The thing that has been the most difficult to get used to here has been the short shopping hours. (Thatís after you figure out what the thing you want is called in German, what kind of store sells it and where such stores are located.) The clerks have a strong union; as a result stores canít stay open later than 6:30 weekdays and 2:00 Saturdays (except for the first Saturday of each month "langer Samstag"ó when they can stay open until wowó6:00!) Of course, theyíre all closed Sunday. There are a couple of loopholes in that the airport has a supermarket that was open until 9 P.M. every day and the main train station (the Hauptbahnhof) has shops where you can buy bread and newspapers on Sunday. Fortunately restaurants seem to have few restrictions; many are open late and on Sunday, although they usually take a day off ("Ruhetag"). If not Sunday itís usually Monday, although Ruhetag for the pizza shop just around the corner is Saturday!
After a tough fight, the shopkeepers managed to get approval for longer Thursday hours until 8:30! Predictably, the newspapers report a boom in sales. However, it turns out that the extra two hours have to be removed from some other part of the week. Which will only increase the uncertainty of when stores actually are open.
Because, you may have noticed that I said that the latest open time is specified that doesnít mean that they will stay open until then. The first langer Samstag that I went shopping at a hardware store, they threw us out at 1 (their usual Saturday hours, it turned out, although their hours arenít posted). Another time I arrived at Arlt, Frankfurtís closest thing to a Radio Shack (whose catalog seems to show stores all over the world, but there arenít any here) at 4:15, 15 minutes too late. The sign on my local wine shop claims that they close every Saturday at 1, but theyíre usually there until 2 I guess thatís so no one can complain if they do leave early.
Other hours are equally strange the office where you get a residency permit is open from 7:30-1 Monday-Friday; however the place where you take your residency permit to get your work permit sometime Iíll write that story closes at 12:30. The electronic repair shop (the VCR didnít like the move fortunately weíre in Frankfurt where there is a large enough supply of US-standard TV equipment to support a repair operation) is open Monday-Friday 10-2 and 3-6. There is a videotape (US-standard) rental store near the Army base that has hours even longer than Erolís. (Also unlike Erolís, they have X-rated tapes or at least theyíre advertised that way; we havenít tried any yet to see if they really are.) The doctor where I got the chest X-ray for the residency permit is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 7-11 and 3-5, Friday 7-11 and 1-3.
The ultimate, though, has to be the Computerland in downtown Frankfurt. One lunch hour I went there to try to buy a printer ribbon and found them closed. No wonder their hours are Monday-Thursday 10-12 and 2-4 and Friday 10-12!