I can still remember the culture shock for us young students in Germany.
Always this question: whether you go to the international office, the insurance office, the university office, to the doctor, and the strangest thing, even to people you thought were friends. You think: Friends don’t need fixed appointments to visit each other. Not even close.
Can it get worse? Of course: you finally want to go shopping on a Sunday because you keep all the other appointments on the other days. Only to find out the supermarkets are all closed. Who plans what to eat and when?
I know you didn’t expect an increase: until you meet students whose parents prepare meals for every day (you remember: on the weekends you’re alone in the shared flats, sometimes jealous). These come back with marked doses: Monday, Tuesday, etc. They cannot and must not share these with you, they are dosed… fortunately, because you don’t fully trust German food yet.
Can you share yours with them? Not always, sometimes they tell you directly: “I have something else I have to eat today” – please note the word #must. A date with the meal.
Away from the student environment, there are moments when you want something to start on time. Now you’re on time too.
Your hard-learned punctuality won’t do you much good in these three places: At the cinema (the film never starts on time), at the doctor’s visit (Here you learned to keep your distance in the waiting room, long before Corona), and when you’re invited to dinner & you forgot that you cook together first (who comes up with the idea of cooking with guests?)
You can also observe people queuing at the supermarket checkout, who obviously show their impatience to strangers, only to later sit in peace with coffee and cake.
And woe betide you counting your small change or want to pay by card? (Really true, card payments sometimes take longer). Those looks. Everyone has appointments. Just not you.
Little by little you experience in business life how people appear (too) punctually in meetings, yet they leave without making any decisions. As if the goal is to be on time.
Of course you are at a loss for words. You will still miss them, but take it easy…
Don’t be so strict and don’t judge so quickly. You’re beginning to find advantages in it, too. Insidiously you are more local than the locals.
Organizing appointments today takes more time than keeping appointments.
The greatest freedom is to distinguish between important and urgent appointments. Be curious and maintain dates with locals and non-locals alike.
Because sometimes the only thing standing between you and a magical encounter is an appointment. Being open to diversity is not a one-way street.
do you have an appointment today