On my first visit back to Germany something bad got stuck in my eye. Alone on a high-speed train, I couldn’t see beyond my tears. I forced my hands off the panic button and sat still for three eternities, until we arrived in Freiburg. There I stumbled around like a sick pigeon waiting to be hit by a car.
Another couple of eternities later I plunged onto a homely sofa. Incomprehensibly, even the finest grappa does not heal sliced eyes, so later that night my friends decided to call an emergency doctor.
Back in Sri Lanka I might have had to wait for the village vet to get sober, but not so in Infrastructure-Germany. There you call a doctor at midnight and ask for help, which he renders without complaint. This doctor came promptly and got a glass splinter out of my eye. He thought that if I had waited through the night I might have lost that eye.
Thank you. What a relief. Truly grateful, I dropped a 100 euro bill into his bag, as I would have done in Asia. But the man didn’t want it.
I thought this is the usual polite “no need” and stuffed the money in his hand. Alas, now he was really offended. How dare I? He would not take any cash from me. That was illegal. Like bribery. He got so upset he might have stuck the splinter straight back into my eye.
My friends calmed him down, explaining that I had been living in South-East-Asia for many years and was not used to the German way.
Finally he accepted my apologies, and remarked that hundred euro were far too much anyway.
100 euro for my left eye too much? This professional came out of his warm bed to rescue my eye but was not allowed to accept more than the thrifty insurance would pay him. Strange customs.