Thursday, 22 December 2016

German Efficiency?

We're not saying our home countries get everything right - not by a long way. But at the same time we just don't get why Germany can't fix these annoying problems.
1. The strange system of kitchen swapping
You may well have heard the expression "taking everything but the kitchen sink." Well in Germany, when you move house you often take that too, even if you're just letting.
If you are moving out of the flat, and find that the kitchen was actually put in by the previous tenant, but was never paid for by the landlord, then the kitchen is legally your responsibility.
That means that if the new tenant wants to bring their own kitchen (which is not uncommon) it is your job to deal with it, otherwise the landlord could charge you for the cost of removing it.
This can be particularly maddening for people moving far away who can’t exactly fill a suitcase with the dishwasher and the fridge. If you're not prepared you may well end up selling perfectly good kitchen appliances for a fraction of what you bought them for.
It also means that, if you are arriving fresh in Germany, on top of all the furniture you expected to buy, you could end up forking out for an oven, a fridge, a sink and a dishwasher.
2. You're forced to pay a TV licence fee, even if you don’t have a TV
Nowadays few of us have a TV. Or at least you’re unlikely to buy one if you’ve just moved to Germany when you have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the rest of the internet to choose from.
But for some mad reason, in Germany every household has to pay a TV and radio licence, regardless of whether you own one.
And it’s not exactly cheap. Each household has to pay €17.50 per month. And don’t expect to slip under the radar: the authorities will soon be in touch, and may even threaten to seize your car, even if you don’t have one of those either.
3. They insist on a TV fee, and then make TV unwatchable
Since you're forced to pay all that money for public broadcasters, you'd hope for a pretty high standard.
German public broadcasting is actually the most expensive in the world, with 23 TV and 63 radio stations having an annual budget of around €8.4 billion, more than Britain's BBC, which provides a huge variety of original programming across television and radio.
The BBC also produces many internationally popular programmes, such as Top Gear and Planet Earth.
Tatort, a crime investigation series, is probably the most famous programme you'll get in Germany - it has been running continuously since 1970. German TV is obsessed with detective series, but apart form that and daily topical shows, you're left with little else on the public channels.
And then when you see there’s a good blockbuster on and flick to it excitedly, there’s nothing worse than discovering it’s been dubbed. What’s wrong with subtitles? No one wants to watch James Bond when Daniel Craig has the voice of a bored German accountant.
4. "No, I said I’m looking for turmeric, not turnips"
On first arriving in Deutschland, you are no doubt thrilled by the new supermarkets. Shopping abroad is always more exciting. But sadly, this novelty soon wears off.
Firstly, the layout in German shops is entirely illogical, and rarely well signed. If you want to buy some tortellini for dinner, you’ll have to go to the meat section for a mince filled one, and then find the vegetarian section for a cheese one.
And then there’s the sparse selection in general. If you’re satisfied with just eating central European food, you’ll survive just fine, but as soon as you want to stray into even the most basic oriental cuisine, you’ll be trekking off to an Asian market.
And don’t get started on the alcohol. Yes, it’s cheap, but in many supermarkets, if you want a bottle of hard liquor, you have to inform them at the till. The attendant will then go all the way to the locked alcohol aisle cabinet, locate your bottle and return to the till, meaning that the now lengthy queue behind you will make you regret you even contemplated a bottle of whisky.
5. There’s nothing attractive about the German “lay-and-display” loos
The very German lay-and-display toilet. Photo: Lexlexlex / Wikimedia Commons
Let's not beat about the bush. German bathrooms are terrible. It’s not their hygiene or their size, but their appliances.
Take showers. They are often in baths. And that’s fine, but not when the shower head is the size of a fifty cents coin and is attached to the wall in such a way that, unless you’re under 1.60 metres, you have to perform a squat to get your hair wet.
Then there’s the lack of extractor fans. This means that unless you open the window (which is not recommended in December), the bathroom fills with steam, and sticks forever to the walls. So you have the choice between the arctic cold, or the humidity of a rain forest.
But worst of all are the toilets you find across much of Germany, aptly nicknamed “lay-and-display” loos by fed-up expats. These are the bizarre ones with a collecting shelf in the bowl. There’s no need to explain why you won’t like these unless you have an interest in scatological science.
6. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. And where there’s no smoke alarm...
This is a more serious point. There is no federal law about smoke alarms, so each state has had to introduce them separately. In the summer of 2016, Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony were the last states to implement such laws.
But it’s not that simple. In Berlin all new-builds must have one from 2017, but the law for existing buildings doesn't come into effect until 2021. Home owners in Bavaria still have until the end of 2017 to install them.
So, although Germany is finally bringing in laws, you may well not have a smoke alarm if you live in the capital for another four years. Who would have thought it would take so long to install a life-saving and oh-so-small thing?
7. It’s an absolute pain to find a pain-killer
Almost everything is in a room at the back and not easy to get your hands on. Photo: DPA
In Germany, Apotheken (pharmacies) are on almost every street, but they do not have a great selection of over-the-counter medicine, and often interrogate you as to whether you really need it before charging you sky-high prices.
Yes, that’s because pharmacists have five years of training and know their stuff, but if you just want an aspirin does it have to be such a faff?
And then there’s the problem that pharmacies aren’t open on a Sunday. That would be fine if you were able to buy medicine elsewhere, but if you suddenly get a migraine on a Sunday, you’re really going to struggle to find anything to help.
The Local

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