I grew up, like any other Indian child, mostly influenced by the British and the US education and culture which our then Government propagated at it’s best. One of the perceptions that I grew with was the Germans were very serious people and may not mix with people from other culture easily. I thought the perception was just with me considering the fact that Germans was quite well accepted in other parts of the world. However, perhaps the perception is pretty widespread in India, if not in other parts of the world. My this view is also supported by the Lufthansa advertisement in India. Check out the following video ad.
Now I have visited Germany a number of times since 2013. And contrastingly, I have got examples that negate my perception about Germans. Thanks to my good interest in history, since my childhood, I have always respected the German and the Japanese as the most innovative societies. However, I got to know their softer side of heart only when I got to interact with them. Yes! you have to take the first step and you’ll get overwhelmed with their hospitality. I’ll share my experiences and let you decide about them.
First, it was in 2013. My first visit to Germany. I was travelling from Ratingen OST to Heinrich Heine Allee in Dusseldorf, a city in South-West Germany. I was in a hurry and before I could board the underground train, I tried to book a ticket from one of the kiosks at the Ratingen OST station. As it was my first time, I spent sometime but couldn’t succeed. There wasn’t anyone from whom I could seek help. As the train started, I decided to board the train. As the train passed through a few stations, passengers started filling the train. After some time I noticed there was a ticket booking kiosk in the train too. Many boarding passengers were using it. I, relieved at the sight, too decided to use the kiosk. However, when I tried to find a slot to put my Euro paper currency, I failed. I tried it a few times before giving up. I didn’t notice a lady was observing me doing this. She came to me and told me that the kiosk, different from the station kiosks, does not accept paper currency and accepts only coins. I told her as this was my first day in Germany, I was not carrying any coins. She was a very sweet lady. She took out 8 Euros from her purse and bought a couple of tickets for me and my friend who was also travelling with me from India. I tried to give her the 10 Euro note in order to thank her for her help. She didn’t accept it and in return she said, “You are from India. Right?” I said, “Yes”. She, then smilingly said, “Welcome to Germany”. as she stepped away to alight the train, I realized she was travelling with her differently abled kid. I thanked her for her kindness and prayed to God for her family. Thank God to let me meet such strong yet kind hearted people. It’s a shame I couldn’t ask her name.
My recent visit to Germany in 2017 gave me multiple good experiences. It was a short trip and I may not have been appropriately prepared for any unexpected occurrences. And you know disaster strikes when you least expect. My check in luggage was misplaced by one of the most renowned and trusted flight operators of the world. I was promised by the Airport Authority that I would get my luggage a day after. Since it was just one day wait, I decided to work from the hotel. The next day, I was done with my used cloth and fell ill. I barely could have anything for my breakfast. I enquired about consulting a Doctor at the hotel reception. I could understand it could be an expensive affair to consult a Doctor there. Being over-smart ( 😀 ), I had put a part of my cash inside my check in luggage and was not sure if I would get my luggage even on the second day. I tried calling up the Airport to enquire but as they had misplaced the check in luggage of majority of the passengers of the fully booked Airbus A380 jet, their all help lines were unreachable due to the volume of calls. I, then, called up my Business partner in the German office. He was in a meeting then. I told him the story and enquired if our office had any Doctors to consult. I didn’t even have fresh clothes to come out of my hotel room. 😐 He said he’ll get back to me, after checking about the possibilities, after the meeting. My health was deteriorating due to stale clothes, near to no breakfast and lack of interaction with people. I was carrying a few Paracetamol tablets. I took two and went to sleep. It was 8:30 or 9:00 AM. After a couple of hours, I was awakened by the phone at my hotel room. I realized it was ringing for quite some time. I answered the call and was pleasantly surprised to find my Business partner at the reception. After the sleep, I was feeling a little better but still weak. He, then, took me to a nearby super market and helped me get some fresh clothes and some snacks. We, then, drove to the office where, although lunch time was over, he used his connections to get me some freshly cooked lunch. Although I couldn’t eat much, I was getting better. By the evening, after seeing so many smiling faces at the office, I was perfect. The gentleman’s name is Dirk Peter and more than a Business Partner and a line manager, I consider him one of my best friends and he is indeed one of the best humans I have ever met.
My third experience. It was during the same visit. It was Thursday and my return flight to India was on Saturday. I had a hectic week running between the two offices that were 12 Kms apart. Due to this I couldn’t catch up with many of my German colleagues and friends. One of them, Paul Bauchrowitz, was keen to spend some time with me. He wanted to host me to a dinner. It was a great gesture. He contacted me over office chat as I was in the other office facility. He asked me to join him on the Friday evening for dinner. He was so enthusiastic about it that he did all the research online and gave almost all the description and options about the venue and how I could reach from the two office facilities and also from my hotel. Absolutely Perfect! Absolutely German!
It was very kind of him that he brought his Girl friend, Michaela, with him to host me. She wasn’t doing well health wise since a couple of days. I thanked them to host me and a special thanks to Michaela to come over even though she was not at the best of her health. They make really a sweet couple. God bless them always! The bus stand from where I had to take my bus to the hotel and the railway station from where they would have taken the train to their home, were next to the restaurant we spent time together. They nearly missed their last train to home while ensuring I had boarded my bus comfortably. I had to insist they should go, as my bus was already there and it was a matter of a few minutes that it would leave to the destination. Such a nice couple. Thank you God! 🙂
One last story that I want to share in this thread is about a Bus Driver. A real gentleman. I was travelling from our Ratingen office to the Dusseldorf Campus and decided to take a bus to my destination. My German friend helped me find the best route and I went to the bus stop and waited for the bus to arrive. While I was waiting, a Bus on a different route arrived and I don’t know what made me do so, I asked the Driver if the bus was going the way I intended to travel. He said, “Come over.” and I boarded the bus. I could understand he was facing challenges explaining things to me. He said, the bus I intended to board would arrive in about half an hour and meanwhile I can take this bus to reach my destination earlier. He then tried to explain the route and where I have to change the bus. It’s not that easy to remember street names in a new place. He understood it from my face and asked me to take a seat. I silently took a seat I could find nearest to him as I was not sure where to alight the bus. I noticed he was scribbling something whenever the bus stopped at the traffic signal. I couldn’t have guessed he was doing that for me. When the bus stop arrived where I was supposed to change my bus, he called me and handed over a slip to me with the train numbers and alternatives to my destination. (sorry for poor quality picture. I tried my best to take the pic. on a running bus). Great country, great citizens.