The University of Iowa

Time Changes

October 3rd, 2014

By Peter Frankman

Time is different in Germany. It's more than just the 7-hour difference from Iowa, the 9-hour difference from my father in California, and the 10-hour difference from my mom in Alaska; time is more valuable here.

Understanding that everything takes at least a bit more time to do and everything closes just a bit earlier than when I might hope makes me spend all my valuable daylight rushing to get whatever it is I need for the next day.

Stores close at 7pm —19.00 Uhr I mean. That's the easiest change to adjust to, the 24-hour clock.

Stores close at 19.00 Uhr and the bus, my only form of transportation besides my feet, stops at 21.00 Uhr, well before I stop wanting to be out. This is, of course, just the weekdays I am talking about.

"Time is different in Germany... time is more valuable here."

On Saturdays the stores close at 17.00 Uhr and on Sunday the only thing that might be open besides McDonalds is a coffee shop, and that's only from 8.00 Uhr - 11.00 Uhr. And bars.

Bars are open all the time. That's just like Iowa City.

Unlike Iowa City, all the necessary places to make a night at the bars bearable (read: places to eat in the middle of the night) close at an indeterminably early hour.

Those 3am conversations in Iowa City where McDonalds is found to be the only thing open still might happen at 22.00 Uhr instead.

An inside view of Klinikum Lüneburg, the German hospital where Peter had his appendix removed.

This may or may not be limited to Lüneburg. In Hamburg there are certain neighborhoods and a lot more places open all night, but the Reeperbahn is tiring and full of prostitutes.

Calling it early seems to be a national identity, as trains stop running at midnight. A party in Hamburg therefore either stops sometime around 23.00 Uhr, or has to drag you into the dark hours of the early morning.

The worst thing about time here is hospital time. Yes, time spent in any hospital tends to be the sunk cost invested in getting better, but in German hospitals that's not always the case.

Germany is (apparently) legendary for keeping patients in Klinikum or Krankenhaus for much longer than they need to be. Procedures that are treated as outpatient in America might require a three day stay in the hospital.

This was the case with me having my appendix removed at Klinikum Lüneburg. After a long process diagnosing the problem (blood tests, sonograms, belly slapping), I then had to wait four hours for a 15-minute surgery.

…Okay, it's cool they didn't rush the surgery and kill me. That's fine.

Then it's nighttime, so I sleep it off in the hospital as best as I can.

The next day I was told three or four days in the hospital was necessary. I was encouraged to walk around, shower, and eat, all the normal things I would do at home. I could do everything but leave.

The day after this, the doctors ask how I'm feeling.

"Perfect," I lie. I'm exhausted. "Ready to go home."

They debate in German. One doctor asks if I can leave heute, meaning today. Her boss insists that morgen, meaning tomorrow, is the only option.

It was time well-spent for me to get better, but it'd be unfortunate if the reason they keep me so long was to make the money worthwhile for the hospital.

I'm already about a quarter of the way through the semester. I know that when November comes around, it'll feel like time has all slipped away. I just hope that by then I can appreciate slowing down like the Germans do.

Peter is a senior from Burbank, California, majoring in English and Journalism at the University of Iowa. He is spending his fall semester studying abroad on the USAC Lüneburg program in Lüneburg, Germany.