Sometimes the signs of a place are quite telling of a culture. I strive on this blog to show what it is like in Germany at a day to day level. This is the point of the life in Germany series that has run on Monday’s for a while. So here is a look at 14 signs of Germany and how they fit into the culture. While I think some of these signs are funny, most are just mundane things but tell a great amount about the culture.
Large things have precedence
Sometimes the signs feel superfluous. This one tells us that the trams have precedence over the pedestrians. Well of course the massive moving train has precedence over the slow moving squishy pedestrians. Even still it is quite rare to hear of someone getting hit.
This was on an art installation of a large metal dragon in Basel. The sign says, “do not enter the art. All liability for accidents will be refused.” Somehow the wording struck me as interesting. Don’t go in there, but if you do it isn’t our fault if you get hurt. Nothing about protecting the art.
The list of safety signs on the funicular car in Heidelberg was pretty long, even for Germany.
The German sorting of trash is almost legendary. For anyone that doesn’t believe me, here are the guidelines. Ok, the sign is in a bunch of different languages, but still the 4 categories.
This is a sign in Heidelberg near the castle. A list of rules for visiting the castle. For those of you unable to read German, it is mostly a list of things that are not allowed.
Even the most basic learner of German knows the word “Verboten” meaning forbidden, that which is not allowed. It is an important word to know and quite common. So many signs explaining what is not allowed.
Self explanatory, no dog crapping allowed here.
No parking. Ok, this is a bit misleading as they exist in the US in tons of places too.
This one is interesting. No motorbikes or trucks between the hours of 10pm and 6am allowed along this road. It is a noise ordnance thing. People live there and 10-6 are the quite hours in Germany.
These show up in every variation imaginable. Basic message is forbidding leaving bikes against this pillar, window, building or whatever.
Right of Use
German traffic laws have a complex hierarchy of who has right of way. This is partly why I just gave up trying to get a license. This kind of idea extends to sidewalks as well. The Blue circle tells who has right of way on a specific piece of asphalt. Split like this with a horizontal line means sharing the road between bikes and people. If it were split with a vertical line, that means one side is for bikes and the other for people.
Or check this sign. Such a complex sign for all of the rules. It starts with saying pedestrian zone, implying only use by people. Then it begins to explain the exceptions for public transport, taxis and bikes. Then in the middle there is a line saying that the blanket restriction to locking up bikes ends as you pass the sign.
I understand it, but it took me a while to get the pieces and this is one of the simpler ones for the pedestrian zone of Freiburg old town. Up a ways there is one explaining bikes may not be ridden between specific times with certain areas.
Public transport is a key aspect of German life as well. With 80million people stuffed into such a small place the human density is pretty high in places. Public transport is the answer to making such a place livable. The yellow and green H in a circle is the sign for a stop, either bus or tram. This one happens to be in Potsdam near Berlin.
The train network is extremely well known part of Germany as well. Also in classic form, the train signs show you all kinds of information. Some of which seems unusual. This sign is a train heading to Interlaken, but the white line at the top is in the scrolling progress in telling us that the order of the train cars is reversed today. Being able to predict where your car is important.
Ok, this picture is actually from Feldkirch, Austria, but it shows a classic point of Germany as well. Bakeries are everywhere. Although almost never one of the well known aspects of Germany, but bread is king here. Bakeries are one of the core parts of any city or even train station.
Most stores are closed on Sundays. This is slowly changing and bakeries are leading the way. The desire for fresh bread is overcoming the idea that commerce should not occur on Sunday. Two forces meet and bread wins.