The icy stare of a rather large German man changed my life. Whether or not he had ever showered in his life, I will never know. But I do know this, I will never make that assumption for the second time.
A group of us were flying from midwestern United States to Munich, Germany. We were a rowdy bunch of college guys bound together out of a love for soccer and were heading to the World Cup. For some, this was their first time ever leaving the country and their nerves and adrenaline were on high display. Loading up on the plane we were a bundle of barely contained excitement. But after a trans-Atlantic flight we looked more like wards on the recovery wing of a hospital.
As we were beginning to descend, our groaning and discomfort became more vocal.
“I need to stretch!” One of my teammates voiced.
“I just want to sleep.” Said another.
Then one of us mentioned our desire for a hot shower. And at this moment, my life changed forever.
My teammates sitting next to me responded, “Yah, but I heard Germans don’t even take showers…”
Immediately after the comment had left his mouth a burly German man stood up, leaned over the seat separating us, and glared down at my teammate and I. He had no idea which one of us was the culprit, but we were both in his blistering gaze.
Maintaining eye contact with our new acquaintance, my friend opened his mouth again. “…but that is just what I heard. I’m pretty sure it was just a nasty rumor.”
Soon the captain’s voice projected over the speaker and directed everyone to prepare for landing. Inside, I had already excited the aircraft and hidden under the nearest rock. Just being in the proximity of this awkward moment was more than I could handle.
The uncomfortableness aside, that experience changed me. I am forever a different person. I would like to think that I made a leap forward in my cultural intelligence, however the subsequent faux pas would suggest otherwise. But I can confidently say that from that day until now I have never again discussed in public the shower habits of Germans.