04 July 2009

Life with a weekend spouse, casual injury and tipping in Germany.

It's been 5 weeks since the German started commuting to München. The commute is supposed to run fro early Monday (leaving before 5 am) until lateish on Thursday (sometimes after 22:00) but a few times it has run into Friday.

Last night was one of those and when he got in, very late, we thought twice about joining some other expat bloggers for a mini-meet-up in Hannover (about a 2.5 hour ride from here). When I heard early in the day that he would be late, I had already called and cancelled the hotel room, as 18:00 was the deadline and I knew he wouldn't be back until much later. We decided to sleep on it, set an alarm, and decide whether it made sense to leave at 7 am.

We did in fact get up at 6:30 (Thing1 gave us no choice), but the German begged to be allowed to sleep and I did accede to his request (and you can bet that I will be sleeping in tomorrow, at least as much as possible). We gave our friend Alice in NRW a call to break the news, only to find out that she and her son had strep and that they had cancelled as well. When I called Christina to apologize at 10, when we were to meet, I discovered that two other couples had cancelled and I felt just awful about it.

But the commuter marriage is really dragging me down. It's all the little things. I am tremendously grateful that the girls are in kita, so I can run errands, get some groceries, go to the doctor, go the the car shop, deal with some stuff. But on the other hand, I always need to get up early and I always need to get them in to bed alone (hard with Thing2, who still naps and thinks that since it's still light at 22:00, she can wander out of bed and say she needs the toilet. Sometimes 4 times within the hour).

And the girls miss him, especially Thing2, who sometimes has meltdowns about his morning absences. I have no help tidying up after them, or amusing them, or with any of the things that he is alwys so very helpful with. I am much more tired than I would have thought and sometimes need to remember that I was extremely ill not so long ago. This week's 5th day just kicked my tush.

So instead of meeting fellow American's, Canadian and USian for the 4th, we went to a biergarten in Dahlem to have a Turkey salad, baby potatoes, pommes and an ice (with the girls playing between eating).

Interesting note: here was the second time in 8 days that a waiter in Berlin has cheated us.
The first time was last week. Alice (who was in Berlin with husband and kids for 2 days) had lunch with me at a place around the corner that we frequently go to, often with the kids, so we know it is family friendly and have enjoyed it. The baby had a fuss and we decided to eat at her apartment so the children could go down. They went ahead and I remained to pay the bill, which I did, with a nice tip. I was in a hurry because as folks know, getting something wrapped to go here in Germany is not a fast activity.

As I walked to Alice's place, I started thinking about the amount of the bill and not being happy. I had taken the receipt and when I started reading it (while crossing streets and walking) I became quite angry when I realized that we had been billed incorrectly in three items, resulting in an overcharge of 4€ (more than 12%). I tipped more than 4€ and it was quite clear to me that the waitress had billed herself a good tip, expecting me not to tip. 4€ was not enough to make me go back and yell at the waitress, but it was enough to make me angry and resentful. I will remember that waitress and now I understand the expression on her face at my answer to her question as to where I was from, when I answered: A few blocks away, I eat here regularly.

Today, at the Biergarten in Dahlem, the German paid the bill while I was rounding the kids up and getting their socks and shoes on. When he got back, I asked him what the bill had been and when he told me the answer I said that the bill was incorrect and asked to see it. Another waiter had attempted to give us a Bolognese, so I assumed they had added that to the bill incorrectly.
I asked to see our copy of the bill and when the German told me that the waiter had simply told him the amount, I knew that the overbilling had been deliberate: our order was taken on a handheld device that itself prints out the rechnung. When the German discussed the bill with the waiter, a "mistake" of 3.5€ was "discovered. Since, once again, he had tipped 4€, it was again clear that the waiter had chosen to "tip" himself about 15%. The German was aghast. Since he did all the ordering and this was in a neighborhood local, I can't even blame this on the desire to rip off tourists: it's just a clear trend.
I think that we are going to become more German in our ways. I will know read my bill very closely, no matter how crowded or tired I am, and my new plateau will be the German no-tip, with only extraordinary friendliness and/or helpfulness making me tip above the round-up. I'm just tired of the crap. This never happened to me in the US, although I know it does. And two times in one week!

Moving onward to the injury:

We then went to T1's lieblingsplace: the marienkafer spielplatz otherwise known as Ikea(because the Smaland inside uses the ladybug as their logo). In the parkinglot T2 ran under my feet and I went down hard: so hard, that passersby stopped to ask if they could call for help (perhaps it was my scream, followed by whimpering and ankle clutching?). I didn't really notice as I was busy pressing very hard against the ligaments on both sides of my right ankle- the one without the very painful heel spur- and praying that it wasn't broken. It wasn't, but omigosh it is sprained. After I was through whimpering we limped our way in and signed the girls in for their hour of joy and we went upstairs to split a soda and chat.

Afterward, off to our evening's entertainment of shopping at the suburban (yet still in the huge city that Berlin is) mecca of Kaufland. One hour+ later, with a shopping cart piled above and below, the cost was about that of my little wheelie bin from Lidl in the center of the city. It's a beautiful thing to have a car when shopping and now I am stocked up on boxed tomatoes, pasta and such like. We didn't go to Selgros because I also wanted to stock up on milk and H-milk and they don't have Bio full milk or H-milk.

Then home and so tired that after we put the children to bed I forgot to set the DVR to record the celebrations in NYC. :(. This year was especially exciting because it's the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the river, so I am disappointed.

But then to bed, with a compress on my foot and a few tablets of ibuprophen.


Carol said...

Noooooooo-- I can't bear hearing about injured ankles!! Please DO ice it and keep it elevated... IF you can!


J said...

Sounds like you're having a difficult time adjusting to having a commuter hubby. Are you now considering moving south?

I've never had a tipping problem here like you have - just in places like Miami where the add the tip on automatically (for everyone). You have to know about that in order not to double tip. In fact, they screw themselves by doing that because the only add 10%. I would give more, but refuse to add to a tip that I'm being forced to pay.

Glad to hear that your ankle isn't too bad.

I didn't understand this:
"my little wheelie bin from Lidl"
The only use I know of 'wheelie bin' is the UK version - a large garbage dumpster on wheels.

G in Berlin said...

Carol- it was nothing like your injury. A few days ace bandage and I'll be back to my loose ligamented normal. Thanks for stopping by.
Hi J: I should post about my Munich visit soon- it's hard doing anything after the kids get to bed. I meant my Ikea purchased grocery wheeled bag. Thanks- it's already better today.
I can read a tip put on the bill (which is not legal in most places- including Berlin- although in the US it can be done if posted prominently. No, this was sheer theft, not a real tip being added to the bill.

Laura said...

Yikes, this sounds like a crazy weekend. Did you manage to do anything to celebrate the 4th?

G in Berlin said...

Nothing at all. We did have the kita summer fest on Sunday, though, so we did something non-errand related for the weekend. Blaah.
Hope your travels are going well.