Sunday, 20 June 2010

Health & Safety for Berliners

Now I have resumed my love affair with the internet, I just can't keep away from it. Well, unless there's not an internet cafe to be found near our new flat, then I'll be in trouble. Some things surprise me about Germany. The stereotype that I'd always been aware of was that of German efficiency. So I figured that sorting things like telephone connections and broadband out would be even quicker than in the UK, not that I've ever had any problem with that. But here it takes so long. We've been told that it'll take weeks- maybe 3 or 4 to get connected. That seems just excessively long. Not that I'm desperate or anything, but I've asked Heidi if we could pre-order our broadband knowing that we would be moving into our apartment. But no, things have to be done by the book, and first we have to be registered as residents in our area, and then we can start getting the phone line connected.

The other thing that I'd always thought about Germans was that they were sticklers for time, and never tolerated lateness. Maybe Berlin is a different story, but the standard practice seems to be to be late for appointments and call ahead and tell whoever you are meeting that you are stuck in terrible traffic, or that there's been an accident, etc etc. On our jaunts around properties, this seemed standard practice. I am collating a list of excuses to use at a later date.

I would never have thought that Germany wouldn't be big on Health and Safety. I kind of assumed that the way we are in the UK is just standard practice. Actually, I just never thought about it at all. It's just the way things are. But being here has opened my eyes to how emersed in Health and Safety we really are. I wish I could connect my camera in this place, and I could show you some of the photos I took at the zoo. The zoo is amazing. Quite easily the best one that we have ever been to, and we seem to have visited quite a few given our children's desire to seek out "baby animals" and the fact that if they wake up asking to see a camel we quite frequently indulge them.

Berlin Zoo was built in the 20's (I think, I may be wrong), and has beautiful architecture with oriental designed camel houses and elephant enclosures. The grounds are really lovely, and if I had my Rough Guide to Berlin with me I could tell you who designed them, but it's really nice and lovely to walk round. The best thing about it though is how close you get to the animals. They seem just a few feet away. They have those gulley things, so that you can't just walk into the enclosure without having to climb out of a 10 ft drop, but not in every location. Sometimes there's just a 30cm high railing and then a little insubstantial looking fence separating you from the less aggressive animals. Maybe it's electric and would fry your eyeballs if you touched it, but I don't get that impression.

Take the penguins for example. We've seen a lot of penguins in our time and I know in some places they have them out and they go for a little walk and stuff but would you ever put your hand in the water? Would you ever try and touch one? I just think we don't do that sort of thing. We think "Ew, that water looks filthy and I can't see a hand sterilising station anywhere", and as for touching the penguins, well that's just not allowed- even if we're not told that.

But here, well let me tell you, if you've ever harboured secret desires to touch a penguin as it swims past you, then this is the place to come. There are kids leaning over into the water stroking their backs. There are people trying to hold them while they are in the water! The thing to do seems to be to twiddle your index finger in the water to alert the penguins of your desire to feel a penguin. The penguin then swims past a few times trying to be coy and playing hard to get. You in the meantime have your hand in the water, and then on the third or so swim past, bob's your uncle! A penguin under your hand! We were amazed! I wouldn't be surprised if you could feed the zebras paprika crisps by hand. I have some photos of the penguin touching, but I'll put them up when I can.

To finish off on the subject of health and safety, we have been struggling with the heat in our apartment. It's been really hot, but I can't leave the windows open and the kids unattended for fear that they will throw themselves out from the 9th floor that we are on just because they can. Most of the windows are relatively high up (just above waist height) and open fully like a door would. So to climb out the kids would need to use a chair, but given that they have a tendancy to use stools and chairs for climbing then I wouldn't put it past them. The living room window's are much lower. They have a nice broad low window ledge that is perfect for your climbing toddler to ascend all by themselves. The windows in here open outward and have a stop on them to stop them going beyond reach. However that distance is still far enough that a child could get out without even having to squeeze. So every time I leave the room I have to close the window as of course this window ledge is a great draw.

The bathroom has some exciting plumbing features going on. The best is the ladder radiator and its wiring. At the bottom two sections are connected by some bare wire. I scream every time they go near it when they get out the bath soaking wet. It's such a relaxing place to be. Bring on the move...though I checked the windows and they also open outwards fully though there are ones at the top which we could safely open.


  1. Welcome to Crazy Town... sounds like you are settling in well. German apartments can be a trial - but the Germans are very strict about electrical wiring, if you are not happy talk to the landlord and have him send someone to fix it - you are not actually allowed to do it yourself.
    As for your internet - Hop over to Tchibo (bound to be one close by) they have an offer at the moment of an Internet Stick for 19.95 which includes one month free access. Works really well (I use it when I am on the road) - You will need to make a phone call to set up your account (ask someone to help) and then you will be surfing in about 10 minutes. Email me if you need help. Those windows sound like a worry! Good luck Cheers Lulu

  2. Well done Fiona. This is fab and great to hear how you are getting on. Simone x


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