I recently committed my first truly (horrible) German act.
I was sitting at my desk one evening when the doorbell rang. I generally never answer my door as there’s a high chance it could be DHL or Hermes or any one of the billion other online companies Germans order from, leaving my hallway looking like a sorting office.
However, it was a bit late in the day for that, so I optimistically thought it might be my next-door neighbour coming to apologise for his incessant, inconsiderate warbling. I opened the door, willing to graciously accept his apology.
I stood face to face with a girl I had never seen before in my life.
Stranger Danger: I need the code for your Wi-Fi.
Me: Um, what? Who are you?
SD: Oh, I live downstairs.
Me: Riiiiight. And?
SD: I need the code for your Wi-Fi.
Me: (in my head) NEIN!
Me: (out loud) NEIN!
SD: What? But I’m a student and I’m only going to be here for a month and it’s going to take longer than that to get Wi-Fi set up…
Me: I know. Germany’s a nightmare but I really can’t give you my Wi-Fi code. Try the guy next door.
SD: He says he doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
Me: (in my head) LIAR!
Me: (out loud) LIAR! I see him on his laptop every day. Anyway, I’m really sorry, but I can’t help you.
I closed the door with her
probably thinking I was a right bitch, and me feeling like a right bitch. But before you start thinking I’m a right bitch too, allow me to explain.
Germany has INSANELY strict laws against downloading. Fines start in the hundreds and can run into the thousands. An entire industry of lawyers has sprung up as a result of the intellectual property protection laws here.
Last year, a friend of mine rented out her apartment through Air BnB for a week or so. She came back to a fine for close to €1,000. She contacted the guy whose response was, “I was sick so I downloaded some TV shows”. Luckily for her, Air BnB stepped in so she didn’t have to pay it. (I was going to write something about her bacon being saved, but maybe a blog on Germany can have too much Schwein…)
OK, so as far as I can tell, the fine goes to the person registered in the flat. But if this chick is only going to be here for a month, chances are she won’t even register and then sod off back to her own country. Maybe she won’t download anything, but maybe she will. If she’s untraceable, maybe they’ll come after me. Paranoid? Perhaps, but that’s what living in Germany does to you…
My German friends whole-heartedly agreed with my decision. (Germans are a bit nuts about online security.) So, even if I do feel like a bit of an ass, at least I feel like a German ass. Progress.
And I know that neither of the neighbours mentioned in this post will read it as they (allegedly) don’t have Wi-Fi so I’m safe there, too.
In fact, the only crime I may be *guilty of in the near future is beating my noisy neighbour to death with his own music stand.
*(If he is found dead, I did not do it. Get me a lawyer.)