Some Differences between Germany and Canada

From the eight months being away from Toronto, I would like to dedicate this post solely to the differences I have noticed between Germany and Canada. Both countries are very similar in numerous ways, yet there are still some large disparities.

I’ll start with auto transportation. Most of the cars here are much smaller than in North America- and I mean extremely small. There are no pick-up trucks or SUVs for example. I rarely see large sedans on the streets; mostly just compact models. I think this has to do with the streets themselves. Most side streets, especially in smaller towns, are very narrow- there is literally only enough room for one car to fit. I don’t know what happens when two cars meet head on, I imagine they would need to drive halfway on the curb in order to pass each other. In comparison, my neighborhood in Toronto (North York), the streets allow that even with cars parked on both sides a large truck can still easily pass through.

The Volkswagen Up!

The Volkswagen Up!

Almost ALL cars use a manual transmission. Every single car that I peek into has a stick shift. This is true even for the typical family van, something that is almost unfathomable in North America. There are of course different kinds of cars as well which come from European manufacturers. Ford and GM are rare to see, where as makers which are not seen in Canada, such as Peugeot and Skoda, are common. Furthermore, there are specific models here which are not available on the North American market. Volkswagen makes the Polo and Up!, both of which I have never seen back home.

Normally what we have back home

Normally what we have back home

The 18-wheelers that are in Germany look totally different from those back home! They are much smaller. Their fronts are completely flat, almost as if there were squished.If I could give them descriptive words I think ours look much more “mean” and “intimidating.” I find ours look better. They’re more serious looking ready-to-haul-a-heavy-load trucks.

The version that is used over here

The version that is used over here

Oh and one more thing- the gas prices. If you think our prices are expensive in Canada, try coming here. It is crazy! While we complain at $1.25/litre, here the average is at about 1.60 Euros/litre. And don’t forget, that is in Euros, even more than the CAD. Perhaps that is another reason why the cars are much smaller.

Many people, especially in Berlin, roll their own cigarettes. They buy the rolling paper, tobacco and filters separately, then simply make them themselves. It is cheaper that way. I have noticed there are a lot more smokers here as well. In comparison to Toronto, many people are smoking on the streets. Smoking is allowed in the bars and clubs in Berlin. I find that disgusting and afterwards all of my clothes smell.

There are cigarette vending machines on the streets. You only need an ID to “prove” your age and then you can buy a pack of cigarettes. I assume underage kids take advantage of such a system. Furthermore, there are advertisements for cigarettes. Unlike in Canada, where the advertising of cigarettes is prohibited, I regularly see ads in magazines or on billboards.

A typical cigarette vending machine

A typical cigarette vending machine

What else can I say? The German computer keyboards are different. I especially get confused with the “Z” and “Y” keys when I use a public computer which are switched around. You can buy alcohol pretty much anywhere. There are no specific stores such as the LCBO or The Beer Store. Also, the alcohol is much cheaper here, but hey, it is Germany after all; they are known for their beer! Open drinking in public is also allowed.

There are many smaller, privately owned stores, such as bakeries and cafes. It is more common for people to go to a cafe to enjoy a coffee outdoors and buy a dessert. It is more common to buy bread from a local baker than go to a massive grocery store. There are no Wal-Marts for example.

Everything is closed on Sundays. And when I say everything, I mean everything. Tough luck if you forgot to buy some groceries on Saturday; you would have to wait until Monday morning. There are many more casinos too. Unlike back home, where there are the massive ones, such as Casino Rama or Casino Niagara, here there are little ones located all over. In most situations, you need to pay to use the public washrooms. Whether in the mall or on the side of the highway, 9 times out of 10, you need to pay about 50 cents to use a washroom.

"Sunday Shopping"- I took this picture during the Christmas season. An advertisement showing that a mall is opened on Sunday.

“Sunday Shopping”- I took this picture during the Christmas season. An advertisement showing that a mall is opened on Sunday.

The clubs and bars are opened much later, unlike our 2am closing time in Toronto. In Berlin for example, certain clubs are opened all weekend long, not closing until Monday morning. Germans like to use the 24 hour clock; it took me a while to get used to this. Their electrical sockets are different as well. They use 220-volt system unlike the 110-volt system, which is what we use. I needed to buy an adapter in order to use my electronic devices.

What the plugs look like over here

What the plugs look like over here

Well, those are some of the major differences I have noticed during my time here so far. There are some smaller observations, such as the fact that cashiers sit while working, or that there are barely any STOP signs in side streets. Yet I think I covered the most of them. The next two weeks I will be traveling the UK with a friend of mine from Canada, so there will be lots to share with my next post. I hope you learned something from this one!

The layout of a German keyboard

The layout of a German keyboard

Crunch Time

It’s my last week in London before the holiday break which means I have a lot of researching to do for my final papers, but also a lot of activities to squeeze in before I leave on Saturday. I’m torn between my desire to frolic around the city and the knowledge that I have papers that won’t write themselves (unfortunately).

However, one can’t sit in the library all day long. Especially not when there are so many other more exciting options. Study breaks are important, after all…

Thus came about the decision to go skating at the National History Museum.

P1010453 P1010462

National History Museum

National History Museum

It was a fun night, but skating in London almost isn’t worth it… First off, it’s expensive. This was the cheapest rink we could find, with a student deal of 8.50 pounds for 50 minutes. Secondly, the rinks are tiny and over-crowded. I’m actually excited to go skating back in Toronto, where the rinks are free and there’s space to move!

However, something we don’t have in Toronto is Winter Wonderland, which happens every year at Hyde Park. My friend was visiting London so we decided to check it out. It was quite a sight to see! It’s essentially a huge carnival with rides, a skating rink, a Christmas market, and pubs. Lots to do, but you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to get on one of the rides. So, my friend and I just walked around, sipping hot cider and ogling the pretty lights.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

 

The next day, we headed to Portobello market, which is one of London’s most famous markets. It’s up in Notting Hill, which is a lovely area to get lost in.

P1010547

Portobello Road

Portobello Road

P1010546

When we went, the market was having an antique fair with stalls all the way down the street.

P1010550

The area was bustling until late at night when the market shut down. It really is one of the must-see attractions in London.

Admittedly, I may have overdone it with the study breaks, which I will definitely pay for later. Off to the library I go!

Good luck with revision to all…

Until next time,

Veronika

 

Tea, Tourism, and Theatre

Hi everyone!

I’m happy to announce that it’s officially Christmas time in London town.

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

image (4)

Even Oxford Street is all lit up! The cold just seems much more bearable when there are lights up (and boy, did it get cold fast).

While London was busy getting dressed up, my family visited me during my reading week here. It was great having a break from res life and not having to cook and clean. I even had proper afternoon tea for the first time since coming to the UK!

P1010226P1010197P1010213

It was a lot of fun! I would definitely go again if it wasn’t so expensive… guess I’ll just have tea and biscuits at home.

It’s funny that all the foods and activities that North Americans would classify as “British” actually cost quite a bit here! For instance, it’s hard to find fish and chips in London for under 8 pounds (roughly 15 dollars), which is ridiculous. It’s not cheap being a tourist.

Annoyances aside, I’ve been taking advantage of all the plays on in London, as they have amazing student prices for tickets. Last night I saw Much Ado About Nothing, with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones.

image (7)

And tonight, I’m seeing Richard II with David Tennant – which I’m now late for.

Talk soon!

-Shakespeare enthusiast, aka Veronika