Monday, October 10, 2011

We are the loud neighbors, apparently

An annoying thing happened last Friday. I got a call from the Philippa, the school secretary at the international school who has been helping with a lot of the relocation issues for us. She also helped us find our apartment. Apparently the neighbor below us called the landlady, who called Philippa, who then called the neighbor to get more detail and then Philippa called me. (For this story to make sense, remember that the washing machine is in our kitchen and there are no communal machines for the apartment building.)

As she phrased it, the neighbors wanted us to know that their bedroom is actually underneath our kitchen. We might think that their kitchen is underneath our kitchen but that's actually not the case. So we should just be conscious that if we make noise they can hear it in the bedroom. Philippa said that she explained we have to wake up early and the neighbors understood that so they asked, if it would be ok and not too much trouble, that we not do laundry in the morning on the weekends because it's too noisy. And the neighbors don't want us to be upset but just conscious about the noise. And if we ever want to come downstairs and introduce ourselves to them that would be okay too.

In case you didn't catch on, it was all very non-confrontational and round-about. Philippa said it was "very German", meaning not direct, I guess?

At first I felt a little embarrassed by the whole thing. Are we the loud rude Americans in the building? We've been very aware of making noise but maybe not as aware as I thought... Then I got really annoyed. I think there was one day when I threw in a load of laundry at around 8:30 on a Sunday before we left for a bike ride. These are not old people. They are maybe slightly older than us and have no kids. There were also a couple of nights we heard loud techno music coming from their floor, and we didn't care. And if they can't come upstairs to ask us to not do laundry in the morning, but choose to call the landlady on us instead, I certainly don't want to go downstairs to meet them.

We have asked various Germans and expats about this. They all think it's silly. There are conflicting theories on what the rules are for when you can make noise and when you can't. I guess we didn't realize there were unofficial rules about it. For instance, in Switzerland you can't make noise before 9am and not on Sundays (what constitutes noise is debatable). Apparently it was once an unofficial rule that you couldn't make noise before 7am or between 12 and 3pm (for napping?). Some say that you can do what you want at any time as long as you are considerate. Maybe we are the loud Americans, but it's hard to follow unwritten rules that no one really seems to agree on.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.