Thursday, May 2, 2013

Totally Normal Things That Make You Look Out of Place in Münster

There are three things I do/wear on my daily train commute that consistently gets strange looks that are completely normal for me.  I noticed that part of the reason for the dirty looks (it is the default German look, even if it is not intended) is that I am in the vast minority compared to others around me.

I will rank these in order starting with what I feel is the most ridiculous:

Wear sunglasses.  When the sun comes out (it comes out for 4 days per year) I am virtually the only person wearing sunglasses.  This morning, I tested the validity of this on my 15-minute walk from the train station to work.  Out of the couple hundred people I saw (I would estimate 300-400), only one other person was wearing sunglasses.  So, it was me and a lady selling a bouquet of flowers on the street wearing sunglasses on a cloudless morning.  When we are in other parts of Germany (Munich and Berlin), I saw many other Germans wearing sunglasses.  Maybe it’s a regional NRW or Münster thing.  Somehow, by simply wearing sunglasses, I get long stares from people like I am some Hollywood actor or the town drunkard trying to disguise my bloodshot eyes.  Either way, I get strange looks all the way to work.

Drink coffee to go.  Occasionally, I bring a to go cup of coffee on the train for my morning commute.  I get so many weird looks on the train that I have to scan the train for the possibly there is a new sign saying that no drinks are allowed.  Last I know, they are allowed, but I still get looks.  Germans tend to be so organized that I think they view people who bring to go coffee must be behind schedule, so I must be a very disorganized (and thus weak and feeble) person.  

Wearing athletic gear.  I’ve tried this on a rare occasion on my way to the gym in the morning (my gym is right next to the train station) and people will literally go out of their way to avoid sitting by you.  I’ve also noticed this on the weekend when I am walking the dog in the morning in my warm-up pants.   Overall, Germans dress the same all the time, with very few exceptions:  Dark colored jeans, solid dark colored jacket (we are wearing jackets 360 days per year here, but I know there is a 99.2% chance they are wearing a solid dark colored sweater underneath), and dress shoes.  The remaining five days bring out the long board shorts with my favorite, socks under scandals. Nothing screams ‘I am German’ like socks and scandals. 

The old people around town take this dress up thing to a whole different level and are immaculately dressed to do their grocery shopping/errands around town.   I am generally very comfortable in my own skin, but I try my best to blend in with the other Germans and dress appropriately, though I haven’t tried the long board shorts and socks under scandals.   When a friend of ours saw my black dress shoes with jeans, he told me “You are dressed very German.”  I had to agree with him and I told him that this combination helps me blend in. 

In addition to wearing a speedo to the Freibad (a secret/crazy ambition of mine to do here before we leave Germany), I am also trying to build up the courage to do all three of the aforementioned things at the same time, though oddly enough, I am convinced that I would get many more strange looks seeing my athletic pants and sunglasses than my white thighs.   I had no idea that I would more be self conscious about the latter than wearing a speedo in a public place.  


Anonymous said...

1. l Love your blog!
2. lived in MS for 7 years and hopefully come back in the future.
3. you can put your mind at rest. most of the time i read your textes i have to smile and think "damnit, yes, they´re right. this is me/germany". but these perceptions i can´t share. go to the aasee an 80% of the people are wearing sunglusses and dring coffee to go :-). the only "problem" is, that MS -despite the masses of students- probably is the most conservative and bourgeois city in germany. you´re right; there is no situation for comfortable clothes and feel good time. you always have to look nice and appropriate. (cause otherwise your neighbour/teacher/friend/random guy in the supermarket could think you´re poor/sloopy/unable/retardet/...) e.g., even the painter (which is an honourable job) is starred at, when he´s going home after work. this is the only thing, i don´t like. maybe you come to kreuzberg one time. here you are beaten up, if you wear a suit ;-).

Blau Weiße Grüße aus Berlin und Gratulation zum Champions Leauge Finale.

Bryan said...

Thank you so much for your comments. Indeed, I have noticed more sunglasses as the summer progresses. It seems as though wearing sunglasses are contingent on both sun and warm weather. I keep my sunglasses in my traveling backpack, so my only filter is if it's sunny or not.
I have also noticed a lot of coffee to go cups (from Starbucks or Middelbergs) around town, and I don't the same strange looks when I carry one of those through town. I get the stares when I bring my own tin to go cup as if they are trying to determine if I truly have coffee or am needing something stronger to get me to work that morning. *Having two young children, I sometimes feel like I need more than coffee in the morning, but I resist...most of the time:)