Adventures Abroad: Germans are greener, cleaner than Americans

One columnist reflects on noticeable cultural differences between Germany and America


Courtesy of Lauren Ellenbecker

Columnist Lauren Ellenbecker’s temporary housing overlooks Luneberg, Germany.

LAUREN ELLENBECKER, Evergreen reporter

As I am typing this sentence, I am looking outside the window from my room and am reminded of the several cultural differences that exist between America and Germany.

I see an organized and clean cobblestone street, which is surrounded by cottage-style homes with solar panels on their sharply pointed roofs, as people riding bikes pass by.

Cultural distinctions may not seem apparent at a first glance, but they are certainly there. Although I have only been in Lüneburg for a week, I can tell that these differences will constantly rise to the surface, and I will continue to be amazed by them.

In Lüneburg, and Germany in general, observing the hustle of the city makes you realize how methodical it all seems. The precise placement of roads, bike lanes and stores makes the activity here seem smooth and seamless.

When compared to this quaint town, Pullman seems disorganized because the town itself isn’t ordered in a logical way. In Lüneburg, all of the main shops are located in the center of the town and as you move outwards, you begin to see residential areas.

This isn’t a problem for citizens in Lüneburg because there is plenty of public transportation, a large biking community and it is a safe area to travel by foot.

What I find lovely is that I don’t have to be as aggressive of a pedestrian here as I would back home, because it is as if pedestrians have a constant “right of way.” For example, a giant bus will stop for me, a 5-foot-tall girl, if I choose to cross. Yes, there’s a possibility that this means the driver doesn’t want to be liable for my injury, but nonetheless, pedestrians are superior on the street.

On the other hand, it seems like when I cross the street in Pullman, a car begins to speed up and roar its engine as if it’s charging at me like the herd of animals in Jumanji.

Those who choose to ride their bikes in Lüneburg, which a lot of people do, seem to own the roads and sidewalks. To emphasize this fact even further, there is a special lane in the sidewalk that is exclusive to those on two wheels.

Don’t let the people’s baskets full of bread and flowers fool you into thinking they mean no harm. If a person steps in the Fahrrad Zone, riders will relentlessly ring their bells at you and continue to go full speed ahead. I would be lying if I said that I have never seen my life flash before my eyes due to a misstep into the forbidden area as a biker was zooming through.

The Germans who resort to using their own two legs to travel seem to have a dominating spunk in their strut. There is something they all have in common, and that is their large blanket scarves and thick jackets, as well as their “don’t mess with me” facial expressions.

Doing and dressing in whatever to defeat the cold is a commonality between Lüneburg and Pullman. However, it is certain that no one in this town wears basketball shorts or sandals in the winter.

I could go on and on about tiny cultural differences between Lüneburg and Pullman or even Germany and America, but I know there is so much more to see. So as I am looking outside of my bedroom window, I am noticing differences between two seemingly similar cultures, and I am excited to discover what else there is.