German thresholds left in me to die right now!” The second thing I thought was, “Oh wow, I am clearly getting quite strong, because I’ve made like the Incredible Hulk and pulled the window right out of its hinges.” But then the window stopped four inches into its descent and stayed put, staring smugly down at me from its reign on high.
This phenomenon is standard procedure for German windows. It’s called opening the window “auf Kipp,” which means on tilt. Germans are crazy about the window Kipp. I have conducted a scientific study and discovered that 93.24% of my students feel the need to Kipp the window every time we take a break, most especially when the frosty winds of winter are working themselves up into a blizzard outside, or when the Sexy Sax Man is honking his horn down in the streets.
My theory for this behavior is that German architecture is so structurally sound that sealing off every opening in a room will instantly turn it into a vacuum that will run out of air in T-minus three hours. If you want to survive after that time, you’d best Kipp the nearest window. My students swear that it’s just because the fresh air just helps their brains work better. But pish posh. I know the truth.
For about four months, I laughed contemptuously every time someone would open the window for fresh air. “Silly Germans!” I thought. “Air is everywhere. Not just outside the window!” But over the past few weeks, I have found myself opening windows of every room I go in. Kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, it doesn’t matter. If there is a window, I will open it.
A few weeks ago, I hadn’t opened any windows in the apartment in several hours. My roommate came home from a successful shopping trip in which she bought 500 pounds I mean 230 kilograms of white asparagus and vegetarian schnitzel. And as soon as she had entered the apartment and attempted to take a few deep breaths, she exclaimed, “We have to open a window! The air is used!”
This statement either confirms my theory that Germans are afraid of suffocating inside their own buildings, or else means that my roommate was too polite to tell me that the air was filled with the stench of my toots.