Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Germany: Land of Open Windows and Closed Doors

Every once in a while, it is good to post about some cultural differences. As an American living in Germany, there are lots of things that I notice that are different. Some things I didn't notice at first, and other things were more apparent when I first arrived, however one thing that I have learned during my time here is the way that Germans use windows and doors.

It doesn't seem like it would be that big of a deal really. I mean, what could be so different? People go in and out through doors, and windows let the light in. Well, the differences between Europeans and Americans when it comes to windows and doors is HUGE.

First, windows. In the US, we have windows, and lots of them. There is no difference there. We also have screens on virtually every window. If there is no screen, it probably doesn't get open. We have got to keep the bugs out, and the screen is the only way to do that. We also don't really open windows much. We open them if we need to let the carpet dry out, or to get the fish smell out of the kitchen. If we want to be outside, we will just go outside. Now, in Germany, and from what I have seen also in other places in Europe, it is quite the opposite. Fresh air is highly valued, and the fresh air is not indoors. As the weather is getting colder outside, I thought I would start to see windows closing. i was wrong. As I sit at my desk at work, someone will get up, open the large window in the middle of the room, and sit back down as the what-was-once-toasty temperature drops about 20 degrees. After about five minutes, when everyone is cold, the window will get shut again. As soon as things start to feel nice again, and I am all warmed up . . . "Hey, can you open the window?" "What? Why? Why would you want to open the window?" Well, it is just culture. There is a value of fresh air. And if anyone from work is reading this, don't worry, I have found it to be a good thing, just very different.

Now, for doors. It is just simply amazing how many doors there are in Germany. Every room has a door. That may sound a bit silly, but it seems like in the US, we like large open spaces, so we have a kitchen, a dining room, and living room all in one large open space. Here, it would all be seperate rooms, each with a closing door. There may even be a door in the hallway that just goes into the other half of the hallway. When you enter the room, you close the door. It is as simple as that. I could try to explain this difference to a European, but it is just too normal for them. There is nothing wrong with it, it is what it is, just a difference.

I know that that seems like small things, but it is these small things that really make you feel like you are in a different country. I find it weird sometimes how we can be so much alike in two different worlds, but it is the small cultural differences that can make the world of a difference to a foreigner.

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