By now you may have noticed that our life in Germany is normal for the most part. Sure, we live a days drive to the several of the western worlds cultural centers of art, history and fashion and we enjoy the unique opportunities we have to visit these places. For the most part, though, we lead a very normal, unexciting life. Weekends are spent doing the usual things: laundry, grocery shopping, dinner with friends, sweeping the sidewalks outside every Saturday. “What’s that?” you ask “sweeping the sidewalks on Saturday?”
Ah yes, let me share with you one of the many interesting traditions you adapt to while living in another country. It is called Kehrwoche, and basically means “sidewalk duties.” If you were to drive through our village on a Saturday afternoon you would likely see the streets lined with people, brooms and dustbins in hand sweeping the sidewalks and gutters in front of their homes. Driver’s have to maneuver the streets carefully, because there are people in the streets literally sweeping the gutters.
This isn’t just expected of the young, you will see men and women that look like they stood up from their wheel chairs just to fulfill the Kehrwoche!
I used to have a cynical attitude towards it, sort of like “oh please, I have better things to do with my weekend.” Over the last year however my perceptions of this have changed. What I see today is a tradition that fosters pride in ones home and provides an opportunity for neighbors to get to know each other ( I think this is a lost set of values in the states). No, I am not always very faithful to my sidewalk duties. I’ll forget about it until Sunday night- which is too late because to sweep the sidewalk on a Sunday is a big No No (another value Americans have left by the wayside…not working on Sundays). It becomes a social event usually, and I can say that I do know who my neighbor’s are.