In Canada when there is a holiday approaching everyone knows it. Every store has a sign in the front door giving their holiday hours. Whether it is closing early Christmas eve, or just for the morning on November 11 to commemorate Remembrance Day, they want their customers to be informed well in advance, so they can adjust their shopping habits accordingly.
No so in my corner of Germany.
Last week our new neighbour got caught. The grocery store was closed on Pentecost Monday. I hadn’t seen her during the few days previous, and probably wouldn’t have thought to mention it – she has lived in Germany a few months more than we have.
Today it was my turn to be caught by the unexpected store closings. When I opened the fridge Wednesday morning I calculated I had enough milk to last until this morning. No problem, the store would be open at eight.
Yesterday afternoon my wife mentioned a concert today that she thought we might want to attend. I asked about the start time. 12:30. Then it hit me – today is a holiday. No stores open. There had been no warnings posted in the grocery store to remind people. And when I realized it, it was already afternoon. All stores in Sulzburg are closed on Wednesday afternoons. That meant I had to walk a couple of kilometres to Dottingen to find the nearest open grocery store. Not a big deal – and I should have remembered.
It got me to thinking though. The same holidays happen each year. In Canada the stores warn their customers. Here they don’t. Are Germans that more organized that they instinctively know and remember when the stores will be closed? (If so why don’t the remind us newcomers?) Are Canadians that clueless? Or is it just a different attitude to customer service? My guess is no-one knows.
What I have done though is double checked the calendar. The next holiday is October, and by then we will have been here a year and will hopefully have learned the cycle and won’t get surprised again.
Four months without an extra day off seems long to me, used to the Canadian system which basically gives you one long weekend each month of the year. You would think they could take the four May holidays here and space them out.
Except, they are all religious holidays. Today, for example, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. I won’t go into details – I have some theological issues surrounding the feast – but you can look it up here.
As for the concert that starts at 12:30, that isn’t when the music starts. Apparently, it is a classical music church crawl. Over about a five-hour period, participants walk from Sulzburg to St. Ilgen to Laufen and back to Sulzburg. There will be organ concerts in the church of each village.
It is a work day for me, not a holiday, but if the weather is good, I just might take it in. I can always catch up on work in the evening.