Culture & Art

Culture Shock Germany : 7 tips for First-timers from Nepal

1. Deciphering the `Nepali Nod´
There is a secret nod between Nepalis that is neither the German up- down head movement denoting `Yes´ nor is it the sideways ‘No’. Rather, it is the combination of both where the head stays horizontal but tilts from side to side. It is neither the x or the y axis, but a different pivot.

The Nepali nod usually means ‘Yes’ but the intensity of the nodding defines the scope of the  certainty needed to be expressed. For example you can calibrate your agreement with something: If the person nods the head rapidly with wide eyes, it means ‘YES!’, but if the oscillation is of moderate frequency, it means, ‘Okay, I’m fine with it’, and if the person nods lackadaisically with a blank expression, it mostly means, ‘Maybe.. Or I don’t know’. Warning: the head movement could just be someone enjoying good music on the ear pod, so you may never know.

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2. Sea and lake at your doorstep
For students who have never been away from landlocked Nepal, it takes getting used to having a sea ten minutes’ walk away. Well, it isn’t exactly at your doorstep but it’s not tough to find one near you. It is a beautiful place where you would want to end your tiring day or spend weekend picnic with family or loved ones. All you need is a blanket, some food and definitely some warm clothes because you never know when the German weather will change.

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3. Water makes you burp
In Nepal, we boil and filter water before drinking it. In Germany you take it from a bottle and the fizzy stuff immediately bloats your tummy. You can burp from drinking water! One thing that might catch Nepalis by surprise here in Germany is that the water is carbonated but you can drink tap water if you prefer still water — straight from the faucet. Cool, isn’t it? But do not be taking this habit with you back to Nepal because if you were to drink water straight from the tap … well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be a pretty picture.

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4. Use of fork and knife
Forks and knives are used for eating everything in Germany and we do mean everything: Fries, pizza, cake and even burgers. Everybody cuts and slices every single piece of food they eat. As typical Nepalis, we must really control our habit of eating with our fingers. We must also learn to use a fork and not a spoon with the knife. The spoon is for the soup only. So, make sure you are brushed up on your cutlery skills and up to date on your table side manners lest you risk offending or worse disgusting your table mate.

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5. Know when to knock and when to applaud
In Germany it is not common to applaud everywhere except for in the theatre or at a concert. (Passengers even break into applause when a plane lands.) At university and in the German Reichstag you knock on your desk after a lecture or presentation. Knocking is also used as a form of greeting when you are in a pub. But always knock at the desk – not on the people!

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6. Wait at the traffic light when it’s red
In Germany you never ever cross the streets at a traffic light when the red man is showing (called the “Ampelmännchen”). Even when there is no one around – neither cars nor people -, even when it’s five in the morning, you wait until the traffic light is turning green for you. Then you can cross the street.  You better stick to this or you shouldn’t be surprised if a law- abiding passerby gives you a piece of his or her mind in German.

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7. Turning waste into money
It’s a very unique system. You can return the used bottle, turning the bottle into new one. Doesn’t matter where you bought the bottles but can be recycled in a local market. It has a deposit value. So gather up all the empty plastic bottles, soft drink cans and you can get money in return. Well that’s the best way to cut trash and turn garbage into gold.

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                                                  Aashish Mishra, Kabita Maharjan, Reeti K.C., Vanessa Fillis

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