Let me start with a disclaimer by saying that I have no idea if these observations hold true for all of Germany. I only visited a small area (consisting of a number of small towns with large stretches of farmland between them) northeast of Stuttgart for a short period of time.
*Everything was very clean and neat. The exterior of the houses and buildings were clean. Many were painted a similar color and decorated with flowers. Houses and buildings all appeared to be well maintained. The interior of most of the houses I visited had been recently redecorated. Most quite expensively, I might add. Despite the fact the houses themselves were quite old, they all seemed new. The streets in towns were clean and had no cracks or potholes. Rural roads were well marked and clean, no debris on the roadside. The fields and forests were neatly cultivated and free of debris. I felt like I was in some fairy tale land.
*Cars and driving: Most of the cars were newer, and older ones were well maintained. There didn’t appear to be any banged up jalopies on the roads. Most of the cars were smaller, although I’m sure this is from necessity as gasoline prices were about $3.75 per gallon. Driving is on the right and not once did I witness any impoliteness on the part of a driver.
*Germans are into children. Der kinder are totally doted on but in a detached way, if that makes sense. I guess you could say independence is encouraged at a young age. The shops and banks I visited each had an area set aside for children containing a small table, chairs and a few toys and books. Children seem to be taken everywhere. Once they’re there, parents just let them do their own thing. At the family reunion party I was at, four or five children (ranging from 2 to 6) were completely ignored by the adults. They managed to turn a sandbox into mud in short order. One little boy pulled his training pants down several times and peed right into the sand that was being excavated for play. After a few hours these kids were covered in mud from head to toe. The parents were unconcerned and simply hosed them off. I know some uptight American parents who would have freaked over that entire scene. Another day, my second cousin was busy with her mother while her 2 year old played in a fountain in the backyard. Of course, the kid got soaked. When I told my cousin what her daughter had been doing she just lightly scolded her, whipped out another set of clothes and changed the kid.
*Germans are health/weight conscious. My older cousins swim at 6 a.m. three days a week and bicycle 15 km a day. They made it seem like it was a very common thing to do. This was believable as I did not see any really fat people in Germany. Seriously. None of the people I met in my generation were fat. As a hefty person, I started to feel like a freak after a while. Most of the women in my age group were twig-like. Almost all were married and had children but bore no evidence of having birthed anything. The only people I met that had any weight on them were the older folks, but that seemed to me to be ‘middle-aged spread’ more than a lifetime of being a heavyweight. Now that I think about it, the only fat person I saw was on television… it was an expose on a woman who’d had weight loss surgery, she was in the process of having cosmetic surgery to remove excess skin.
*Everybody has some kind of garden. At least in the place I visited, whether there was much land or not, everybody had managed to plant flowers and most had some kind of vegetable or fruit growing. Some people even had gardens on the roof of their house.
*Clowns are big. I already mentioned the decor. One thing that repeated itself everywhere I went was the clown-on-a-swing. Everyone seemed to have a clown-on-a-swing hanging somewhere in their house. It was freaky.
*Germans are detached friendly, and hospitable. Regardless of the type of meeting, each newly arriving person will shake the hand of and individually greet every other person already in the room. They don’t hug and kiss unless the person is an immediate family member, and sometimes not even then. They are also very hopsitable to guests and go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable, always offering something to drink and eat. Even if you’ve concluded the purpose of your visit – to drop something off, for example – they urge you to stay and visit, have a drink and maybe something to eat.
That’s pretty much it. I’ll post about Austria next.