No Ice

Went to a garden party recently, which gave me the opportunity to note one of the major cultural differences (to me anyway) between Canada and Germany. No ice.

I’m not talking about winter either, though the lack of snow and cold here is something I can’t quite get used to. Germans think they have winter, but I know better.

The temperature in our friend’s backyard was in the low thirties Celsius. That’s low nineties for those of you still using Fahrenheit. The soft drinks and bottled water were not room temperature but air temperature. (Alcohol wasn’t being served.) That is not the way God, or the manufacturer intended Coca Cola to be consumed. Not in the summer anyway. But no-one noticed except me.

I had thought about showing up with a Thermos full of ice, but reconsidered – it might be rude. Maybe if I could have brought enough for everyone…

I was visiting some other friends recently and the husband offered me something to drink. We’re good friends, but I declined, reminding him I only drink cold drinks and he didn’t have any. Or at least not cold enough for me.

The funny thing is, he too likes his drinks cold. Like me he puts lots of ice cubes in his soft drinks. Well, he does when he visits me. That day his wife told me they didn’t even own an ice cube tray.

That struck me as bizarre, but I guess they are just so much embedded in their culture they don’t think about a small purchase that would enhance their lives.

Any summertime party in Canada features at least one cooler filled with ice cold drinks. We don’t even think about it. You can buy bags of ice at every corner store and grocery store and gas station. You pour the ice into the cooler and add the drinks. On a really hot day you might add more ice as the party progresses. I guess they don’t do that here, or at least not anywhere I have been invited to.

Sometimes the difference between two cultures are immediately obvious. Things like language or dress stick out.

Other differences, like drink temperature, are more subtle. But they can be just as disconcerting.

Cultural differences though are just that, differences. It’s not usually a matter of right and wrong. Though we might be tempted to frame it that way, as I have done in the matter of soft drinks.

That Germans drink their soft drinks without ice seems somehow wrong to me – but it really isn’t. I’m reacting to my tastes and conditioning.

Being aware of that makes it easier when you are encountering others for the first time. Strangers can become friends, if you let them. Sometimes though you have to look beyond small differences.

And not serving cold drinks on a hot summer’s day is a very small difference.


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