On Christmas Eve (Christmas day for Germans… the 24th to be clear) my husband and I prepared ourselves for a leisurely walk along the river. I put on some comfy lounge/workout pants and was ready to go when my husband decided we should make a last-minute run to Aldi before the walk. Here’s how the conversation played out:
Me: Oh… Then I guess I need to change pants if we’re going to Aldi, too.
The German: Why?
Me: Ummmmm because we’re going to a store now. These pants are fine for a walk, but I won’t go into a place of business wearing them.
The German: I don’t get it. If you change your pants it should be because we’re going for a walk NOT because we’re going to Aldi. It’s just Aldi. Nobody cares.
Me: Wait a minute… are you telling me that to go for a nice, leisurely walk with my husband on our day off, I have to be in jeans or something nicer, but to go to Aldi, these pants are fine?
The German: Yeah, of course. If you just run into a store for 2 seconds, nobody cares, but you can’t go for a walk in those pants. What if you see somebody who could potentially be your boss someday, but he doesn’t hire you because he remembers seeing you out walking in those pants?
At this point, I basically lost my marbles for a few moments.
Me: SERIOUSLY? SER-I-OUS-LY? …. SERIOUSLY? You mean to tell me that Germans are really such assholes [sorry, mom] that they would judge me and potentially not hire me for a job because they saw me walking in comfortable pants ON. MY. DAY. OFF?! Seriously??? Dude, if Germans are like that, then really… that’s freaking awful. It must be hard being a German if you’re always so worried about that kind of crap!
And this was the beginning of a 90 minute fight right in the middle of my Christmas Eve which was my husband’s Christmas Day. Because you see, no matter how badly my husband would like to claw his way out of Germany and spend the rest of his life on the Canary Islands, he is still German enough to have been understandably hurt by my “asshole” remark and he went on the defensive.
I do my best to be respectful of German culture, but guys, I do not get this. My husband kept saying things like, “What if people see you?” and “What will people think?” And since I grew up in ‘merica, home of be-true-to-yourself-and-don’t-ever-conform-and-wear-your-freaking-pjs-to-Walmart-if-you-so-wish, I just couldn’t wrap my head around this. I’m like, “Um… I don’t really give the furry crack of a rat’s behind what people think about me. I don’t know them. They can judge me nine ways to Sunday and I really don’t give a flyin’ flip!” And The German couldn’t understand my side.
Eventually, we made amends and went on to have a lovely Christmas Eve, but only after we both calmly and rationally discussed that, though we cannot grasp the other side of the argument, we must respect our culture differences. And even though I don’t care what people think of me in my jogging pants on a walk on my day off, I do care that this culture is so deeply embedded in my husband that it would honestly embarrass him a little if I dressed that way in public. So, out of respect for him, I will always wear jeans on walks from now on.
Now, if you don’t know Germans, you may be thinking this is just my husband and that he’s perhaps a little bit snobby and/or demanding, but here’s the kicker… One of my online German teachers lives in the U.S. and is married to an American. Sometimes she and I stay on past the lesson and trade stories about what it’s like to be in a multicultural marriage. She has made it clear to me that she is not a fan of the rigid, judgmental (her words) German culture and that she does not miss Germany AT ALL. I told her this story about our walk and my jogging pants and she confirmed that this is not just my husband. She comes from a place pretty far from where my husband was born and told me, “He’s right. This is very German, and I HATE it! It was shocking to me when I moved to the U.S. and saw people at Walmart in their pajamas, but you know what? I like it much better than the rigid German culture who would point and laugh at these people.” She went on to say, “In the U.S., I feel much more free and relaxed and not so worried about what people are thinking of me. It’s really lovely.”
I must agree with her there. In my opinion, the U.S. has a much more relaxed and friendly culture, but when she asked me if I’m happy here in Germany, I honestly answered with a big, hearty “YES!” I may not like every aspect of German culture, but truth be told, I don’t like every aspect of American culture, either. But here in Germany, I feel like I’m on the greatest adventure of my life. There is so much to do and see and so much to be discovered, and you don’t have to drive hours upon hours to make these discoveries. So even if I can’t wear comfortable pants on a walk, I think I’ll kick back and stay a while. 🙂