16 November 2010

On Ice Skates and the Honors System

As many of my friends can attest, I am an abyssmally bad ice skater. I have terrible balance, I'm stiff, and I am deathly afraid of falling 1.93 meters to the ground. Why then did I recently purchase a pair of ice skates here in Waidhofen and what has this story got to do with the honors system? Good questions.

2007 - My last attempt at
As it happens, the public skating rink here in town recently opened for business and I decided to investigate the possibility of buying ice skates, with the intention of potentially become a more adept skater. Although I had little intention of actually fulfilling this pipe dream, I was convinced by a local shoesalesman to buy the most expensive pair of skates he had to offer. This decision was based on:

1. My inability to argue with him in German, and
2. His impressive no-questions-asked layaway payment plan - namely the "pay for the skates later and, no, I don't need any of your personal information" payment plan.

Low-Security Vending Bag
This type of trust-based business interaction would certainly not fly in the United States and it led me to consider much rarer the honors system is in the United States than in Austria, at least small-town Austria.  For example, my apartment required no security deposit, self-service vegetable/schnapps stands do not suffer from theft, and most Austrians purchase tickets for the underground even though you can usually get away without paying.  Newspapers are sold out of funny-looking, easy-to-pilfer bags (left) and many doors go unlocked.  In general, Austrians seem to trust one another more than Americans do - something I've found rather refreshing. 

Then again, it probably wouldn't be difficult for the ice skate salesman to find a 1.93 meter ice skater who only understood American shoes sizes and spoke German like a Kindergartener, should the honors system fail to inspire prompt payment. 

And naturally today's word of the day is Eislaufschuhe - ice skates! A wonderfully German portmanteau of ice skating (eislaufen, which is itself a combination of "ice" and "running") and shoes.


  1. Hi Scott,
    four semesters of German and you speak like a kindergartener?!
    I really enjoy your blog (glad you got hooked into it in third semester Deutsch). So many of these experiences I have had, but have forgotten about, like the newspapers in a bag.
    Hope you find a good source of Gluehwein at a great Weihnactsmarkt!
    Weihnachet es schon sehr?!
    Frau Sok

  2. frau sok, i like the milka photo - my favorite type of chocolate here. there are many punschstands here in town and i've already enjoyed some Gluhwein/Gluhmost!