Sunday 25 August 2013

Sunday - the German way

On the British Students blog here.

Sunday: the day of rest. A concept which is taken more seriously in Germany than in Britain, it would appear.

I discovered this to my disadvantage when I assumed that shops would be open on Sundays for me to pick up a few essentials. In Britain, corner shops and supermarkets can be relied upon to supply our needs seven days a week, and I blithely assumed the same would be the case here. Which, when you realise you have run out of toilet roll at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, is a minor issue. Fortunately my neighbours were happy to oblige and found the whole situation hilarious – I doubt I’m the first British student in the flat to have made the same mistake.

So the lesson has been learned, and I now ensure that I’m sufficiently stocked on Saturdays to avoid any further embarrassments. At the beginning, the Sunday shutdowns were frustrating – I had to forgo the milk in my tea on a few occasions, and fried some slightly suspicious-smelling bacon in the absence of any alternative lunch options one time – but I’m beginning to warm to the idea of having one day a week in which you can do very little except relax and spend time with friends and family.

Plus, there’s an important exception to the Sunday closures: cafes and restaurants. And forgetting to buy groceries is the perfect excuse to go out for brunch and get a takeaway for dinner on Sundays. Strolling down the street on a Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere is far different to weekdays: shops which are usually bustling with activity are deserted and locked up, while the pavement tables of ice cream cafes and coffee shops are packed with families sitting together and enjoying Kaffee and Kuchen or huge spreads of eggs, bread, sausage (this is Germany, after all) and cheese.

It’s a concept which I think we’d do well to adopt back home. Certainly, a typical Sunday in Britain might see families tucking into roast dinners or enjoying a walk or picnic together, but these plans can always fall through in favour of a last-minute dash to the supermarket or a trip to the DIY store. In Germany, however, it’s universally accepted that things close down on Sundays and you can do very little except eat, sleep and relax. And I don’t see many people complaining.

The news of the death of an investment banking intern this week has really shocked me – not only was he working in the same field as I am, but he was also a German. Whatever the reason for his tragic death, it made me realise that I need to take my weekends for what they are supposed to be - time off. I’m glad that here in Germany I have little choice but to rest and recharge my batteries. This Sunday, I’m looking forward to a long lie-in, a leisurely brunch and lounging by the open-air swimming pool while the weather is still sunny. You might think me lazy. I’d like to think of it as cultural integration - doing Sunday the German way. Not that my German peers are lazy; far from it - it strikes me that they’ve found the right balance between hard work and time off. And that’s a lesson I know a lot of my fellow students would also appreciate learning.

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