Non, je ne regrette rien

Or whatever that is in German.

After the last few drama-filled weeks, you’d be forgiven for wondering if I’m regretting my decision to move to Berlin. If so, you’d be nuts. A little drama never killed anybody. It’s perfectly possible that psychotic Swedes did, but, fortunately for me and my blood pressure, I’m out of that situation now.

Bye bye bunnies. Take care Bjorn doesn't boil you.
Bye bye bunnies. Take care Bjorn doesn’t boil you.

So, why don’t I regret moving to Berlin? Well, aside from a psychotic Swede, a horny Hermann and an insane registration system, Berlin is fantastic. Most days I have to pinch myself to make myself believe that I’m actually living in one of my favourite cities in the world.

Even Queenie likes it.
Even Queenie likes it.

Here are just some of the reasons I’m happy I moved from Latvia to Germany (or Berlin, for those who insist that Berlin is Berlin, and not “real” Germany).

  • German drivers don’t act like they want to kill you.
  • German pedestrians don’t act like they want to kill you, either.
  • Germans are not as punctual as you might think. This is, in fact, rather annoying but it’s nice to know that Germans aren’t as perfect as everyone thinks they are. They do, however, treat long distance bus journeys in much the same way as they treat sun loungers in Majorca. On a recent trip to Hamburg, I arrived fifteen minutes early for the bus. I got on and thought that all of the seats were empty. Silly me. No, the Germans had probably got there at 4am, left their jackets and snacks, and gone home to bed for a few hours.
  • Even homeless people have high standards. I started teaching at one of the major banks in Berlin last Monday. The student was late (sigh), so I waited in the ATM vestibule. While I was phoning the school trying to find out where my student was, I woke up a young woman who had been sleeping behind the ATM machines. “Have you got €20 for me?” “€20??? No, I don’t.” “But you just took out money.” “Yeah, for me, not you.” I waited outside after that.
  • The fashion. Or lack thereof. I’m pretty sure you could dance down the street naked in Berlin and nobody would bat an eyelid. On one of the rare occasions I’ve seen someone wearing heels, it was a dude. Refreshing after all of the falsity in Latvia.
His 'n' hers lovely sensible German footwear
His ‘n’ hers lovely sensible German footwear
  • German people are friendly and helpful. No, it’s really true. They strike up conversations with total strangers on public transport; they help people with heavy suitcases. In fact, I think I’ve had more help from the few Germans I’ve met over the last four or five weeks than I had from the Latvians in four years. I don’t know where the cold, unsmiling German stereotype comes from, but nothing could be further from the truth.
  • German people are amazingly sociable. While I hear rumours that Germans like rummaging about in the forest for mushrooms, I haven’t seen that in person. What I have seen is every café and bar (and that’s a lot) full to the brim with shiny happy Germans holding hands talking and laughing like it’s the most normal thing in the world – which it is.
Shiny happy Germans holding hands. And dancing.
Shiny happy Germans holding hands. And dancing.
  • Germans aren’t shy about drinking on the streets. In Latvia, when you see somebody walking around with a beer in their hand, they’re usually the lowest of the low. Here, it’s the same as walking around with a bottle of water.
  • Germans work. And I mean WORK. There’s no faffing about. You will never see five or six Germans standing around looking at a hole in the ground the way you would in Latvia (or Ireland). They’re there to do a job, and they do it. In Latvia, a bar maid will grunt at you because you’ve interrupted her Youtube marathon. In Germany, a bar maid will come running from wiping down tables, sweeping floors, emptying ashtrays… they just don’t stop.
  • In Germany, if something is shit (and really, there aren’t that many things), you get the feeling that people are trying to improve it. Latvians would rather bitch and moan and, ideally, blame the Russians. (I doubt I’ll live long enough to see this change.)
  • Pretty much everything is cheaper in Berlin.
  • Food – oh wow, the food. First of all, you don’t have to pick your way through 254 mouldy onions in supermarkets to find the one good one – everything is shiny and fresh. The quality of everything is just better. And the variety – you can buy pretty much anything you want in the supermarkets, and I don’t think there’s a single cuisine that’s not taken care of in the restaurant market.
  • They have English bacon, Irish cheddar AND Heinz baked beans. Now I won’t need to bring back an extra suitcase from Ireland at Christmas. I have access to everything I need.
  • I don’t need to wipe down toilet seats everywhere I go. German women pee like women, not like dogs. However, one thing I cannot wrap my head around is the German “poo shelf”. Why anyone would want to examine their poo that closely is beyond me.
Dear god, why?
Dear god, why?
  •  I’m now living with two very hot German women – proof that not all German women are complete munters. And, more importantly, they’re über nice.
They even put sweets on my pillow - all together now, AWWWWW
They even put sweets on my pillow – all together now, AWWWWW

So, do I regret leaving Latvia? Not for a second.

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160 thoughts on “Non, je ne regrette rien”

  1. Just came back from my annual vacation in Latvia. After all years in abroad, still Latvia is the best place despite all political and economical difficulties
    1) at least for three weeks I can feel again as a woman and not only a human being as in the Netherlands. Hello high heals, nice dresses, hairdressers and beauty saloon!!!! To be fashionable is not falsity.
    2) you can get a really good fresh food without taste of plastic
    3) you can sit in a bar and have your glass of wine without being afraid that again somebody will come for a chat. Yes, we are closed people and we don’t like to chat with strangers.
    4) there are many people who complain, but there are more who work hard and long hours and have big nice houses and cars, and designer cloths. It’s their own choice- complain or work.
    I am sure one day me and my Dutch husband will move to live in this nice green un-crowded country.

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    1. Number 3 alone would rule out Latvia for me if I didn’t already know all about the rest! But I’m glad you enjoyed your holiday and good luck getting your Dutch husband to move (and stay!) there 🙂

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  2. We recently went to Prague and I noticed a lack of high heels there, too. It was refreshing to not be constantly worrying that girls were about to break their ankles on the cobblestones!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. that is quite the list, Linda! you and queenie = bffs. I’ve heard great things about Berlin, but I’ve never needed to so bad as I do now. plus, if we were to do Northern Europe again, we’d choose Germany over Belgium in half a second! I love how they like to have fun AND follow rules of a society – organization works? who’da thunk it!

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    1. I know, right?! Crazy 🙂 Germany is a great base for exploring the rest of Europe – and there’s so much to see in Germany as well! I can’t wait to get started 🙂

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    1. It’s a fantastic place to be if you’re young(ish), free and single 🙂
      Seems to also be a nice place to raise a family though – lots of great parks, play areas, etc.
      I’m planning on staying young, free and single for a while though 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If they were Swedish, then maybe 😉 And I’m pretty sure I would have examined them carefully if the flatmates were Latvian 😉
      Seemingly the shelf prevents splashback… 😉

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    2. Hoch fünf for that explanation, I didn’t get it at all! 😀
      The splashback thing sounds reasonable to me, but hey, I’m German. I think they want to prevent you from throwing in paper first…more saving and ecofriendliness. Great we discussed this. *g*

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  4. Just had an ‘Expat Eye on Germany’ catch-up session and I can’t believe how many adventures you’ve had in Berlin in less than two months! Very jealous that Cheddar cheese is readily available, that’s reason enough to move to Berlin 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! Yep, it’s a pretty good reason! Even had cheese and onion crisps at the weekend – one of the bars here does them 🙂
      Think I’ll have a toastie for lunch… 😉

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  5. Okay, I have several issues with this post. 1. some of the things you like actually are not that great and are generally frowned upon in civilized world, for example, drinking in public. 2. why is it good to be harassed by a homeless person?
    Also, why are heels a falsety? I love heels and I wear them when I can. That does not mean anything besides the fact that I love heels. I personally like fashion and I think Latvian women are well dressed. If you think they dress slutty – come to Benin and I’ll take you to a few local bars and the ladies in Riga on a Friday night will look like nuns in comparison.

    Finally – the supermarkets and food – I have been to Berlin and I have shopped in the local supermarkets and it’s borderline impossible to find anything fresh and not stuffed with GMOs. Yes, they have the variety, but do you really want all that imported american food that has been sitting in a container for god knows how long?

    Stop with this Berlin love, I wanna know some dirt! 🙂

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  6. I had to read all the comments about the poo shelf. I’ve heard of them before but didn’t realize they actually serve a sanitary function. Closest we can get in the US is to flush while pooing 🙂 But your nethers can still get a bath if there is a lot of force with the flush. Just can’t win. I am SO glad that you are (finally) having a good time in Berlin, a consistently good time, not just a moment here and a moment there. You make me want to move to Berlin!

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    1. I can’t recommend it enough! It’s a fantastic city, with fantastic people – so open and free.
      I’ve had that flush while pooing thing – you know those automatic toilets? If you move at all, they start flushing – freaks me out 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pre-brekky is the wrong time to read this post/comment thread. But yay, new roomies and language skills! A life filled with regret is no life at all so im so happy you regret nothing! Edith Piaf rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So much to say here! First of all…super happy you found a new place to live. Second – – don’t think bad of all high heel wearing women…some of us are ok….and – – well – – short! We have to wear them in order to reach the counter at the bank or the post office 🙂 3. I know! Germans are fun and friendly! I don’t know why they have the cold image. 4. I was surprised to read that things cost less in Berlin than Latvia 5. And yes…you can walk down the street in Berlin with no clothes on. Well…maybe not down the street, but for sure at the park. There was some large city park we went to that had a nudist area?!?! We were on bikes, but we could see some people just strolling around a part of this park completely naked! ha, ha, ha…what a funny day. I don’t know the name of the park, but I am sure you will find it.

    Glad to hear you are well and happy in Berlin…have a good Sunday!

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    1. Ha ha, just NEIN to walking around a park starkers 🙂 Germans are nuts haha! But yes, I will definitely try to find that park!! Toiletries and cosmetics and stuff are sometimes less than half what I was paying in LV – amazing. And I think everything is better quality here too – my hair is very happy 🙂 I wear flats and then ask a hot bloke to reach something for me – maybe that was how you met your hubby??? 😉

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      1. “Germans are nuts” – – ha, ha, ha…you DO make me laugh……ah…your strategy with the flats is a good one….I did not use that on hubby, but even if I had thought about it….I still could have been in the heels and asked him for the help. I am 1.56 he is 1.88.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah, I totally agree with you – et moi aussi – non, je ne regrette rien – soon one year away from LV and could make a very long list of things that make me not regret (a very gard decision to move away for good this time).. All the best for your new home and house-mates – sounds great!

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  10. One thing though, the fashion thing depends on your gender. Ask men what they prefer women to be wearing: scruffy faded jeans and 3 year old trainers or short skirts, heels and well made-up and I think I know what answer 98% will give you. The other 2% are probably too busy making wedding plans with their boyfriend to care.

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  11. So thrilled you’re settled. As for the poo shelf? That would make me a little crazy. Sounds like a job for poo pouri! http://youtu.be/ZKLnhuzh9uY.

    It’s wonderful to hear all these great things about Berlin. I’ve always had trouble with the ww2 stuff. So I suspect berlinda may go a long way humanizing Deutschland for some of us who may be “stuck”.

    I think you can tell a lot about a culture by their cuisine. So it’s no surprise that’s Germans are friendly folk.

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    1. You mean all of that sausage? I haven’t gone out once and not got talking to someone here – it’s fantastic 🙂 I’m going to be doing a flak tower and bunker tour in the next week or so – I might write a post on that…

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  12. Americans are innocent of the poo shelf. I guess we need to import more German toilet engineers. Glad to see you back in rare form and fine fettle! Copious supplies of Irish cheddar do that for me too 🙂

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  13. I’ve been reading the comments about the poo shelf / inspection zone. Sounds odd to me, but much better than the holes in the ground they still use in some places in Italy. (Which were clearly designed by a man!)

    Aside from that, Berlin sounds amazing. I heard that the artists and art scene is great too

    Glad that Bjorn is a thing of the past!

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    1. Oh god, me too! Unless he starts causing me problems legally, but I’ll cross that bridge when (and if) I come to it! Haven’t seen any holes in the ground or squat toilets here – and oh my god, you could eat your dinner off the seat they’re so clean – if you were that way inclined 😉

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  14. I experienced the poo shelf you mentioned. My friend who I stayed with in Dresden had one of those and there was a big sign in German outside the door, ‘genießen den Geruch’ or enjoy the smell.
    I knew that’s a toilet but I later found out what it really meant. lol
    Okay, I’ll tell you a trick. As soon as you get the first load out, flush the bloody thing. Then you can sit and ponder over whatever you fancy. (That’s what us guys do anyway!)
    I thought you’d want to move in with some hot German guys! 😛

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  15. Haha! Glad it’s going well Linda, I’ve long wanted to move to Berlin, my second favourite city in the world after Valencia, but the feedback on the English market was never good. How’s the work going? Other things I like there, that you didn’t mention:

    1) Football. Germans love it and are pretty good at it. Mention it to Latvians you’ll get a disinterested shrug at best, upturned lip and sneer at worst.
    2) Kebabs (and pretty much all Turkish food there) are amazing
    3) A metro. Latvia could have had one, but didn’t, because, of course, spending an extra 90 minutes a day commuting is better than having a hundred more Russians moving to Latvia to build the metro. (Sigh.)
    4) Germans, from what I’ve seen, are more likely to reply to you in their language if you try it rather than switch to English. I’m on the verge of giving up in Latvian.
    5) A more liberal mindset in general. No one cares about people’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

    Dammit, why am I still here?

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    1. I’ve been asking myself that 😉
      Work is great – I’m picking up more hours and doing covers for other teachers as well so my pay packet this month should be quite nice! 🙂 Yes, I love all of those things too – I was in a bar yesterday watching the football – just great. And the transport system is out of this world – when they’re not on strike anyway. But I even like that they strike! People are willing to fight for what they want. In Latvia, they just grumble.

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      1. Latvia’s public transport, in fairness, ain’t bad and given the choice between disruptive strikes and grumbling, I’ll happily take the latter. 🙂 I just think a metro would smooth things more (and love travelling on an underground anyway.) Nah, for me, there are good reasons to be here. Besides the relationship, the feedback I’ve always had on the work situ in Berlin has never been good: disinterested students, running all over the city all day on public transport for not that many hours and a total lack of work in the summer are what I heard before and that doesn’t sound that good. I’m hoping your experiences will be better!

        Also, I have it pretty cushy in terms of accommo here. There’s no way I’d get a 60 square metre flat to myself in the centre of Berlin within walking distance of everything for a token amount of less than 100 euro a month. Sure, I’d save maybe 30 or 40 euro a month on groceries in Berlin but it’s insignificant compared to the small fortune I save every year on accommo and the lack of stress through not having to share with potential weirdoes!

        Still, I’d love to give Berlin a go sometime (it took me years to give Valencia and Almaty a shot and I never regretted either) so my fingers are crossed for you and not only for altruistic reasons 😉

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        1. No, I’ve said before that Riga’s public transport is very good – I was comparing it with Dublin really at the time. Berlin’s is just out of this world though! But then it’s a much bigger city. Yep, your accommodation situation is pretty good alright – I’m paying just under €200 here, but sharing. Still, the area is amazing and on the S and U and several tram lines. Disinterested students? Not in my (albeit limited) experience, but I’m teaching all business people who are highly motivated as they need English for their jobs. And they’re so much more open and friendly than LV students straight off.

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        1. I was! Wednesday was a nightmare – and they were off again all weekend. Hope they sort it out soon! There are lots of alternatives – it just takes longer to get anywhere, and more planning!

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          1. There aren’t any alternatives for me to get to work. Luckily I could work from home on Wednesday. I would be more sympathetic to their situation of they didn’t call a new strike with new demands every other year!

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  16. Expat life would be pretty dull without some hiccups along the way – it keeps life interesting and those hiccups are eventually ironed out!!! Glad you loving life in Germany and I know how you feel about seeing your favorite brands or food you haven’t seen in awhile – It is like Christmas Day, sometimes even better!! 😉 🙂

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  17. Hahahaha, I’ve been waiting for the poo shelf!

    Drinking in public is not illegal in Germany so everybody does it. Although if you see people hanging around on a corner at 8 a.m. with a crate of beer, they probably are the lowest of the low.

    Wait, what` English bacon? The only bacon I can find here is really thin and shrivels up as soon as you put it near a pan. It tastes okay but I’d kill for a bacon sarnie made with proper back bacon!

    Heinz Baked Beans are expensive. I buy Rewe or Edeka’s own. They taste okay to me 😉

    Also, you’re not likely to meet mushroom-picking Germans in the middle of a city. It’s the country Germans that do that 😉 (Also, I’ve only ever heard of one German going mushroom picking. SHe lives in Leipzig).

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    1. I’ll avoid Leipzig so. 😉 The bacon is quite thin alright, but it’s very tasty! I’ll keep on the lookout for thicker rashers! I get mine in Kaiser’s – do you have that in Karlsruhe? Heinz BBs are quite expensive, but around 60-70 cent cheaper than they were in LV! Haven’t bought any yet though.

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      1. There used to be one near where Jan worked but I think it’s a Rewe now. I can get Tulip bacon pretty much all over though and it is tasty enough, but very thin. I used to buy Heinz baked beans occasionally until Edeka started doing their own version.

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  18. honey, your German scares me. what you probably wanted to say was “I regret nothing”. in German that would be “Ich bereue nichts”. what you wrote sounds like a weird mixture of German and latin. You urgently need a german boyfriend to fix your disastrous language skills.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. sorry for my ignorance=) its just that before you made a few attempts to write in German… ) my boyfriend recommendation still counts though

        btw have you tried to speak German to the locals already? most Ive met are very supportive of foreighners attempting to learn german.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep, they really are. If you speak in German, they will answer you in German. I’m practising on them every day – poor buggers 😉
          Starting a German course in November – can’t wait! Still using Duolingo a lot as well – slowly building up my vocabulary!

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      2. oh that must be nice especially after Latvia where they tried to embarass you for your poor Latvian skills… Im happy you enjoy your new life in berlin, while oktober still lasts you could get yourself a dirndl on sale in local stores and snap a picture thus saying goodbye to latvia and leopard print:=)

        Liked by 1 person

  19. WHAT IS YOUR BEEF WITH MUSHROOMS?
    Germany sounds lovely. I am surprised that Berlin is cheaper than Latvia, although after 2 days in London I will even take Moscow as a bargain heaven (WTF LONDON? all the prices are the same number as in NYC – but, you know, 1.6 times more expensive bc of the exchange rate!!!). And I wont argue about the niceness of Germans – I am flying to meet up with my own in a couple of hours 😉

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  20. They’ve gone out of fashion, but these kinds of toilets used to be quite common here, too. The kindergarten and the (primary/secondary) schools I went to had these, for example.

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      1. I’d say that scarring was mostly caused by semi-broken flushing and the ubiquitous lack of seats – at least in boys’ toilets. I even started breaking into teachers’ toilets when I got older – because I wanted to feel like a human being when taking a shit. 🙂

        The fashion. Or lack thereof. I’m pretty sure you could dance down the street naked in Berlin and nobody would bat an eyelid. On one of the rare occasions I’ve seen someone wearing heels, it was a dude. Refreshing after all of the falsity in Latvia.

        I’m assuming that the ‘falsity’ part is mostly about women – if you’re a man, you care at least a little about what you wear, and you don’t have a huge bankroll (you know, enough to travel and shop somewhere better) – you’re screwed in many, many ways here. I’ve had to fly my new boots in, because I couldn’t find anything decent here, and my brother happened to be at a conference in Düsseldorf (Germany, eh? I might try it someday, too!).

        Good luck, for example, finding affordable (under 30€) men’s brown leather gloves – nothing at all, anywhere.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Michael Stipes would approve this post. I almost started dancing a few times. Congrats on nice roomies. About the pooh shelf… I think we have a pooh incline that lets is possibly leave skid marks on the way down. No worries about a splash on the bum. The water is sooo far down on account of water conservation? or just an abnormally large bowl. I don’t get it, but it works. Thus no complaint. Nope, I lie. I hate cleaning up skid marks. Especially when they aren’t mine!

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  22. ATM vestibule – haven’t heard that since about season 2 of Friends! Cheeky monkey asking for €20. Glad things are picking up, apartment wise – you sound all happy!

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    1. Most banks have them here! I guess it is safer than taking out your money on the street. Seemingly she’s there every night – the police can’t do anything because she’s a bit crazy, but not crazy enough to be illegal!

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      1. Lots of German men pee sitting down. Just wait til you go into some German’s bathroom and see the “Im sitzen pinkeln!” sign. I just can’t get my head around it… men are meant to pee standing up!!!

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      1. It is the splashing. I hate it that you have to put toilet paper down the loo before you get down to business to avoid the pestilent water rebounding at your nethers. Doesn’t really happen with a shelf. NOBODY bends down to examine their… erm… output. Unless they have a concrete reason…

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      2. she s absolutely right its all because of the splashing. and no germans dont discuss their own poo, they are not that weird. there s another thing though – they do blow their nose very loudly its absolutely normal here, even during a lecture at the university its no big deal. also after classes univeristy students drum on the table with their fists as a sign of respect for the teacher. since I never taught at a language school I dont know if they do ut there. maybe its just a university tradition.

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    1. Ha ha, it’s certainly streets ahead of Riga 🙂 There’s just no comparison. This is civilisation. 🙂 I hope I don’t start too much of a rush – I still need to work and find a place of my own eventually! These German girls are amazing though – I feel so at home already 🙂

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      1. Because the economy has nothing to do with how people’s attitudes are affected. Everyone must be happy-shiny regardless of whether their economy is struggling or thriving.

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        1. That wasn’t really my point, but Berlin is not exactly a rich city either, certainly not in comparison to other German cities or European capitals. But people take the time to say hello, they help you out if you’re stuck, and they invite you places when you’re new in town. All of this makes it a nice place to live.

          There are probably more fancy cars on the streets of Riga than there are here, but they’d still mow you down as soon as look at you. It has nothing to do with how much money you have, it has to do with what kind of human you are. Here people seem to try to help each other up, rather than knock each other down.

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    1. So… you poo. Your poo does not fall into the water. Instead, it sits on the poo shelf where you can examine it and decide if all is well with your digestive system. At least I think that’s how it works. I’ll ask the German girls tonight when I get them a bit (more) boozed 😉

      Liked by 1 person

            1. I like making people speechless at times 😉 Germany is the first place I’ve seen these things but seemingly they have them in the Netherlands as well. Maybe also Scandinavia?? Any non-mad Swedes out there care to comment?

              Liked by 1 person

      1. ok i honestly dont know why you would ever talk about poop or toilets that much Linda. but if you really want to know all toilets Ive ever seen were constructed that way. you dont want your poop to fall into the water because then it will splash on your butt. Ive experienced this very unpleasent sensation when living in UK so German toilets are better.

        As for the german water taps they confuse me. they are strange as hell and the way they function wants me to write a whole article about them on how weird they are. with some of them you have to wave your hand in front of the tap. with others you have to push the button if you find where it is. then there are some which can only be tunred on if you step on a huge button on the floor. it seems as if germans create those weird taps just in order to annoy me. however the great thing about tabs in all european countires (outside of UK) is that they have normal water mixers. UK still has those weird cold vs warm taps all over the place. so you have to hold your hands under a steamy hot stream of water or under really cold water. why cant you have amixer to regulate the temperature??? never figured that one out.

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        1. I never really thought about it when I lived in Ireland – the two-tap system is just normal to me! We fill the sink instead 🙂
          Right, I’m off to question the two German girls about their poo. (I kid.) 😉 They were dying laughing at that bit of the post 🙂

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