This brings me to another expensive observation - Money is easy to spend when you have no idea what it's worth. I mean, look at those Euros. Am I spending money or playing Monopoly? On base, they use dollars and I'm paid in dollars, so since I plan to take plenty of trips off base, I need to stay highly aware of what value the money I'm spending has.
I have read Europeans don't tip like Americans do in restaurants. On the plane to Heathrow, an Italian woman named Cecilia sitting beside me told me Europeans don't tip at all unless the service is truly extraordinary. Instead, restaurant workers are paid a fair wage by their employers (can you imagine? Barbarians...), but I don't know how it works for cabbies. The trip cost 42€, so I gave the cabbie 45€ and waited to see if he would give me change. He did not, which led me to assume he was taking a 3€ tip. I didn't know if he would do that for a German, so to test it I tried giving him another 5€. He immediately and urgently refused the money. He assured me I had tipped him enough (he only spoke German, but I read it in his face.) So perhaps tipping is not customary at all in cabs, because he seemed kind of guilty about the initial tip, as though he felt he was suckering an ignorant American but would only take it so far. I don't think I've ever met an American cab driver who would refuse a large tip. At most, if he's a great guy he might ask "are you sure?" but only because he already knows you ARE sure.
This is one of several experiences leading me to believe Germans are just not hung up on money. Who turns down a tip? Especially in a down economy (Germany is hurting a bit right now) and with everything in Europe being so damn expensive, and while driving a presumably "wealthy" American who you'll probably never see again.
One time I had bought a pack of cigarettes in New York for about $15 - maybe a bit more. Usually I bought my smokes from a bootleg discounter, but on this occasion I spent the full amount at a store on Grand St. near LP & Harmony in East Williamsburg. I was pissed about the price as I packed the tobacco tighter in the pack. A German tourist asked if she could have one, and I refused - explaining they were too expensive to share. I regret being such a poor ambassador to this woman , but it made sense to me at the time. But I remember her face - it wasn't anger, but shock. She was confused as to how I could be so money-hungry as to deny her ONE cigarette, because to Germans money is just a resource, not the meaning of our existence. I suppose I'm starting to understand that.
Check out the video below to see where the cab drove me. (It's an adorable you tube piece about a Stuttgart Vape Store that lasts about 40 seconds too long...)
My cab driver could not find the corner of Olgastraße and Jakobstraße, even with the GPS. This demonstrates how difficult the city of Stuttgart is to navigate (much much more on that later). He made three or four u-turns and eventually got me about a block away. I figured out his mistake and walked the block - no big deal. I spent five minutes checking out the store, then asked the vape store guy "Sprechen Sie Englisch," bought the Vape charger for 4€ and left the store.
After that, I stopped for a few minutes and sat on the curb admiring an sweet old couple. He was buying flowers for her on a lovely little street as they walked in the brisk autumn air. I'm no softy, but this one really hit me in the feels. I hope one day I can be an old man buying flowers for my old wife because I still love her after a million years.
On that same sidewalk, I saw a German guy walking what I believe to be a West Highland terrier, although his ears were a little floppy, so I'm not sure. It reminded me of my Father's West Highland mix, Chiquito, who died when I was about 11 or 12.
I wanted to get a picture of his owner, because he was a fun old German guy. Super friendly, as you might imagine someone with such a dog might be, but it would have been weird to ask him if I could take his picture in a language he couldn't understand, so I resisted the urge.
Anyway, the reason I explained all that is to say this. While I was petting him, that cab driver called out to me. He had been driving up and down Olgastr for more than ten minutes to tell me he dropped me off in the wrong place. He finally found me to tell me he was one block off when he dropped me off and give me directions to the correct intersection.