A Solution to the Solution

After two years of splitting time between the States and Germany, the scales have finally tipped: for the last year, I’ve been in Germany 90% of the time. This has done wonders for my sense of direction here in Hamburg, and has helped my German considerably, but there are some side effects. I’ve had what I’m pretty sure is a really bad haircut for most of the last year, but I don’t have access to my usual touchstones with which to compare (i.e. is someone in Austin, Texas wearing my haircut ironically? If so, my haircut is bad.) My familiarity with American customs is slipping away. Let’s play…

Only in Germany

how to play: read through the list below, and tell me if they do things the same way in America

  • Dremel Pedicure – during the foot-buffing stage of a pedicure here in Hamburg, the technician brings out a suitcase-sized machine with various cords and attachments. The device is basically a rotating grinder with various grits, and is used to grind down your foot calluses. (If they’re in the same league as mine, they’ll get very hot during this process.) It only takes a minute, the cloud of smoke/dead skin isn’t too noticeable, and it is certainly easier for the pedicurist than any other method I’ve seen. The first time it happened I thought that I’d just lucked onto an enterprising salon that found a clever way to defray the cost of its woodworking hobby, but the dremel technique has been used at every salon I’ve been to since. Has anyone else had this happen? Or are these salons just keeping machinery on hand in case me and my centimeter-thick calluses happen along?
  • Naked Waxing – You’re about to come under the impression that I spend a lot of time in spas. I do, but only once or twice per year, and only then because it takes so long to tame my eyebrows. At the waxing salon here, you are laid out on a table under a bright fluorescent light like you’re at the morgue, and, like a stiff in their compartment at said morgue, you are completely naked. This makes tremendous sense when it comes to not getting wax on your clothes, but it’s the first time in my waxing history that a modesty towel (or sheet) hasn’t been employed – one salon I went to in the States actually offered a disposable paper thong. Is naked waxing a new worldwide trend? Is it only in Germany? Or, god forbid, did I just misunderstand the instructions? 
  • Alternatives to  Choking – Heimlich is a German word, and yet the Heimlich Maneuver is not practiced in Germany. I was baffled to learn that vast stretches of time in the fifth grade here are not dedicated to teaching kids how to be heroes in the event that they come across someone who is a) choking and b) small enough that a fifth grader’s arms can reach around them. Was all of that training worth it? Have you ever used the Heimlich? Is it safe for me to raise a family in a country where no one is familiar with this simple lifesaving technique? Or is choking actually just an American problem? If so, how American do you have to be to be a choking hazard? Is little half-German Frida out of the woods? 
The United States and Germany are thousands of miles apart, they were on opposing sides of a war not that long ago, and they have different languages and systems of government. It’s not surprising that there would be some cultural differences, but little inconsistencies like the ones above seem all the more crazy when I look down the cereal row at the local German grocery store and see a wall of Special K. I need to take my cultural ambassador duties a little more seriously. Think of it: my legacy in Germany could be the introduction of Cracklin’ Oat Bran! No more dry-ass flakes of diet cereal for you, fiber-conscious Germans! Soon, you will be treated to sweet, crunchy nuggets so tasty that they don’t even need milk*!
*Warning: tossing back handfuls of dry Cracklin’ Oat Bran may be a choking hazard.

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