Saturday, March 08, 2008


It appears sometimes stealing is OK. Like when you are in Germany.
I think there may be a cultural difference here.

In the basement of my apartment is a room where everybody keeps their washer. Which is weird on its own because there are like 6 to 8 new washers down there, and never is more than one running at once - but everybody gets an individual key to turn on their washer's electricity. I guess so nobody is tempted to steal another's electricity and use their washer. I share mine with Nate, a concept seemingly lost on the rest of the residents. We could have in fact two washers shared between the whole building and never have to wait. anyway.

The basement is locked. Only tenants of this building can get in. I started keeping my laundry detergent down there - no reason to bring it up and down. But one day I felt like somebody was using my detergent - it seemed to be going away too fast. So when I got a new bag of detergent I put my little glass cup in it in a way I would remember to see if it changed.
Last weekend I came down to do some laundry and all my detergent was gone. And my little cup was left on top of the washer. Somebody just stole my detergent. Because they could. Somebody who lives in my building and has a washer. Somebody who is probably paying 400euros+ in rent plus has a 300euro+ washer. And they are going to steal detergent from their neighbor. detergent. Because they could.

I'm starting to realize there must me some cultural differences here when it comes to such things. I mean maybe I'm naive, but it seems like there's more of an attitude of "If you leave something in position in which it could be stolen, it's fair game, and you can't complain."

A couple years ago I left my bag in a restaurant/bar. When I came back for it, it was gone. The bartender said matter-of-factly "you should have come back earlier". As if there was a statute of limitations on how long something can sit there before it's fair game. Then when I went to the police to report it (my laptop, passport, and ipod where in there), the officer told my dryly "This isn't technically a crime, we cannot report it as such. Since you were not with your bag when it was stolen, you left your bag there, and somebody else found it." Did I mention my passport was in there? It's not like it wasn't clear who's it was. but I guess this is part of the cultural difference.

A friend of mine had a party in the back of our complex. Again, it's locked - you have to have a key to get in, or be buzzed in. So we're all friends there and, long story short, somebody at the party steals my bike light I had been using as a flashlight. Just walked home with it. one of the guests. Even an email to the invitees produced no knowledge. But I guess I shouldn't have just set it down on the table and walked away.

My new bike was stolen a few years ago, locked at night behind a friend's house. But that seemed like more of a professional job - they cut the lock and may have even watched me ride it back there. So not really relevant here. But I just want some pity for all I've had stolen.

But I'm even going to call out a labmate here. One day comes in with a digital camera 'found' at a train station or airport or something. I think the reasoning went something like if he left it there somebody else would steal it. It had a whole lot of nice pictures somebody took on their trip around the world.

But worst of all is my friend Alex's roommate. This guy is at a club and finds a coat check button. So what does he do? Promptly heads straight to the coat check - and gets the guy's coat, wallet, and cell phone. Trashes the wallet, and then goes home with a new cell phone and coat. This a college student. Then he brags to his roommates about this pathetic shit. but everybody seems to find it moderately amusing except me. I mean, what an ASS. Losing 50 euros in a wallet is one thing. All the documents and the cell phone stuff - ugh. And ready for the kicker? This asshole was needing a new cell phone and had just won one on ebay. So now that he 'found' a new one, he decides he's going to renege on the won ebay bid and screw over the seller. class act! Moral of the story as explained to me: You shouldn't leave your wallet and cell phone at a coat check.

I've never lived in a 'city' in the US. In Austin I was really in a nice neighborhood and Ann Arbor and Charlottesville don't count at cities. Maybe this is just me learning that people aren't nice and it only seems like it's Germany because I've only lived before in little happy college towns and neighborhoods. But it's really getting on my nerves.

update: I got the story above wrong. It was not a wallet, but a keychain that was found with the coat and cell phone and trashed.

1 comment:

G in Berlin said...

This is not normal. It certainly is not acceptable to any of my German family or to any of our friends. In the US, we have found wallets and returned them. We have left purses in bars and restaurants and the staff held them for us or even called us. However, a babysitter stole my ipod and my camera (including the chip with all the photos) from my apartment in Berlin and it does make me wonder whether there is a difference. And another (formerly) East German stole money. And I wonder if the difference also lies between East and West Germany. Because my husband and his family and all their friends, are honest and decent. But then I decide instead that some people are crap. And I would stay away from them. And I would, in my forthright American way, post what happened to my detergen in a note on thewall in the laundry and ask that the person who stole it revive your belief in German honesty and replaceit with a new box, left on your machine, with your name on it. Because that's how mad I would be.