Liv Hambrett

Germany + Australia + Culture + Motherhood + Home

German Culture

Easter & the Common German

We tend to do our weekly shop on a Thursday afternoon. It is a pocket of time during which things generally aren’t too chaotic; the older citizens of Kiel aren’t out in as much force as they are on a Friday morning and the panic of a Saturday doesn’t hang thick in the air, as people buy three packets of oven-ready bread rolls to survive the shops being closed on a Sunday. There are the usual queue-jumpers, who bolt like startled deer from the back of the line when a new Kasse opens, but the bolters are simply part of the grocery shopping experience.

Last week, though, Thursday happened to be the day before Karfreitag, Good Friday. The day before a public holiday. The day before the shops are closed for a day. And I didn’t realise it, until I had finished scribbling quite a substantial shopping list, including but not limited to, 25kg of chocolate. Now, there is something that exists within the common German that I suppose could be described as an inner … pushiness. It is the same pushiness that gets them served first, that gets them on the train first, on the bus first, that gets them sole ownership of that tiny round table at the Christmas Markets that you and six other (non German) people have managed to civilly share for half an hour. On days before public holidays, this pushiness marries another trait to be found lurking in the common German, a type of ever-ready panic that they might run out of coffee cream while enjoying a Kaffee und Kuchen session over the long weekend. So what happens is this pushiness marries with the ever-present panic and, come the day before a long weekend, they stampede into the supermarkets and while they are there furiously stocking up on coffee and coffee cream, they throw in several packs of toilet paper and a bag of dirt from the Aldi weekly Angebote in case they want to do some gardening, and about three cartons of yoghurt pots. Their trolleys become perilously full, and they push them at a clip directly at other people who might have been, for example, debating over whether they need a jug that dispenses small amounts of pancake mixture with a no drip feature (it turns out, I did need a pancake mixture portioning jug and it revolutionised breakfast). Occasionally, a scuffle breaks out, as someone breathes down the neck of someone else who is heaving great buckets of ready-made potato salad into their trolley, and you hear a, ‘Hey! Was soll das?’ ring out, competing with the bell that the cashiers are desperately pushing to try and get a colleague to come and open up another line.

It is the most horrific experience.

But we got our 25kg of chocolate, and we breezed into the Easter long weekend with well-stocked cupboards and a repulsive amount of chocolate ostensibly for die Lüdde and family gifts, but really for me to eat on the couch at night because for some reason Easter chocolate tastes so much better than normal chocolate.

April is proving to be as temperamental and unpredictable as every year, but spring is fighting hard. The tulips have dropped in price, the strawberries are slowly popping up in the shops, the trees are green and the footpaths are once again lined with flowers. And the magnolias, the magnolias are just beautiful.

A little rain and hail can’t hide the fact that warmer days are on their way.


  1. Christie (A Sausage Has Two)

    20 April, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    Our magnolia tree was finished before it really got started, having got started during a lovely madly unseasonable few days of 25 degrees at the end of February before it suddenly went down to minus something and killed all the flowers off overnight. Horribly depressing sight, a tree with hundreds of dead brown things hanging off it for weeks.

    Also, just googled pancake mixture portioning jug. Wow.

  2. Anja Nohlen

    20 April, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Liv, if you think the Germans are bad with anxiety at the prospect of a day with closed shops then you haven’t seen the Irish before Christmas or New Years day, the only 2 days in a year the food shops are actually closed. You would think they are preparing for a year long siege by the look of their overloaded trolleys filled with unperishable goods and enough munchies to keep an army in front of the telly for the same period of time.
    And the art of dashing from the end of a queue to the next opening till has been perfected by Irish mums a long time ago. Just saying….

  3. Fee ist mein Name

    20 April, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    I am german and have to say: You are so right. It could be funny, if it wasn’t so sad. We call it “Großkampftag”…

  4. Kathy

    21 April, 2017 at 8:35 am

    That inner …pushiness… is something I’m desperately trying to get used to. My own personality is one of compromise/courtesy/politeness, and it finds itself regularly trampled by more aggressive souls. How does one come to terms with this…pushiness… while still maintaining one’s core values? And without it ruining one’s perfectly good day?

    1. Ute Antje Seemann

      21 April, 2017 at 8:23 pm

      Dear Kathy,
      I had the opposite experience: how to overcome my German pushiness with politely standing in the queue, and NOT getting uptight when someone “jumps the queue”. Moving from German to oh, so overpolite English society here in South Africa. Now I have to re-learn all after 45 years: the local black people are pushing …. having learned that they are “entitled” … its all very puzzling …

What do you think?