Peer Pressure and Barefoot in Germany

Peer Pressure and Barefoot in Germany

When my family and I first arrived in Germany we spoke about 50 words in German among us. We got there on a Saturday and my new boss picked us up at the airport and quickly drove us down to Tuebingen. He explained on the way that all shops closed at noon on Saturdays and would not open again until Monday morning so we had to hurry and pick up enough food for the weekend. We did rush to a small shop and got enough for a few days then he drove us to the Max Planck Guesthouse where we would be staying for the next several months. Our boys, though, quickly spotted a Pizza parlor near the Guesthouse and we rushed over to it and ordered Pizza. We needn’t have hurried as they were open until about 10 every night.

The first thing my boys noted was that all of the patrons were eating their pizzas with knives and forks. They were astounded and extremely critical and swore that they would never stoop to that silly behavior ever in their entire lives. They ate their pizzas with their hands, American style, which we were to eventually learn the Germans called “barefoot.” My wife and I noted the shocked stares of the other patrons at our sons’ behavior. We politely went ahead and ate our meal with the knife and fork left for us at the table by the attendant waiter.

It soon became clear to us that the Germans never handled their food. Even a treat as rough and tumble as a side of French Fries (called pommes frites in Germany) were served with a toothpick so the fries could be impaled and brought to the mouth without ever being touched with the barefooted hands. Pretzels were served with a paper wrap as were cookies and other pastries.

Our boys continued to eat everything, including pizzas, with their hands in a belligerent John Stewart mode. My wife wanted me to talk to them about their rude behavior, but I counselled that it would not be necessary and would only cause unneeded trouble between us. About three months after we had arrived in Germany, we again visited the pizza parlor and to our great satisfaction noted that both of our boys now ate the pizza with a knife and fork. Ah the power of peer pressure.