When it comes to planning ahead, it can be accepted that Germans have a certain knack. As anyone who has had the opportunity to witness the initial steps of a project in a German company can attest, our BMW loving cousins have turned the simple plan into a near art form. That being said, despite living here for two years, this art form has yet to have any influence on my private life. When in doubt, like many British people, I guess and then fill in the gaps as I go. You might say I’m a maverick, traversing the Bavarian landscape with a solid blend of ingenious problem solving, quick wits and a can-do spirit. You might say that. My girlfriend might say I’m a clueless ape man, stumbling from one disaster to another with a disturbing mix of snail paced decision making, angry shouting and regular nap taking. Personally, I think I sit somewhere in the middle. As you can imagine, my palaeolithic understanding of planning tends to conflict with the smoother, more modern understanding of thinking ahead that is the factory default of most Germans. Usually this only causes conflict within my social circle, but having just moved house, I’ve found it can cause a modicum of discomfort for the rest of Germany too.
As a white, central European, there are things that I take for granted. Running water, Aldi, the ability to walk down the street without having to have an in-depth knowledge of military ordnance and the peculiar sound something big and explosive makes as it falls on you from a great hight. Add to that list internet access and you have the start of a White whine entry. Yet, for the majority of the last month, I have had to suffer a redux of my life circa 1993. That wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but I no longer have access to my Ghostbuster action figures, and my girlfriend would refuse to talk to me if I spent all day wearing my Darth Vader helmet and voice changer for comedy effect. Things were so bad, at one point, I watched three episodes of Sex and the City. In German. The reason for my lack of W-Lan (German term, remember it!) I hadn’t given the internet company the expected advance notice of three months. This would require I pay until January. In some cases, people in this situation might get mad, go medieval perhaps. In Germany, you get contractual. After getting some solid advice, we pointed out that we no longer live in the property they were supplying and furthermore, we no longer have access to the router they had sent (because we put it in a box and sent it back) which thus broke the terms of our contract. Contract law: it ain’t sexy, but it works.
Witness the Fitness
Having dealt with rogue W-Lan providers (seriously, no one knows what Wireless is here) it soon became apparent that cancelling things months and months in advance was the norm. Fair enough, planning is important. Then again, when cancelling my gym membership, I was informed that I had to give not one, not two, not eight, but twelve months notice. Now I’m all for thinking ahead, but surely twelve months is expecting a Mystic Meg level of perception. I barely know what I’m doing tomorrow, aside from eating a sandwich at some point, let alone this time next year. Perhaps I’m missing something. Perhaps this is a scheme to help Germans evolve into a country of psychics. Either that or they just money grubbing ass hats. It’s the latter, isn’t it?
Where ever I lay my hat is my home
Even with all these problems of planning, don’t expect things to run smooth when you actually do plan ahead. Take the example of furniture. Ordering furniture can be a long-winded process, with regular jaunts to furniture stores and the inevitable wait for it to arrive. How long should you expect to wait? Maybe up to ten weeks in some circumstances. So, with this in mind, we ordered a new couch, bed and some other odds and ends well in advance. We were told ten weeks. Acceptable. For two weeks I sat on a rough assortment of cushions that, like the hobo I am, I had fashioned into a rudimentary couch. I waited, safe in the knowledge that I would shortly be enjoying the couchy delights of a new sofa. Well, actually, I was getting ahead of myself. What I failed to factor in was the German sense of order trumps the German sense of planning. With so many items coming from one company, they decided to wait for everything to arrive at the warehouse before dispatching it to our home. Seems ok, except when you realise that it would add an extra three weeks onto the original schedule. I don’t mind roughing it, but it’s a little extreme when you consider that all my furniture is a few kilometres away, decorating a bland warehouse.
Luckily, everything has almost arrived now. Although we have no kitchen…I’m sure I called them last week, or was it the week before? Where the hell did I put my plan???