"Land of Tissues & Sneezes"

In America, everyone carries his or her own personal water bottle or coffee around. You’ll see people with them on the streets, in cars, on public transit, and in shopping malls and supermarkets. That’s not the case in Germany. A personal pack of tissues (or snot rag) is the norm; one must always keep some close by. It’s a foregone conclusion that a German will either sneeze or blow his nose in your presence. They can’t all have colds, can they?

"I’ve never seen so many people blowing their noses at one time,” I said.

"Ya have to get the stuff out,” said Kathleen, who proceeded to grab a tissue from her purse to blow her nose. I rolled my eyes as we otherwise sat quietly on the train en route to an unknown store on our perpetual shopping journey.

“But how come so much?” I asked. She complacently stared out the window as if never hearing my question. I would go on to address the German tissues and sneezes epidemic with her again. I would also end up just as perplexed as the day when I first asked the question. I’m afraid its real origin—its truth—is a closely guarded German secret. I don’t know that I’ll ever find my answer, but I’ll continue to be fascinated by the phenomenon.

The Germans have turned sneezing and nose blowing into an art form. It’s not uncommon to hear forceful, boisterous sneezing (I thought my father was the only person capable of such explosive sneezes) or blaring, horn-like nose blowing—anywhere, anytime, anyplace—in Deutschland. It’s ironic that one will get looked at funny for laughing or talking loudly on the train, but people don’t even bat an eyelash at someone who serves up the most frighteningly loud shriek of a sneeze. The little cherry on top is when you’re sitting next to someone who blows his nose, or sneezes, inches from your face. I know there’s not much room for creativity when you’re on the train, but there has to be a better way to ensure the civic responsibility of respecting your fellow man.

I’m a sniffler, otherwise known as the leper on the train when it comes to head colds or stuffed nasal passages. My tendency to give a little sniffle is by no means a blatant dismissal of my health and wellness. I blow my nose just like the next guy, but I don’t deem it necessary to have my nose engulfed in a handful of tissues like I’m recovering from a pistol whipping or a chloroform-soaked rag assault.

What’s the easiest way to spot an American on the train in Germany? Make note of where the sniffling is coming from, and it need only be one sniffle. A German would never sniffle, even on a bad day.

My main squeeze always makes sure we honor her cultural standard: a sneeze or a sniffle, what follows is a tissue; or, when in doubt, blow it out (okay, I made those up). There's also no shortage of tissues in our place. If there was ever a standoff between buying tissues or toilet paper, assuming we were short on money and needed both, there's no doubt in my mind the tissues would come out on top. I mean, you’d be hard pressed to find a citizen of Germany without a healthy supply of tissues. There really are a lot of germs floating around, and one certainly wouldn't want to disappoint the ENT specialist. Best blow that nose.

One time, I went to the bathroom on a whim and blew my nose. It was a clear-cut sign that I was starting to assimilate. I might’ve even appreciated it, too, because if I were back home in America, I would've wiped my nose on my shirtsleeve without hesitation and then continued watching my DVD episode of The Sopranos.

Comments

Its likely really important to understand these cultural variations. Im partially German, and have not gotten very far in my German Ancestry Research. But there really was this ten year old...who came on the boat alone....

And there really was this bar, and these Germans running it, on the Ohio River Oh, my father's tall tales were in fact fairly well grounded in historic fact.

My father would have flipped out to learn what I found out on the Ancestor front.
Maybe he will reincarnate soon, just to get in on an Ancestry discount membership.

Nose blowing and cultural diversity. There is the method I'd just as soon avoid, in which one uses no tissue what so ever, only some type of impressive lung capacity is used to eject the troubling moisture from the sinus passages.

Do not step there!

- I fondly recall, this wonderful young woman, I once met. I spent a delightful ten days, in a remote place, studying and this young woman had been raised by hippies in the woods someplace. I reminded her of her mother.

And she would sit in class, and swipe her nose with her arm, just like a toddler would do.

I can only state that there was something incredibly charming about this display of childish behavior. She was very alive, and very real. Very unconventional.
 
And God bless the child-like woman.
We both left this camp together, to head to the airport. We both had to get on the same airplane, to return home. The plane was maximally full, in Reno Nevada with a group of older women in the front ten rows had just won alot of money gambling. They were celebrating, quite loudly, and telling jokes. It was an incredible roar, coming out of the plane, while boarding.

I had a lousy boarding pass number. So when I got on the plane, this young gal had gotten on first, and saved me a seat.

"I told them I was saving a seat for my mother".. she told me.

I sat down gratefully, and went into a state of personal shock.

When you realize somebody else sees you in some entirely different way. I think this is my nice young new friend, and she sees me as a mother figure.

This flight predates the current stories of people behaving very badly on airplanes. But it seems it was a prelude. Because next to me, is this older gentleman, in his possible 90s, the aisle seat.

And he decided to melt down over the loud gambling women in the first ten rows. The stewards and stewardesses, enjoying the laughter and jokes, were scolded for egging them on.

I was sitting next to a person who was very mean, and rude and on everybody's case. It was shocking. The plane took off, and he wasn't done with the grievances.

On his lap was a notebook, covered in his writings, in tiny font, which included words sideways and backwards, words in the margins, words everywhere. This man seemed to be very eccentric. I really wished I could move seats.

My friend got off in Vegas, and I never saw her again. I felt sad. I had her name and address on some scap of paper, long gone.

The old man got off too. And he left all this expensive camera equipment under his seat.

It was so very tempting to pocket the grumps camera. But I didn't.
 
But wait a minute: is this the universal truth of America? We use the sleeve?

we don't use tissues?

the ladies of the 1950s certainly did use tissues, I in fact almost had my mother's entire handkerchief collection. I have in my evacuated photos, the newspaper clipping about the party in which my mother was given all these lovely hankies, but I lost the hankies, themselves, in the fire.

And men in suit always had their cloth hankies: I have three left of my father's, they are precious to me.

I had a huge flash: does anyone recall BEING a kid and HAVING that line across your nose? That line is: from rubbing your nose, possibly without the necessary tissue.

When you do the Back of the Hand nose swipe maneuver, this is where your nose bends.
 
At the time of this writing, handkerchieves and tissues were ubiquitous in public and on public transit in Germany.

At the time of this writing, personal water bottles and coffee to-go were ubiquitous in public in America.

That’s all I’m saying …
 
At the time of this writing, handkerchieves and tissues were ubiquitous in public and on public transit in Germany.

At the time of this writing, personal water bottles and coffee to-go were ubiquitous in public in America.

That’s all I’m saying …
yes, I understand: the world is stopped at the moment in time one is experiencing it in.

Currently, it seems hand sanitizer is extensively available!
 
I would bet my whole piggy bank that tissues and handkerchieves are still a mainstay in Germany. They were the last time I visited, in 2014.
I'm deprived....deprived of Japanese handkerchiefs...I checked on line and yes in fact, this is unacceptable, to be this deprived. To have not known, about Japanese ones....

So Etsy is selling, fast, two hankies from Germany with some German printed on there, maybe some French Too!

EDIT: EGAD two 1972 Munich Olympic hankies, exist at Etsy, too!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1070586354/vintage-1960s-kurhotel-luisenbad-bad?click_key=dcad3dcd6b78fd1371436601d80496ea1552ad7e:1070586354&click_sum=234f79cf&ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=german+handkerchief&ref=sr_gallery-1-2
 
To have not known, about Japanese ones....
in the Dept of Things worth knowing, when in doubt, check with the Japanese.

They have a tendency to make the coolest stuff. There is this store, I got there once, its exclusively Japanese designer fabrics. If you enter this store, its nearly impossible to leave.
 
I'm sorry. I can just keep going like this. Riffing about hankies. Look what you've done, plus I really want to visit Germany, after reading your great posts about it.

wow, on my wall is one 1960s era, German Travel Poster. Lots of castles on a river with a big train, I'm ready to head out!

The next thing one must actually know about: cloth handkerchiefs.

I simply dated a college student who was sick with colds alot of the time. He studied too much, and ate what might be considered now, a poor diet.

This is the only person, I've ever met, who actually ate those peanut flavored marshmallows? You buy a whole large package of these things and he would eat them during finals. Or pounds of candy corn.

I adored this guy. He was the most brilliant and creative person, I have ever met in my life, and still holds that first place score.

The secret about hankies: if you get a bad cold, and have to blow your nose alot, tissues basically will destroy your nose. You'll end up Rudolf and your not a reindeer.

I was turned onto the reason bandanas were invented: they are hankies.

Now without my momma and Dad's hankie collections, I can no longer ever get a cold, what for the lack of cotton cloth hankies, which won't sand paper your nose.

Now, I keep the very old cotton sheet, and tear it up into pieces, to use should a bad cold happen, which gratefully, I've avoided, thanks to COVID sequestration.

Grateful for Covid?
 
I'm sorry. I can just keep going like this. Riffing about hankies. Look what you've done, plus I really want to visit Germany, after reading your great posts about it.

wow, on my wall is one 1960s era, German Travel Poster. Lots of castles on a river with a big train, I'm ready to head out!

The next thing one must actually know about: cloth handkerchiefs.

I simply dated a college student who was sick with colds alot of the time. He studied too much, and ate what might be considered now, a poor diet.

This is the only person, I've ever met, who actually ate those peanut flavored marshmallows? You buy a whole large package of these things and he would eat them during finals. Or pounds of candy corn.

I adored this guy. He was the most brilliant and creative person, I have ever met in my life, and still holds that first place score.

The secret about hankies: if you get a bad cold, and have to blow your nose alot, tissues basically will destroy your nose. You'll end up Rudolf and your not a reindeer.

I was turned onto the reason bandanas were invented: they are hankies.

Now without my momma and Dad's hankie collections, I can no longer ever get a cold, what for the lack of cotton cloth hankies, which won't sand paper your nose.

Now, I keep the very old cotton sheet, and tear it up into pieces, to use should a bad cold happen, which gratefully, I've avoided, thanks to COVID sequestration.

Grateful for Covid?
Hah. Please do go on, if you wish. This is amusing! When are you going to finally start your blog?
 
Yes, in Germany we're taught at young age that sniffling is rude. And yes, the tissue habits haven't changed since 2014 ;)
That said, I never have tissues on me.
Thank you for this most important update about the tissue habits remaining the same in Deutschland! My wife is German. I miss it there. Too sick with ME/CFS to visit, although she’ll be going this summer to Berlin to see her family.
 
My Dad had a runny nose most of the time. He was never without a hanky. Speaking of snot n stuff. I'll never forget the time when I was a little girl that I saw the garbage man close one of his nostrils and let the snot fly out of the other nostril out onto the street. Gross!:D
 
Hah. Please do go on, if you wish. This is amusing! When are you going to finally start your blog?
Your so kind. You write incredibly well, it really flows, and these adventures in other cultures are moments when one gains insights. We get to know our own selves, better. We have contrast! Context.

(I've hardly traveled much) (I live in a big state, kept myself busy there, past tense

For whatever reason, I now am entirely going to have to order some German handkerchiefs, preferably vintage. I need hankies. And I think I'll ALSO order a set from Japan, a bit pricier, but can't we occasionally indulge in a small splurge?

I'll never forget the time when I was a little girl that I saw the garbage man close one of his nostrils and let the snot fly out of the other nostril out onto the street. Gross!:D
I think we never fully recover from the first time we witness somebody using that method. You sort of never get over it.

Please do go on, if you wish.
Well that boyfriend. He was such a character. I think certain people we meet, are really worth riffing about. Oh the tales I could tell. I should start a file on him.

I worked on my Burglary story...originally drafted back when brain was working better. I could almost post that!
 

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