Archive for Juni, 2014

Cataloguing memories

20140627-205520-75320439.jpgMoving day is 2 weeks away and there are literally a hundred things I could and should be doing right now. But instead I choose to occupy one of the last Friday evenings in my flat with the time-consuming task of  filling up the bare pages of photo albums I’ve been meaning to put to use for years. It’s not just a way of putting off the unpleasant tasks related to moving home and much more a desperate attempt to catalogue memories which seem all the more precious as each year passes and in acute danger of being boxed away even deeper into oblivion in the chaos of relocation.

The Secret German Customer Service Code of Conduct

After nearly 5 years of regular stamp buying, sorting out parcels on a Saturday morning and several emergency photocopying trips, I’ve finally broken the ladies who work at the local post office on my street. On my escapade there this week, I was met with a faint smile of recognition. Furthermore, an off-subject comment was thrown my way during the transaction, which could only be construed as an attempt to show humour. And finally, as I was seen struggling to cut up cellotape with my teeth, I was offered a pair of scissors (completely unsolicited) to make the job easier. On my last trip to the post office, I had an inkling that the ladies were warming up to me. And now it’s confirmed. Never – after 5 years of being a loyal customer – have I had such pleasant, friendly and helpful service.

Because German customer service is not the same as British customer service. They seem to follow some sort of special code, which is contrary to everything I know from Britain. And the ladies at my post office are exemplary in their adherence to this code of conduct (although from what I have experienced, the same code is clearly in use in the citizens advice bureau, passport offices, registry offices, and in several shops). From what I can decipher, the steps to following this code go something like this:

Step 1

Whenever possible, exude the impression that you are doing something very important and technically difficult when the customer arrives. If possible, carry on this pretense for a few minutes while the customer waits. Do not at any point attempt to make any eye contact with the customer or in any way seek to acknowledge her presence during this period.

Step 2

At some point, you will have to acknowledge the customer. Acknowledge the customer with an expression which suggests that she is bothering you and that you actually have far more important things that you could be doing. As you become more practiced, you should be able to convey this impression in conjunction with an overt smile and a passably polite greeting.

Step 3

Regardless of the request the customer makes, make her feel like that she is making a particularly tiresome request.

Step 4

Sometimes a customer may change her mind during the transaction. This indecisiveness will inevitable prolong the transaction. However small or large your inconvenience due to this, do not immediately show your willingness or your ability to accomodate to this changed request. The customer is henceforth to be treated as a „difficult customer“. If she blushes with embarassment/apologises profusely, you have carried out this step successful.

Step 5

If something does not go right for your customer eg. the package she has come to collect was sent back to the sorting office 2 days ago and she is noticeable disappointed, do not offer any sign of sympathy or understanding. You may however choose to offer a helpful smirk. This is left to your discretion.

Step 6

Never go out of your way to be extra helpful. That is outside your job description. If you can instead brandish some sort of rule or regulation which makes the request of your customer that little bit less likely to be successful, then do it now. Does your customer look confused by this unheard of rule and is unsure of how to proceed? Mission accomplished. Remember, it is not your job to sort out her problems.

Step 7

Finally, don’t get personal. The customer is your customer, not your accquaintance. If at all possible, avoid all small talk. This formality and distance will stand you in good stead for carrying out the previous 3 steps with ease time after time.

Which makes me realise that the key to breaking the code as a customer  is to always get personal. And as I am on the brink of leaving the widely acknowledged ‘friendly’ Nordrhein-Westfalen for the cooler manners of Bayern, I’m ready to go on the charm offensive. Buoyant in the knowledge that my local post officer worker expressed a vague hint of regret in her voice on hearing that I will soon be in need of postal redirection services. 

Love, Hope and Cancer

Just after Christmas last year, Elana Miller, a young American pyschiatrist wrote a blog post which went viral. Her text ‚Love is…(holy shit, I have cancer)‘ about her truthful and acute response to the sudden and life-changing diagnosis of a rare T-cell Lymphoma was liked, shared, translated into several languages and spread across the world. Her response was one of shock, anxiousness, sadness but overwhelmingly of hope and fighting spirit.

Half a year later, I wondered how Elana was getting on under her treatment and peeped into her blog Zen Psychiatry . And you know what? She’s having a hard time of it. She writes: ‚I thought having cancer would be the worst part about having cancer, but it’s not.‘ Because life doesn’t stop throwing its challenges along the way, just because you have cancer. There are still nasty landlords and break-ups to deal with. And it simply doesn’t seem fair. I’m wishing Elana lots of strength, a bit of luck again in life and renewed hope. 

Hope can certainly be found in the story and work of Kate Granger, a young British doctor suffering from a terminal cancer. Kate has written books, pieces for the Guardian and campaigns heavily for better care of the terminally ill. Starting with the doctors who look after them. Her campaign ‚Hello my name is…‘ is on the surface one which remind doctors to always introduce themselves to patients by name (as Kate went from being a doctor to suddenly having to be a patient, she noticed that this was not always a given), but represents a call for a more holistic and compassionate provision of medical care. I’m looking forward to reading her book ‚The Other Side‘ – her story as a patient through a doctor’s eyes. I have a feeling I will learn a lot from it.

World Cup 2014


I’m not a big football fan, but when it comes to the World Cup, I get genuinely excited. I watch as many matches as I can, keep up with the scores, place friendly bets and cheer along with fellow viewers in the neighbourhood beer garden or vie for a place in the open air broadcasts in over-crowded street cafes. Like the 2 world cups before, I’ll be rooting for the English team and the German team. Sure, it’s not so nice to see one team being crushed 4-1 by the other, but for me it’s less about patriotism and much more about team spirit. I feel at home in Germany and part of this is being able to cheer wholeheartedly for the German team and can easily revel in the merriment felt by my German friends when the team has a win (albeit not the before mentioned 4-1 win) without in any way feeling disloyal to England.

For me, national pride is not a clear-cut thing. And I think this must be a feeling shared by any first- or second-generation migrant or even expat. I know so many second generation Indians in Britain who root for Murray at Wimbledon and avidly follow the English team on the football field or on the rugby pitch, but when the Indian cricket team bats up at Edgbaston – the Indian flag comes out. That’s why I can’t understand the discussions which question for example the loyalty and allegiance of national football players who have a mixed heritage. What does it mean when a player doesn’t sing the national anthem? To me, nothing. I can’t say that I have always felt comfortable in situations which have required me to sing ‚God save the Queen‘, but I looked on from across the Channel at the Jubilee celebrations and felt homesick. I take pride in being considered the expert on all things British by my colleagues, from royalty gossip to the London riots. Since moving to Germany, I am most often viewed more as an Indian than anything else and get asked questions on everything from the caste system in India to arranged marriages and travel tips.

Despite all of the influences on my
national identity, I carry one passport. But sometimes I feel as if I could carry three – from the country of my birth and of my parents and all its values, the country which brought me up and educated me, and the country of my husband and any children we may have together.  All these nations have a special meaning to me and I root for them all in different ways.

Whichever team you’ll be rooting for, happy watching!

Back to work


20140602-000202-122400.jpgThe long summer days spent under the Mallorcan sun have come to an end. After swimming in the turquoise sea, running among the orange trees, discovering new sides to an island I have come to love (how very German of me), spending time with family and friends and a happy first anniversary with my husband, I’m tanked up on energy and ready for work.


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