German politics

More outdoor public pools in Germany are allowing women to be topless!

The featured photo is of a pool I encountered in Miami, Florida some years ago. I took that photo from the balcony of our hotel room.

Since I didn’t manage to escape the house this weekend, thanks to COVID-19, I have decided to write another post about German culture. It stands to reason that I would write about nudity, because I’ve written about it a bunch of times in this blog… and I have noticed that my posts about nudity are among my most popular. There are obviously many people out there who are titillated by such content. ūüėČ

I aim to please, so here’s a post about some recent news that my German friend made me aware of a few days ago. I already knew that many spas in Germany have nude areas, if they aren’t already entirely nude, like the Schwabenquellen in Stuttgart is. Well, as it turns out, progressive lawmakers in many German towns have now made it acceptable for women to be topless. According to the link, which is in German, but Chrome is your friend for a translation, Jacob Kammann, from the Volt Party in the North-Rhine Westphalian town of Siegen, proposed to the Siegen city council that women should be allowed to be bare chested at public pools.

Kammann came to this conclusion after an incident that occurred last year at a pool in a town called G√∂ttingen. A non-binary person with female sex parts wanted to swim topless. However, when the person tried to do as males are allowed to do, they were not allowed. A male lifeguard kicked the person out of the pool, because their breasts were like a female’s breasts, and the lifeguard considered the person female. Females are forbidden from swimming topless at many German public pools.

The non-binary person complained, and Kammann, who leads the Volt Party in his area, considered their argument and decided it was time to challenge the long standing rules regarding female nudity. Kammann states that he wants to contribute to equality by making this step, allowing people with female breasts to be topless if they wish to be. The rule remains that the primary sexual characteristics must remain covered, but female breasts are not considered as such.

Allowing women to be topless at the pool also helps desexualize breasts, which are really supposed to be for feeding babies. I have seen many German mothers happily bare their breasts in public for the purpose of feeding their babies. That makes sense to me, because who wants to eat in a public restroom, or with a blanket over their head? Breasts should not be taboo. They are essential to life itself.

It may take some time for the females and non-binary people of G√∂ttingen to feel comfortable enough to swim topless, but at least it’s allowed now. I don’t wear bikinis myself, so this wouldn’t apply to me. But I have no issues whatsoever, going to a nude spa and enjoying being in my birthday suit. I find it very liberating. Hopefully, the topless enthusiasts will enjoy their new freedom… and they won’t forget to wear plenty of sunscreen on that newly bared part of their anatomies. Wouldn’t want them to get skin cancer or a sunburn!

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The high price of giving someone the finger in Germany… part two

In May 2015, I wrote a piece on this blog called “The high price of giving someone the finger in Germany”. ¬†That particular post has proven to be somewhat “evergreen”. ¬†I still get a lot of hits on it, even though it’s over two years old. ¬†I suspect people find it when they hear about Germany’s rules about not insulting people when driving and not cussing out the cops.

Lately, the weather over here has been pretty depressing. ¬†I think it’s starting to get to people. ¬†Over the weekend, there was a very long thread in one of our local Facebook groups about how “rude” Germans are, especially in the Stuttgart area. ¬†A lot of Americans chimed in, agreeing with the original poster that people here can be cold, insulting, and unpleasant. ¬†Quite a few Germans from other parts of the country have also written that this part of the country isn’t like the rest of Germany. ¬†Some have even said that people here… well… they can be assholes.

While I have been yelled at more than a couple of times by locals, I personally don’t agree that people here are any more unpleasant than in other parts of the world. ¬†What I have found is that Germans, as a whole, can seem uncommonly blunt and/or assertive about some things. ¬†The Stuttgart area is part of Swabia, which is apparently considered “different” somehow than other parts of Germany. ¬†Indeed, there is a dialect here that even native German speakers say can be hard to understand. ¬†Swabians, as a whole, have a reputation for being very tight with their money and uptight in general. ¬†However, reputations are really just stereotypes and not everyone lives up to stereotypes.

Trixi demonstrates how different German dialects can sound, even to native speakers.

When Bill and I moved back here in August 2014, I befriended a local on Facebook. ¬†I still haven’t met her in person, but she follows my blog and often gives me useful tips. ¬†One very helpful piece of advice she gave me was to read Your Swabian Neighbors. ¬†Written by American Bob Larson, who once served as a military liaison between German government officials and American military officials, this handy book is all about the idiosyncrasies of life in Baden-W√ľrttemberg for those who aren’t actually from this area. ¬†Larson, who married a Swabian woman and lived in Germany for many years, published his book in the early 80s. ¬†Though some parts of the book are dated, a lot of the information still holds true today. ¬†I’m thinking it may even be time to re-read that book as, after three years, I am starting to miss my homeland a little. ¬†At this point, there’s no telling how much longer we’ll be here.

Sometimes Americans in Germany advise others to “flip the bird” to people who piss them off in some way. ¬†I know this is not a good idea when driving or dealing with police officers. ¬†Nowadays, most everyone has a camera on their phones and if it can be proven that you used an obscene gesture, you can be fined up to 4000 euros (although my local friend says this isn’t the usual fine). ¬†It’s probably not a good idea to flip people off even if you’re not driving, though. ¬†Germans like their fines.

I see the original list of insults I included in my first post about this has been updated. ¬†Here’s the translated list for your amusement. ¬†Some of the insults are pretty funny.

I know it’s tempting to fire back at people who yell at you, but you might want to hold back from using obscene gestures or engaging in namecalling…¬†

 

It’s not always easy living in another country, even when it’s Germany, which has some things in common with the United States. ¬†I know people get frustrated. ¬†I get frustrated, too. ¬†And I will even agree that sometimes dealing with locals can be infuriating.

On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the kindness of locals. ¬†In fact, on Saturday, Bill and I went to a grocery store and picked up just one item. ¬†The lady ahead of us saw that we had a small order and enthusiastically invited us to go ahead of her. ¬†In my neighborhood, my neighbors threw a block party and invited Bill and me to attend. ¬†Every morning when I walk my dogs, I am sure to hear at least one “Guten Morgen” from other dog walkers or my neighbors. ¬†They usually sound like they mean it, too. ¬†Sometimes they even smile!

Even the vet where we take our dogs has taken a shine to us. ¬†I’ve been having some problems wearing my contact lenses lately. ¬†I’ll wear them for a few days with no problem, then one or both of my eyes will suddenly get really irritated. ¬†Last week, I took Zane in to his vet for an allergy shot and she asked me if I was okay. ¬†It was probably because I was wearing my glasses and hating it. ¬†But she noticed I wasn’t myself and genuinely wanted to know if I was alright. ¬†That’s a far cry from the usual “How you doin'” you get in the States where the person doesn’t actually care how you are and doesn’t expect a truthful response.

So… the moral of this post is, assholes are everywhere. ¬†I don’t think there are any more assholes in Swabia than there are in other parts of the world. ¬†It may just seem that way, especially to Americans, due to cultural differences, the occasionally harsh sounds of the German language, and, maybe, even the gloomy weather we’ve had lately.

If you ever feel tempted to flip someone off or call them names, take a minute to consider all of the awesome vacation destinations in and around Germany. ¬†Wouldn’t you rather spend 4000 euros on a cruise somewhere or a first class flight? ¬†I know I would.

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Death and taxes…

Yesterday, I read a rather sobering article about how many expatriate Americans are renouncing their citizenship.  A lot of them are doing it because of new tax laws that target Americans living abroad.  The new laws have made it very inconvenient and unpleasant for Americans trying to file their taxes while they live out of the country.  A lot of banks in other countries are not wanting to do business with Americans anymore, because of these new laws that require them to report any accounts owned by Americans so that they can be properly taxed.

America is one of the few countries that forces people to declare income earned worldwide. ¬†Consequently, a lot of people end up paying taxes in their host country and to the United States. ¬†They also have to hire professional tax preparers to straighten out the convoluted paperwork for them. ¬†That gets old, especially if you’ve made a life abroad and don’t want to go back to the United States. ¬†So to escape the taxes and the invasion of privacy, some expats are changing their citizenship. ¬†While some are able to do it without a second thought, others are finding the decision to be very heart wrenching.

Lest you think renouncing your citizenship is easy or inexpensive, bear in mind that ditching your US passport is not free.  You have to pay to exit America.  They get you coming and going.

I have not given any thought to renouncing my US citizenship‚Ķ yet, anyway. ¬†I am American born and bred and I try not to be ashamed of that fact. ¬†However, I can’t help but understand why people from other countries are disgusted by some of the laws we’ve passed and actions we’ve taken that affect other countries. ¬†The law forcing international banks to report on their American customers is especially disrespectful, particularly when it violates the host country’s own laws. ¬†Moreover, the law, which was supposedly intended to bust wealthy people sheltering their money abroad, is affecting wealthy folks less than it does regular folks who just want to live abroad. ¬†If you can’t find a local bank who will work with you, that makes it pretty tough to live in another country.

Bill and I would really like to live abroad again. ¬†We enjoy the challenges of living in another country. ¬†We also love to travel. ¬†We’re both proud Americans, but if we end up living abroad for more than a few years, these tax laws could end up being a serious pain in the ass. ¬†We will have to do some research as to how we can live with these laws or even if we’ll want to deal with it.

So much for the land of the free and the home of the brave, right?

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