When I moved to Germany, it was Easter weekend. We took a stroll through the city of Frankfurt as I started apartment hunting and the main shopping strip, with it’s perfectly manicured trees and well-lit buildings, was looking particularly pretty as the snow settled throughout the streets. The boyfriend casually commented with disbelief at one of the clothes shops being open, and I was slightly confused. Sure, the shops shut on Good Friday but they’re open again on Saturday and Sunday right?
No. Not on Sunday. NOT ON ANY SUNDAY. And throughout Germany this is the case. I couldn’t understand it. Every shop shuts on a Sunday, even the supermarkets? Surely not the supermarkets?!
It’s taken nearly a year and I’m still struggling to get my head around that. In London, supermarkets had to shut at 4pm on a Sunday to give local market stores a chance to up their profits. The problem in England is the big chains are well-known for getting food in bulk for far cheaper prices than the smaller stores so this is their chance to shine. Another problem – as much as I’d like to support local shops, you make so little money in London that you often literally can’t afford to. Some nights I would eat pasta and cheese and nothing else because I couldn’t afford sauce. Or doughnuts all day because they kept me full and cost 50p for 5 at Tesco. It was that dire.
So most weekends, as you wake from what little sleep you’ve had the night before and wonder why you’re still in your heels and how the hell you got home from the club last night, as well as desperately calling your friends to recap other details of the night you don’t remember, a thought pops into your head: “I need to get to the supermarket by 4pm, I have no food in the house!!!!” The idea of missing that late afternoon deadline is as difficult to deal with as brushing the hairspray out of your hair or contemplating the effort of going through the shower-blow dry routine.
So as you can imagine, the thought of shops being COMPLETELY shut is just preposterous to me. The last 11 months have brought many Sundays involving me trawling through the freezer trying to find something to put together for dinner as I’ve forgotten again that there’s nowhere I can go for back-up; once I seriously considered going to a restaurant and asking for an uncooked sausage. Christmas was a near-disaster when we worked out at 12:45pm on Christmas eve that the shops shut at 1pm. Luckily my boyfriend can run fast or there would have been no turkey on the table. And my mum and sister ended up stealing tea bags from a cafe while we waited desperately for the shops to re-open on – I think it was the 28th?!?! That’s 4 days without access to any shops!!!!
Complaining to my fellow expat-girls about the constant problems that come with not being able to remember the shops shut on Sunday, and having to get all my jobs out of the way on Saturday, they turned the idea on it’s head for me; how about treating Sunday as a day of rest like it’s supposed to be rather than worrying about getting a million things done? They had a point.
Now I am making an effort to use my Sundays more as a time for watching movies, going for walks and cooking meals with pre-bought ingredients that are interesting and new for this house. Or writing, or just drinking tea and running a bath. It’s been a big change from the me who wanted to spend the day at a shopping centre, finishing off the errands I was too lazy to get around to on Saturday. It encourages more organisation, and more time for me, which is particularly nice after living in London where it was all about doing things that weren’t really very good for me.
So thanks Germany – you might have scared and worried me with your strange ways at the beginning, but now I am coming around :)