23 March, 2007

Ze Germans and ze sidewalks

In class the other day we read a newspaper article about the increased number of tornadoes that are occurring in Germany. We got to a sentence which described a tornado that swept (fegte) through a small village and destroyed everything in its path. A student who was unfamiliar with the verb fegen raised her hand and asked the teacher to define it.

Fegen is metaphorical here but normally it's used to describe what you have to do in Baden Württemburg every Saturday.

She looked out at us with an expectant smile. We all stared back blankly.

"Oh come on. Surely you all know the rule about sweeping on Saturdays!?"

??? 34 eyebrows shot up with astonishment.

She started laughing and said "Your neighbors must be really happy with you-- there's a rule in Baden Württemburg that you're supposed to be sweeping the sidewalk and gutters in front of your house. every Saturday."

How German is that!? And how funny that some people in that class have been here for 10+ years and didn't know anything about it! I wonder how many other rules there are here of which I'm completely ignorant???

11 comments:

Martina said...

Betsy,
come on, you really didn't know about sweeping on Saturdays?!?! Around Stuttgart they're manic about it, they have grosse Kehrwoche and kleine Kehrwoche in apartment buildings, with a chart set up showing which apartment is responsible for which duties which week.
And those that live in a house have to do it all.
Around here we have a Gemeindesatzung which is published once a year to remind citizens of their duties. It specifically states that you are to sweep once a week, "preferrably on Saturday". I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself.

goofball said...

eumm do you believe me if I tell you that that rule exists in Belgium as well? I almost don't dare to say it. And on Sundays you're not allowed to maw the lawn and more stuff like that.

goofball said...

ok ok....I was only kidding. I am not aware of such a rule in Belgium. But I do think you are not supposed to have very noisy activities on a Sunday in some towns (e.g. chain saws, ...)

Chui Hsia said...

Did you discuss Knut in class, too?

Africakid said...

Gulp. Sweep my sidewalks weekly? I live in Baden Württemburg, but I've never heard that rule. We are fanatical about cleaning off the sidewalks after a snowfall--does that redeem me a bit?

Astrid said...

I guess it was better not knowing about it so you don't have to feel guilty for NOT doing it!! Surely people have more fun things to do on Saturdays?! :)

Instead of sweeping you can start a new trend in Germany buying a "Moto Crotte" which will take the leaves as well ahahah...

Betsy said...

Martina: No, I really had no idea! I notice that people work in their yards a lot on the weekends but I didn't realize it was because it was written down somewhere that they have to do it on a specific day!

Plus, I've only been here a little over a half year and when we arrived I couldn't really read German. The Gemeindesatzung probably got tossed out along with the Aldi Werbung.

Ellen: Yeah, I know about quiet times in Belgium. We were always very careful about that. But that just seems like common courtesy to me. Having to sweep your sidewalk specifically on Saturdays seems a bit silly.

Chui HsiaUh oh. What else have I missed? I just looked up Knut in Answers.com and got the following definition:

"King of Denmark and Norway who forced Edmund II to divide England with him; on the death of Edmund II Canute became King of all of England (994-1035)"

We haven't discussed THAT one in class. yet...

Laurie: Want to hear another one I only just found out?! You're not allowed to bathe after 10pm. (supposedly because of the noise.) I'm not sure if this is restricted to apartment buildings or not, though.

We live in a Doppelhaus, but our neighbors are Americans so luckily we're not getting a black mark next to our names for breaking that rule as well...

Astrid: Hooray for the Motto Crotte!

The funny thing is that a couple of my neighbors have some sort of non-electric vaccuum cleaner for all the leaves and debris on the sidewalks. It's got two big round brushes that turn when you push it-- it seems very effective but looks funny when they use it.

Still, though, anything's better than the ubiquitous leaf blowers that pervaded our neighborhood in Michigan and provided constant background noise. Now THAT'S something that should have restricted hours for use!

Chui Hsia said...

Oh OK. Well, what you could do at your next class is say something like: "How about that Knut, huh? Isn't he just the CUTEST?". Google Knut Berlin zoo. That might help.

Betsy said...

Aaaaaaaah! It's funny, because I thought you were about to tell me that Knut was the name of some horrible tornado that's sweeping through southern Germany. (since my story started out about tornadoes.)

I just looked up Knut and you're right, he's very cute...

heza said...

Lucky me, I live in the city part of Munich so street/sidewalk sweepers come by daily. But I was told that we aren't allowed to hang laundry outside on Sundays, although not strictly enforced.

My German boyfriend's father is pretty stricked about the sweeping rule though. I think these rules aren't too much different from living in a deed-restricted subdivision in America.

Anonymous said...

Indeed it was official law in Baden-Württemberg in former times.