I’m back and better than ever.
This is the second part of my little exposé into living in student accommodation in Germany. In this episode, our wily hero navigates trash, food and weather. Will he survive? Will he find love? Will he eventually get up out of his chair and maybe eat a pretzel? Tune in now to find out
Trash Talk, Bring Back the Bottles, Window Jam, Sorting the Linens
One of the big, noticeable differences about living in Germany as compared to Australia is just how far they go to recycle. Germany’s trash and recycling system isn’t the most intuitive thing I’ve ever experienced, but I can see it going a long way to stop so much garbage getting out into the wild and sitting in a turtle’s stomach for twenty years.
In Germany, we are told to separate all of our waste according to type (and then again into sub-types in the example of glass). It’s a bit of a pain but, again, I can definitely see the sense in it.
Basically, there are four main bins in a German household, one for paper, one for glass, one for packaging and plastic waste and the other for “Restmüll” or, read in another way, “other”. It’s fairly simple to get the hang of, but easy to mess up. Where does aluminium foil go, for example?
After you’ve boggled your mind figuring out the main bins, you must also then consider glass, which is again separated into green, white and brown glass. This is the most annoying part of the whole system, in my opinion, just because there is no glass deposit in our residence, and we have to take our box of empties across the street to the nearest bin all the time. In Germany, where empty beer bottles pile up quickly, you end up making quite a few trips.
I do think it’s good for the environment though. This system gets people thinking at least semi-seriously about their waste. I mean, I doubt many people get it right 100% of the time, but it’s something at least! Just be sure to agree with your roommates, if you have them, when/who/how the trash gets taken out. I’d recommend taking out the glass/paper and plastics bags out at least twice a week (depending) and the Restmüll bag out at least three. You don’t want to have worms living in there, like I discovered on my first week here…
There is also an extensive recycling initiative for plastic bottles, such as soft-drinks and water. While in South Australia you can take all your cartons to a recycling depot and get 10c back for each empty, here you have to take a look at the back of the bottle to see if it offers a “refund”. If it does display the ancient sigil of holy recycling, you can take it back to the shop, stick it in a wacky machine that reads it’s barcode and then receive about 25c per bottle to spend in the store (or ask for in cash at the register).
Cool, huh? It makes keeping your bottles out of landfill actually financially beneficial. With three empty water bottles you can buy a new beer! Or save…
But this does come out of your pocket in the first place, really, as you have to pay a small deposit for each bottle you buy. You can often get a shock at the register if you fail to keep this in mind! So always bring along an extra euro or so, and keep your empties out of the trash.
One final little note, unrelated to trash, is that windows here all have a strange feature. You can twist the lock around to the top and then open your windows from the top, instead of from the middle. I believe this is either to help in snowy months, or just give you a bit more security while airing out your room. It weirded me out the first time I saw it though! I actually thought the windows were broken! I guess that’s just me being an Adelaide Hills bumpkin, though, innit?
Finally, a word on Laundry… You can do it. It’s heaps easy to just stick in your ECUM card (the debit card/student card/bus ticket of University of Mannheim), select a machine and stuff in your dirties. It costs a bit too much (too much, maybe a euro and a half for each cycle), but is really simple. I know I’m probably ruining my colours in some way by jamming everything in there together but, to be completely honest, that’s the least of my concerns at the moment
Now for something completely different…
I’ve booked my first trip over the border with someone real cool and a group of ragtag students. Paris, here I come in October… after Oktoberfest, of course!
At the start of this exchange I was planning to travel a lot more but, ya know, things change very swiftly! The best laid plans of mice and men, etc. etc. So far I’ve travelled to Heidelberg twice, Hamburg, Schwetzingen and, after tonight, the Wine Festival at Bad Dürkheim. Getting to Berchtesgaden is another massive goal for the next few weeks, as are Munich and Berlin.
I haven’t been feeling the whole “explore Europe” thing yet, honestly. I’m more interested, in this first month after arrival, in exploring Germany and getting my feet firmly planted in Deutschland soil.
There’s just so much to see. Too much even! I could spend weeks in Heidelberg alone, exploring every nook and cranny. But time makes fools of us all, doesn’t it. I guess the goal is now to just get as many experiences in as possible during this semester and then, maybe after returning for a short stint at home, coming back or heading somewhere else.
I’m not sure if the travel bug has exactly bitten me yet, but I can feel it crawling up my leg.