Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The Great Cockblock
When people ask me what life is like in Germany, it’s hard to put it into words. There’s no ONE thing that makes me want to pull out my hair and sometimes life here can be pleasant. But if I had to sum it up, it’s that daily life is one. Big. Cockblock. For those unfamiliar with the term, wikipedia defines cockblocking as:
"To cockblock is to prevent another person, intentionally or inadvertently, from having sexual intercourse with a third party. A cockblock, or cockblocker is a person who engages in such obstruction or intervention. According to an article by a freelance writer, Joshua Bernstein, in the New York Press, cockblocking is a "foul act in which someone interferes with another’s attempt at finding happiness inside someone’s pants."
It's kind of like a road block, but not for roads. After thinking about it, I think the cockblock is the perfect metaphor for life in Germany and I’ve even broken it down into different types:
The language cockblock-
First and foremost. This is obvious. If you can’t understand what’s going on, that’s an instant cockblock. To be fair, I did expect this to happen and it obviously happens daily. I get language cockblocked at work (though this one really isn’t necessary because we are supposed to work in English, but people forget) cockblocked by mail, phone calls, newspapers, you name it. After nine months, I accept this cockblock, that’s just part of life in another country.
The bureaucratic cockblock-
Hands down, this is one of the most frustrating things about living in German. Heck, even the Germans complain about the bureaucratic cockblock (just maybe in different words…)
Example 1- my collegue’s computer died. In order for her to get a new one, she had to find a form no one knew where to find, get said form signed by 4 varying levels of managers and wait. That was 6 weeks ago. It turned out it was the wrong form (where no one knew where to find) and now she has to repeat the process.
Example 2- My famous plumbing experience. In order to get workers to come, the hausmeister had to call the project management company, they then sent out a guy to do an estimate, the guy reported back to the project management company, the project management company told the insurance company, the insurance company approved each repair and told the project management company, the project management company called the contractor, the contractor called the hausmeister, the hausmeister called the landlord, the landlord called me. Now, this process had to be done for 6 different workers. I’m still not ok with the fact it took 3 months, but I understand.
Example 3- I had to get a form signed by work. I needed to get pictures done, my manager to sign it and some lackey in some office to sign the paperwork. Now, of course there was no procedure that told me the order of preference they wanted these down. So I found myself at the lackey’s office 3 different times. Instead of him telling me, get picture, fill in form, get manager to sign, see me at the beginning, it was a guessing game.
Example 4- Cancelling contracts. German rules around contracts are extremely bizarre. If someone (ie a telemarketer) were to call you, you could unwittingly get into a contract (especially if you’re dealing with said language cockblock) But getting OUT of a contract in Germany is a whole thing onto itself. In order to cancel most contracts, you need 3 months written notice (there’s even a website- www.abo.de which has preprinted forms ready and tips on how to do it) If it’s a YEARLY contract, you have a window of about a month to send in your 3 month written notice. I’ve heard nothing but cockblock stories about contract cancellations and I’m dreading my first one.
Example 5- Though I hear this is a lot better than ten years ago, in Bavaria, they still mix the whole church and state thing. This is great for holidays, we get 12 of them a year, but you can’t do much on the holidays. Nothing’s allowed to be open. Nor are stores allowed to be open on Sundays or after 8pm. Home from a late night of work and out of groceries? You’re cockblocked.
The physical cockblock-
This sounds bizarre especially for such a first world country and I still can’t understand why it is, but it somehow is. There exists a sort of physical cockblock in this country. I’ve described this to German collegues and friends and though no one was consciously away of it, they eagerly agree it exists. Case in point:
When there is a sidewalk and a group of people are walking, they will walk in a line across the width of the sidewalk. Courtesy would indicate that if you are 4 or 5 abreast on the sidewalk and a person is heading your way, you part to let them pass. Not here. You’ll get pushed off the sidewalk. I call it sidewalk mafia mentality. It’s the same deal for elevators and trains, courtesy indicates let people off, before letting people in. Not here. S/he who is the pushiest wins.
After nine months of the physical cockblock, I’ve stopped being mad. It’s obviously not part of the culture and if people aren’t aware of this, it’s hard to be mad for something that’s not inherent. But it still annoys the shit out of me!
On their own, none of these is a dealbreaker and hardly the end of the world. However, dealing with cockblocks daily is just part of every day life here. The next time I’m at a bar and I see a guy get cockblocked, I might raise my glass to him. I know what it’s like, if in a different way!