Commute-Time Talking

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The thing about me is that I like to utilise every waking moment of my life – and this is very true of the time I spend on public transport. Usually in the morning I do one of three things: read, listen to podcasts or listen to SUPER HIGH ENERGY MUSIC that will get me in the mood for work. What I don’t like to do is talk.

This concept comes easily to British people. We just assume that this is natural and that we won’t be bothered. I have a lovely British friend who I sometimes see on my commute to work. I think he is one of the most amazing people I know and I very much enjoy talking to him. BUT the morning commute is NOT for talking and so he and I will know of each other’s presence and then move to different carriages.

The same cannot be said of a non-British colleague of mine. He’s a very nice, energetic guy. The friendliest you ever did see. Especially in the mornings.

This morning, I was on the bus that delivers fat, lazy people who can’t be bothered to walk from the train station to our office. I was reading quite an interesting article about Pharrell Williams (and wondering why no one was shouting at him for co-writing Blurred Lines…) when out of nowhere, up popped my colleague.

He placed himself next to me and started hopping from foot to foot, sighing. It was a sign that I should stop reading and pay him attention.

I didn’t.

The sighing got louder, when he let out a “wow, there sure are loads of people on here today!”

I looked up, grunted.

His head popped up at my shoulder. “Whatcha readin’?!”

“A magazine.”

“Oh! I like to read books”

Awesome.

As I got off the bus I felt him walk in step with me. I can’t walk and read at the same time but DAMMIT I wanted my quiet time. So I held the magazine in front of my face and walked. After an awkward amount of time of me pretending to read while walking, while trying not to trip up at the same time, he found someone else to talk to and I didn’t have to be rude to him any more.

Am I a terrible person, or just British…?

Queuing

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This week Dunkin’ Donuts opened in Frankfurt. My wonderful colleague queued up before work and brought us a big box of brightly coloured doughnuts. This whole concept brought me a bit of Japan-nostalgia since the city I lived in, Ise, had special mochi sweets on sale on the first day of every month. People would go down to the old district at 4am and queue up for some of these rare sweets.

My friends always went and I scoffed at them, but towards the end of my time in Japan I realised I’d regret it if I didn’t start going to buy these mochi. I went about 3 or 4 times in the end and it was really amazing because I could zip through a completely empty city on my moped at 4am, and then when we got to the line we always met really great people which made the (often) 2 hour wait completely worth it. Then after buying the mochi we’d queue again (above) for the special breakfast that was available at the restaurant next door. That breakfast was one of the best I’ve ever had. Hmm… I wonder if I have a photo of that too…

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Look what I found!

But thinking about queuing up for stuff in Japan and in Frankfurt got me thinking about queuing up in general. You may think this is not so much a topic interesting enough to blog about but actually, as a British person, I think about queuing a lot. These crazy 3 hour long queues are not a thing for me. In Japan they will queue for anything, and they have NO limit to their patience. If it says in a magazine that such-and-such a place has good cakes, they will wait for 3 hours to try one – even if they know the article is sponsored and probably a lie. At any given time on Japanese tv there will be crazy tv shows where minor celebrities go to some restaurant in some town and try some food, announce that it’s the softest, juiciest  tastiest thing they have ever eaten and afterwards that restaurant won’t be able to move for customers – they will be spending the whole day queuing outside to taste this soft juicy tasty thing. (Please click on the “crazy tv shows” link to watch the video… it’s SUCH a typical Japanese tv show…)

For me, I think my limit would be 40 minutes. When Krispy Kremes opened in Osaka I did wait for 40 minutes to get some (and boy were they worth it…) but when it opened in Nagoya I saw people waiting for 4 hours and said to my friend that they could go to the airport, fly to Korea (where they have had Krispy Kremes for years), walk into a shop and buy doughnuts, fly back and they would still beat the people in the queue.

As an expat, queue methods can also be pretty confusing. In Japan they have pretty much the same queuing system as in Britain, but with one added rule – old women can break all the rules and it’s ok. I remember this one time when I was in Japan I went to an illuminations event. When it was over, the route back to the exit was ridiculously crowded and so we had to wait in a long crowd-queue to get out. I was waiting patiently with everyone else until these old ladies started jabbing me in the stomach to get past me. They really had no shame. They will also push in front of you when you’re waiting for a bus or train as well. I’d gladly let elderly people through but I get annoyed when they are rude about it.

Here in Germany there is a slightly different queue style. Where in the UK we form one line that feeds multiple cashiers in a shop, in Germany they form one like per cashier. This means that you can easily be served first if you just join the right queue. German people are a lot less angry at people who push in, as well. In Britain, we are REALLY angry when people push in. But most of the time we just tut and glare and do no more. A few times I have had people ignore the line and wait at the side of the counter to push in but where German queuers are ok with this, German shop staff are thankfully strict.

Where German people are TERRIBLE, though isn’t technically a queue but it’s a related form of waiting; when the train is coming into a station and people need to get out. Instead of waiting to see who else is getting out, each person assumes automatically that they will be the only person and as soon as the platform is in sight, they will push to get to the front of the door so that they can be the person to press the button and exit the train first. And then people rarely let you off the train before they cram on it. I guess German people just get stuff done.

I find peoples’ queuing styles say a lot about their culture and way of life. British people get angry a lot but don’t say anything out right. German people are harsh and abrupt but get what they want in the end.

How does queuing happen where you’re from?

Parisian Train Stations

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When I was in Paris (yeah, more Paris spam – I have so much more!) I used the Paris Metro to get around. The Paris Metro is a strange thing. Firstly, it’s HARD to go about on it with luggage. I have no idea what a person in a wheelchair would do. I’d heard multiple accounts of people jumping over the ticket barriers and riding for free – you only have the wicket at the start of your journey so it’s easy to skip paying if you can jump high enough.

But along the way, I found (with the help if my Paris guide book, which I will blog about later) some really interesting stations. I thought I would share them with you!

First off is Concorde (above) which has excerpts from France’s declaration of human rights on the walls. It has no punctuation at all, so it’s pretty tricky to read… But still pretty cool!

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This crudely taken photo is at Palais Royal, near the Comédie Française and was made in 2000. Isn’t it pretty?!
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At Montparnasse-Bienvenüe there is the fastest moving walkway in the world at 12 kilometres an hour.

Lastly, Metro station Madeline gets a special mention for being quite possible the STINKIEST station ever. Probably the stinkiest place I have ever had the misfortune to be in. Seriously.

See?! Why go to museums when Paris’ Metro stations are cool enough!!

The Night Train

Every night at about 10.30 there is a train that goes from Frankfurt main station to Moscow. One day, I want to take this train. I always like being nosy and seeing what kinds of people are taking that train each night by looking into the windows as I go by.

There always seems to be people stood talking in the entrances to the train though. I guess it’s a cheap way home for some of the Russian community who live in Frankfurt.

Fahrkarte Bitte! Train Life in Germany

Last night I was asked what I thought of German people. I explained that, although my experiences with my German flatmate may have made me make outlandish decisions on how I feel about German people, I find them to not have so many strange habits, and are very easy to get along with and are always helpful and friendly.

However, there is one area that most Brits over here will tell you is very annoying about Germany and German people and that is train travel.

To people who are not British, or who have never been to Britain, who have never encountered a British person before – our national sports are queuing, and travel etiquette.   So, when we come to Germany and find German people pushing in front of you in a race to be the ones to open the train doors before the train has stopped, or when trying to get off a train you’re faced with a group of people trying to get on the train and so your path is blocked… you can understand our frustration!

I haven’t had much negative culture shock here but I do get a bit passive aggressive when these two things happen to me. I usually stand blocking peoples’ way until they let me off the train, or when someone pushes in front of me to open the door I usually tell them that actually I’m getting off as well. The race to open the door is just comical – they’re like children fighting over who gets to press the button to cross the road.

Train life in general here is very good though. Despite the frequent protests and strikes, the trains are usually on time and reliable. There are no wickets so people are trusted to be holding their ticket, or their monthly card. Monthly cards cost 78 Euros a month but a very good tip is that if you don’t have to take trains before 9am, you can get a “9 o’clock ticket” which only costs 62 Euros. This is a tip that I didn’t know until recently, and a friend of mine complained that I hadn’t instantly shared the information. It’s worth noting that you can have one non-ticket-holding friend with you after 7pm on weekdays and at weekends. More info on monthly tickets can be found HERE.

Although you are trusted to carry your ticket with you, there are of course people who go round and check tickets. I find this quite funny too, because these people dress like ‘normal people’ and as soon as the doors are shut and locked, they stand up and announce themselves. I’ve been here 10 months now and I’ve been checked maybe 5 times in total. If you ask different people, they’ll have different theories on this. I feel I’ve been ticketed more on trams, but other people say they are ticketed mostly on the S Bahn on the way to work. I’ve only had that once though.

If anyone else out there has interesting information/stories about German train life, I’d love to hear them!

Frankfurt – The town of crazies

When I moved to Frankfurt, one of my colleagues told me something that is quite possibly the truest thing I have ever heard – that Frankfurt is actually a massive open air mental asylum. It is. Aside from all the people who are on drugs here and off their faces, there are other just random crazy people here. Just from this weekend alone I have three wonderful stories about crazy people in Frankfurt.

The first was from Saturday morning. My new flatmate and I were walking into town to buy some things for the flat. There were some people protesting against battery chickens.

Guess how they were protesting.

No, they weren’t caged up themselves.

This is how:

By having a massive pillow fight and throwing feathers EVERYWHERE. They were being walked into shops, breathed in by passers by, and they were just EVERYWHERE.

On a scale of one to crazy, this is pretty mild. It’s also pretty cool. But it’s still rather crazy. My poor flatmate, fresh over from Japan, didn’t know what to think…

Crazy story two happened that night on the train. My friends and I sat down and saw a letter hanging out from the bin on the side.

It was a crazy letter. Written by a woman telling all her most intimate things… about how she gave birth, about how she likes her sexy times, about what she looks for in a partner… it was written in German too so my friend had to translate it for us. It was hand written but a photocopy. Why was it written? Who was meant to read it? Did she mean for random people on the train to read it? I do not have the answer to these questions.

Crazy story three sadly has no photo. It happened on the same train, as we were reading the letter. A man suddenly came to me and put his wrist in my face, saying “smell this”. It smelt of cheap man-smell. I told him it smelt really bad. He said it was a gift, and walked to the girl sat behind me. She had obviously said it smelt nice, because he gave her a bottle of the cheap man-smell.

There are so many stories like this… but don’t take this as me complaining. I love Frankfurt and the crazies. It would be a very very boring place to live if this was a normal city.