Most of the time when you travel, life doesn’t seem all that different from being in your own country. There are plenty of familiar things, like buses, trains, post offices, supermarkets, schools…. so on the surface, adapting to a foreign culture shouldn’t be so tricky, right?
Wrong. Take a closer glance at any of these so-called familiar aspects of life… and the differences jump out at you.
Take German supermarkets, for example. You’ll be minding your own business, browsing with your trolley… and all of a sudden, nestling next to the orange juice you’ll find this:
Sauerkraut juice! I mean… what the blooming blazes is that about!?! Just how foreign is that?
I tackled Birgit on the subject of Sauerkraut juice the other day.
“Oh yes, that’s very normal,” she said breezily, giving me that look which suggests I’m the one who’s weird. “Your doctor can prescribe you a Kur where you drink only Sauerkraut juice three times a day for a week, and have daily enemas. It’s a form of internal cleansing. Very healthy. Lots of people do this.”
I narrowly miss toppling backwards off my chair out of an open window at this point. Birgit has opened my eyes to a totally new vision of Hell. I thought I’d just about mastered this living in Germany thing… I’ve even attended doctor’s appointments with flu and the like, totally oblivious to the dangers of what might be written on the prescription afterwards. Just imagine if I’d gone into the Apotheke afterwards and handed over my piece of paper, and instead of Lemsip or aspirin, I’d been handed a five gallon container of Sauerkrautsaft and a colonic irrigation kit!
Birgit is, of course, an expert on the subject of colonic irrigation. I have had the dubious pleasure of witnessing her demonstrating the correct technique for a DIY enema – right here in the office. It seemed to involve being positioned on all fours on the ground… though the details of the next step are still shrouded in mystery as the arrival of the DHL parcel delivery man interrupted the lesson. Even Birgit was embarrassed enough to pretend to be hunting for a lost contact lense.
Actually, the thing that’s astonishing about the entire thing is that Birgit was embarrassed at all. Like the rest of her countryfolk, she appears to have no qualms about discussing the finer points of the most personal bodily functions in public and at extraordinary length. This leaves any stray Brits in the room shuffling uncomfortably in the corner and staring at our boots while our ears go red. According to Birgit, this is because we are prudish imbeciles who cannot connect with our own bodies.
I’d just like to point out that if connecting with my body involves Sauerkrautsaft and daily enemas… I’m quite happy to remain on very distant terms with mine. And I shall be treating my doctor with great suspicion from now on.