More observations on Germany.

It’s time for another list of random stuff that I find fascinating!  Ready?  Go!

Paper sizes:  In the US, the most well known paper sizes are letter (8.5 x 11 inches) and legal (8.5 x 14 inches), and then there’s a bunch of smaller sizes for envelopes and such.  The sizes here in Germany are metric, and the closest match to what I’m used to would be the A4.  You can see from the chart below that the A4 size is a little larger than Letter, and a little shorter than Legal.  After looking at the chart, I have decided that I will only write notes to people now using A0 sized paper.


Mayonnaise and Mustard tubes:  A common mayo and mustard delivery system here is the toothpaste tube style.  While you can get the jar form that Americans are used to, there are lots of brands that show up in this form factor.  I was weirded out by this at first, but I’ve grown to kind of love this-  no more hunting around for a smaller spoon just to get the last bit of mayo out of the jar-  you just roll this down like toothpaste.  And the nozzle is star-cut so it even makes the mayo pretty. A further note about mayo here-  they separate the mayo into two types, deli mayo and salad mayo.  I still haven’t really figured out the difference other than a slight change in consistency.  I prefer deli mustard based entirely on the logic that deli sandwiches are delicious.


Laundry: I bought a washing machine for my apartment a few months after I arrived, and my friend Jenny promptly named it Gretel.  That’s fine, it seems like a Gretel to me also.  It’s not common to also have a dryer here, and so my laundry  mostly drip dries.  When I do want to use a dryer, I go to a nearby laundromat.  It’s the same basic idea as laundromats in the US- a row of coin-operated washers and dryers in a shop not far from the Altstadt.

The picture below is the main controls for Gretel the washer.  After an entire year with this washer, I still have no idea what most of these functions do.  Although to be fair, I didn’t understand most of the functions on my washer back in the US either.


Dry cleaning: I don’t know if this is just where I go or if it’s everywhere, but in the US, when I drop off my dry cleaning, they give me a ticket, and then I pay when I pick it up.  Here, I pay when I drop it off.  Aside from that, dry cleaning is pretty much identical here, though.  Hey, it can’t all be strange and unusual, right?

tschiboTchibo:  When I first arrived in Germany, I was thoroughly confused by Tchibo.  I couldn’t tell what their deal was-  they seemed to have coffee, dishes, and lingerie.  I’ve since learned that being a coffee cafe is their main focus, but that they rotate other products through just to be contrary and confusing.  My iPhone is also confused by Tchibo.  I was making a note about it to myself, and the iPhone auto-corrected Tchibo to ‘Tax Hobo.’

Also, their logo is supposed to represent a steaming coffee bean as far as I can tell, but I can’t look at it now without seeing it as a swimming sperm.  (Damn it, Heather, this is your fault!)

plungersPlungers: Ok, there’s nothing really different about plungers here, I just like this picture of a giant bin of plungers for sale in the Globus.  When I first got my apartment, I needed a plunger, and I bought it in the Globus.  I didn’t know how to ask for a plunger in German, and the woman I asked didn’t really speak very much English.  I used the word for plunger that came up in my handy dandy translation app, and it was spectacularly unhelpful.  Undeterred, I mimicked the motion of plunging a toilet, and the recognition on her face was immediate and clear.  She guided me right to where they were in the store.

I still have that plunger, by the way-  it’s in the shower, which is what I bought it for.  My shower drain is occasionally stubborn, and requires a good shower-plunging.

werner Werner: This is Werner.  He’s a robot in a local store called Conrad.   Conrad is sort of like if Radio Shack, Best Buy, a hardware store, and a hobby store all had a freaky four-way and had a child as a result.  I bought my television at Conrad.  I also bought a Mac Mini there.  They sell electronics, power tools, hobby items, remote controlled vehicles, and more.  Their catalog is this enormous thick affair that rivals the Sears catalogs they used to send out once a year.  The reason I wanted to show you guys Werner is that he can help you find stuff in the store.  When he’s not already helping someone, he hangs out near the front doors.  If you use his screen to select a specific type of product, he will guide you there.  The first time I saw a small group of people being led through the store by this friendly fellow, I was kind of enthralled because hey, I’m still basically a ten year old boy.

Snow Plows: They have snow plows in the US too, but I’d never seen one outside of a television screen because I lived in Florida.  As a life-long Florida resident, any technology that is used expressly for dealing with cold stuff is just fascinating to me.  They come in all sizes!  Here’s one that’s sidewalk sized and one that’s street sized.

plow1 plow2


21 thoughts on “More observations on Germany.

  1. Jenny

    Paper sizes: what strikes me odd is that the bigger the sheet, the smaller the number. How can the biggest sheet contain a zero? German logic, I guess….

    Mayo: What about Salatmayonnaise? That type always comes in jars, and you use it for salads (obviously). I think it is slightly less fat.

    Dry cleaning: In all bigger places with hundreds of different people going there, you’ll have to pay in advance. I guess too many people just leave their shirts there forever. I go to a place in Neutraubling for years, and they know me, so I pay when I pick up the stuff (although they have a sign saying that you have to pay in advance).

    Plunger: the German word is Pümpel. That sounds funny even to me as a German 😉


  2. There is nothing appealing about that Tchibo icon. We actually had an alternate idea, but I’ll leave it up to your imagination rather than write it here. And I don’t think we saw a single snow plow when it snowed here a few weeks ago…they seem happy to just let the snow pile up and then ice over 🙂


  3. When I worked for a company that was based in Ireland, we did everything on A4 paper (even in the US office, where I was). I got so used to that format that 8.5×11 still feels slightly “off”, even after so many years.


  4. The snow plows here are tractors, not snow plows. haha Coming from where we get yearly blizzards, lake effect storms, and ice storms a few times every winter.. the plows here are tractors. And I agree with the previous comment, the Germans love to let it pile up and ice over. And they don’t use ice because its not “environmentally friendly” haha

    Thomy Mustard is probably my number one favorite thing in Germany. I could live off the spicy one. mmm, mmm, mmm!


    1. That may be true in Dorfen, but here the snow plows come in all sizes and shapes, not just tractor-shaped. I’ve seen them attached to cars, trucks, small box vehicles, and once, powered by hand. And they use plenty of salt and gravel here to keep the snow melty.


      1. Eva said the salt regulation is actually country wide. It goes somewhere along with the recycling haha. And the plows back home are absolutely tanker-huge. haha Germany doesn’t get the same snow we get though, so they downsize some because a plow on a car would absolutely never work haha 😉


        1. Robert

          Salt is only regulated when used from a private person (and then the regulations are different in every city). Road maintenance authorities use it all the time.
          I’m quite sure this won’t qualify as a tractor (those are used on the autobahn) – but I’d be interested how those (or bigger) snow plows are used to clean sidewalks and car parks back where you come from 😉 :


  5. jennnanigans

    This is so interesting! I love hearing little daily differences like this, like the mayo tubes and the retail associate robot. I love it!


  6. I can’t figure out my washer either. Mostly I’d just like it to not take 2.5 hours to wash my clothes. But unfortunately I don’t think it has a “quickwash” setting. Maybe I should make a visit to Conrad to have that sweet robot guide me towards a washer that makes sense?

    And you’re welcome re: the Tchibo thing. Haha.


    1. I at least have the ‘Schnell’ setting to do laundry in an hour, but I usually just let it go the longer run. I get at least one load a day done that way…


      1. I’m jealous of your “Schnell.” My fitted sheet for the bed will be going on the radiator soon, otherwise it won’t be dry enough to sleep on tonight. Also, forgot to give you props for being game to get your tie snipped last week. Just remember for next year… wear an old tie that day. My students said that’s at least a good excuse to get rid of one that you don’t want to wear anymore. 🙂


    1. I am skeptical. While I agree that tube form is superior for some things (burrito beats taco), I don’t think that all things are better in a tube. Would you eat a steak from a tube?

      A tube of puppies would be adorable though.


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