Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sind sie reich?

My friend Rebecca and I 'share' a cleaner, that is we both use the same woman.
Larissa is Latvian and 39 (I think) and hates Germans so why she chooses to live here year after year I don't know (although I would guess it's related to money) leaving her two children living with her mother in Latvia.

Larissa has opinions on most things (in that she is very German) and whenever Rebecca and I are together you can guarantee that at some point the conversation will touch on Larissa and something she has done/said/advice given...you get the picture.

This morning we were talking about Christmas (7 weeks to go) and I told her how my parents will be here for Christmas and then Simon's parents are here for New Year, we wont have all 4 together - although the house is big enough there is only 1 proper guest room so it's easier all round when there is no overlap. I thought that was the end of the conversation but a few minutes later she asked 'are they rich?' I thought I'd misheard so said 'bitte?' (=pardon) and she went on to ask whether they owned their own house...

Now this really is no business of hers and to be honest, just because someone owns their own house doesn't make them rich - lots of people live in houses that are pretty much owned by the bank. If I'd had this conversation in English (although you would never have this kind of conversation in England as it's quite taboo - talking about money...) I'd have told her how although both sets of parents do own their own houses all that they have, they worked their arses off for during their working lives, my dad sold his pride and joy of a sports car in order to have a deposit for their first house and I don't think either set of parents would describe themselves as 'rich', comfortable - maybe, but rich, no.

But here in Germany the housing situation is very different to the one I grew up with in England.
Here they buy a house (if they ever do, there is a HUGE rental market here) and then they live in it forever, until they're carried out of it feet first I think. So often people who have a large disposable income from their very good job have a little house that they've maybe or maybe not extended, but they don't move. Whereas in England they move, you buy a small house that you can just about afford and when you have more money you buy somewhere bigger & maybe in a better location then later on you repeat the process.

So maybe to Germans we look rich, living here in Germany in what is not a small house in a very nice part of Kettwig, but I'd say no, we're not rich, comfortable - yes, rich - no!

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