One of the reasons I (mostly) enjoy living in other countries is because the learning curve is so high -- every day is a fresh learning experience. I'd like to share with you one of the newest things I have learned about Germany:
Germans are (apparently) very particular about shoes.
Would you like to know how I know?
When someone (no one in particular, really) is moving from one country (let's call it The United States of America) to another country (just for fun, we'll name it Germany)that person is forced to make serious decisions about how many pairs of shoes one packs. With airline weight limits ever stricter, and shoes being both heavy and bulky, one can clearly understand that a young person moving from one country to another would not bring ALL her shoes with, but would choose those that are the most practical and multi-functional.
And so it was that yours truly arrived in Germany with a few dress shoes; snow boots; sandals; running shoes, and bran new, green felt Dansko clogs. Please don't be alarmed at the green felt description. They're actually quite cool -- a gift from my parents upon my graduation from The Sweden Shop across the street from North Park -- a sort of classy remembrance of my roots.
The reader should know that in Europe, people generally do not wear athletic shoes when they are not playing a sport. Thus, my Danskos function as the European equivalent of the French "chaussures de ville" -- the shoes you wear when you go out, go to work, go into town.
Unfortunatley, clogs, in Germany (ESPECIALLY felt ones), like their cousin Birkenstocks (in my defense, I knew this about Berks before I came), are universally considered house shoes. Slippers. NOT for outdoor use.
I've been wearing the equivalent of slippers for three weeks. Green-felt, attention-grabbing house shoes. The Germans are laughing behind my back as I protest explanations of how good they are - ahem- for one's back in the first place. (See HERE).
And so we come to today. Today, March 24th, I needed to help my boss, Dieter, move. (EJE is changing offices buildings this week). Naturally, I wasn't going to wear my Danskos -- clogs are not so good for moving -- one can't be slipping out of a clog while carrying a box of 165 church hymnals down a flight of stairs.
Unfortunately, I could not wear my running shoes, either, since I did ALL my laundry yesterday, we have no dryer, and all my jeans were wet. So, I was forced to wear black dress pants. (Ladies, support me here: you're not walking out of hte house in black dress pants and bright white and blue, refective-light strip Asics, n'est-ce pas?)
So I was faced with a few choices: 1) Snow boots (I think not) 2) Brown boots (with black pants?) 3) Black dress shoes (slip-ons; a no-go), and 3) My JEEP brand green, beige and black sandals (they're closed-toed, a bit like Keens -- roomates, you know the pair I'm talking about, right?) I pulled what I considered a fairly genius move by pairing black pants with a green and black top and a green scarf in my hair to match the green in the shoes. I even added my boho-chic hemp necklance with green pendant.
I am not kidding when I say that EVERYONE I spent more than 10 minutes with today commented on my shoes. (Er, the fact that I wasn't wearing socks). It's the end of March! Past St. Paddy's! The sun shone today! (Okay it rain/snowed intermittently, too, but it was warm enough). SPRING IS COMING! I needed these shoes in order to have sure footin! I feel I have the right to wear sandals.
Nor should I wear my house shoes around town as if the shopping mall was my living room.
After a long discussion attempting to defend myself (in German) with my two bosses at the youth center where I work, I finally conceded, and humbly took the directions my friend Joerg gave me to the local place where shoes are cool but relatively inexpensive.
I apologize for offending you with my choice of footwear.
I promise to do better next time.
Amanda S. Munroe
(Signed, 24 March 2009, Esslingen, Deutschland)