German richness and poverty by Argentinian eyes

On discovery tour with the Argentinian volunteers, taking Fotos on German richness and poverty in one hour. Here some results from the experiment and the comments of the volunteers. Since last Wednesday, I have no doubt that you could easily design a broschure on poor Germany and ask for donations. Even with fotos from the city center of Bielefeld.

"Richness: Just leaving the bag on the square."
"Poverty: People begging."
"Richness: The independence with which the old people spend their lives."
"Poverty: The Turkish community spends their live on the edge of the society. You even see it in the details."
"Richness: No waste nowhere. Everything clean and in orden, even where you least expect it."
"Poverty: No cartoñeros, but a lot of people collecting bottles to increase their income."
"Richness: Everywhere new cars."
"Poverty: Homeless in Germany."
"Richness and poverty: So much stuff and so little use."

(from left to right: Rodrigo, Lautaro, Matias, Yesica, Daniel)


Notes on the second cultural shock

This morning in a hip café in Cologne, in the heard of the rich, progressive green milieu of German middle class. Everybody reads the politically correct newspaper, people know each other, greet and inform about the last house parties. A corner with toys suggests that you could easily bring your kids while enjoying Italian salami on ciabatta.

Everything looks friendly till my sister calls. Just coming back from her holiday, I try it with a warm: “How was it, did you arrive well?”. Having said my two introducing sentences, a 45 year old man with designer glasses and nothing on his table than a cappuccino stands up at the other end of the room and shouts with angry voice into my direction. “Können Sie bitte rausgehen zum Telefonieren?! - Can you please do your phonecall outdoors?!”

I am afraid that he means it seriously. I do not have enough space to leave. I lower my voice, anxiously continuing my phone call while concentrating on the man and forgetting about my sister. I finish my coffee fastly and leave the place with a bad conscious.

Has Germany become a country where cafés are places to communicate silently on I-phones, probably editing notes on next web articles? Where kiwi ornaments next to a served croissant have become a decoration for a life in high competition and without any warmth? Where a corner for kids is just a scenery for efficient individual output?

It is in the everyday moments in which I lack orientation, in which I do not understand exactly and in which I need 5 seconds more to react than the others. A lot of the times it then is too late. Everyday life became a training camp to understand codes and react adequately with the handicap that my accent is missing.

What else to note on Germany?
Germans are blond. Much blonder than I remember.

Out of the automate which Aldi has installed all over the republic falls a bread after pushing a button. It´s warm. On the offer´s table you find walking sticks from carbon for 20 €. People seriously use them while walking along the Rhine. Aldi basically sells everything your household does not need. And mostly its cheaper than the same product in any of the La Plata states, although equally imported from China. The lady in front of me leaves her purse in the wagon while searching some canned pineapple. Her credit card glimps out of it.

Individualverkehr. Its a sad ride in a big car. And with me all the others on the highways. Everybody alone.

A night in a beergarden. I leave my jacket on the chair next to me. Nobody will take it. On the way back, a single woman is sitting on the bench in the park, her bicycle next to her. Its dark and around midnight. She enjoys.

Passengers indeed stop when the traffic lights show red, even if there is no car coming. Every highway, street and path is full of street signs. They tell me when to park, where to play, what to put into the waste bin. Where my dog has to shit, where I should walk and -most important- where to use which speed. There are rules everywhere. Most amazing: people stick to them.

In fact, Germany became friendlier while I was away. They give me rolls, drinks, newspaper with warm wishes and friendly comments. They chat in front of desks, doors, vehicles, speak English and smile into the faces of the others. Considering that, greeting with handshake, keeping the physical distance, sticking to a formal “Sie” gets more absurd. Again I am tracked in having lost orientation.

Crossing the border from Germany to the Netherlands and Belgium, all in one day and back. Nobody asks for your passport. No police on the street, just a subtle European flag and the name on the next state.

Its raining. One day after another. It hardly stops. The radio says its the rainiest august since 100 years. I hope so.

I write that entry in the train. There are less people than seats. Reading lamps are working, there is a plug to load my laptop. The train officer apologizes that we arrive three minutes too late in Burgkundstadt. The two ladies at my side chat loudly about kids and grandchildren, homes and politics, and again about grandchildren. Till now, nobody has asked them to shut up.