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If you don’t like it – you can just leave it

By By Beth Chapman, Guest Columnist
Recently, I left my comfort zone of America to venture into Europe.
I was in Munich, Germany and of course, could not speak their language. Neither could I read the signs, the maps, or properly pay my gratuities except with sincere approximations. I could not communicate with the cab drivers and this posed a slight problem for me seeing as how they have no speed limits. Seriously!
On the way into Munich from the airport with a friend from Florida, the driver took a short cut through the back entrance of a cement plant traveling approximately 75- miles-an-hour on a two mile bumpy dirt road. I needed to be able to utilize my language. Then again, maybe it was good that I couldn’t.
Though we were not familiar with where we were, at one point we were sure that we would soon see the body of Jimmy Hoffa. Saying we were on back roads is an understatement.
While in Germany there were language barriers and social barriers for me. Though most Germans speak some English, it was all the more frustrating for me. Because of the barriers, I walked 10 miles a couple of times to get to places that were only 1 mile from my hotel. It must have been what the children of Israel felt like when they went 40 years in the dessert in search of the Promise Land. Of course, I was only looking for a McDonalds so I could have any small resemblance of my life back home. It was that warm, homey feeling and the smell of a cheeseburger I was looking for I guess.
There were many irritants for me in Germany. For instance, it is appropriate for total strangers to get into your spatial bubble. They sit down at the table with you where you are eating. Such was the case with two teenage boys who sat with me at McDonalds. They were drinking beer and of course my inquisitive mind had to know so I asked. Legal drinking age for beer is 16 years old in Germany and 14 with parent’s permission. That news was shocking for me.
Quite honestly, I think everyone in Germany drinks beer, especially since Munich is the beer capital of the world. They rarely offer you anything to drink other than beer, wine or water.
Yes, I am complaining about the way another country does things to prove a point. I have visited many countries throughout the years and love to travel abroad. They all have their quirky ways of doing things that are unfamiliar to me and my American way of life. I guess they would tell me just as I would tell them, “This is my country – if you don’t like it – leave it.”
Here is the point. At no time during my trip to Germany was I given anything. The people tried to direct me and answer my questions; however, they did not go out of their way to change their language, their maps, their road signs, their currency nothing to accommodate me because I was in their country.
They did not change their hours of operation, or any laws to make my life easier because I was there. They did not lower their prices for me or tell me that if I stayed I could live off their government. They never implied in anyway that if I stayed they would support me, allow me to vote or any other of the privileges they have or any of the things their forefathers worked so hard to attain for them.
They did not offer me a job, insurance, free groceries – nothing. They checked what I had when I went into their country and what I had when I went out of their country. They made sure I was properly allowed in their country for my visit and properly allowed to leave at the completion of my visit. They required that I have proper identification and a passport.
By now, I think you get the point. I loved visiting Europe and will visit again in the future. However, I do not expect them to accommodate my way of life or change theirs in order to make my visit more pleasant. It is their country and I can like it or leave it.
Trust me, in their own subtle way, they let you know that very quickly the minute you arrive. They are not rude, just frank – no pun intended.
Perhaps this is a lesson that Americans need to learn from the Germans. Al vita Zane and Happy belated Independence Day to you. Enjoy America and the independence we still have.

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