“The thing is, I can’t date you unless you have Haftpflichtversicherung”

Dating across cultural lines is never easy, especially dating a German, as Spiegel bestselling author Adam Fletcher is about to discover.

    “Do you have Haftpflichtversicherung?” she asked as we lay in bed, naked, slowly catching our breath.
         “Do I have what now?
         “Liability insurance.”
         “Is this? What? Why? Now?” This was not the pillow talk I’d been expecting. It wasn’t pillow talk at all. Or even bedroom talk. I wasn’t sure where talk of this nature belonged. A hospital waiting room perhaps?
         “I just thought of it earlier and meant to ask,” she said, feigning innocence.
         “Is there something about having sex with me that makes you think about liability insurance?” She laughed.
         “No. Well… You know they say men think about sex every sixty seconds? I think maybe Germans think about insurance every ninety.”

         “Weird.” She nodded.
         “It is. But a lot went really wrong here in the past hundred years. So, do you?” She and I were a new… whatever it was we were. All I knew was that she entertained me, this weird, incredibly direct Ossi woman who described herself proudly as “ohne Schnickschnack”. She bit her lip.
         “The thing is, I can’t date you unless you have Haftpflichtversicherung.”
         “You are joking now, right?” I knew the answer before I’d even asked the question. When she joked, she threw her whole body into it. Subtlety was a foreign country that had never given her a visa. “Erm.” She said, groping for words of the right heft. “Sort of, I guess, no?
         “I don’t have whatever that long insurance word is, no.” She winced. It was just the bad news she’d been preparing for. A long-feared negative diagnosis had arrived. “I’ll just be worried about you all the time. Like what happens if you’re biking and you scratch the door of a really expensive shiny new Mercedes?”
         “In Leipzig?”
         “We have Mercedes,” she said, defensively.
         “Not in Plagwitz you don’t.”
         “So… well… what if the washing machine leaks and floods the apartment below and they have to replace the floors and it turns out the guy below has a priceless art collection and a dozen Fabergé eggs and the total bill is FIVE BILLION EUROS?” She sat up, her forehead creasing with deep worry lines.
         “That’s a pretty elaborate scenario you’re painting there.”
         “I’m not saying it’s imminent, just possible. Or, or, or…“ She said, winding herself up into a frenzy. “What if you accidentally kill someone’s dog?”
         “How would I?”     

         “Or borrow someone’s expensive laptop and drop it in the bath? Or borrow their car and crash it into a dog, who is on someone’s expensive laptop, in a bath, next to a leaking washing machine above someone’s apartment who has a priceless art collection and a dozen Fabergé eggs?”
         “That’s not — is this what your mind does?”
         “ALL THE TIME! Kopfkino we call it, like head-cinema? Is there an English word for that?”
         “No. Is yours just a constant stream of worse-case scenarios?” She nodded.
         “That’s dark.”
         “Not when you have correct insurances! I’m not saying you need them all. Just the big hitters - HaftpflichtHausrat. That’s for home contents. Reisen. That’s for travel and, of course, Berufsunfähig. That’s if you can’t do your job any more.”
         “But I don’t have a job.”
         “So? You will soon. Won’t you?
         “And Hausrat? I moved here with one suitcase. My room just has a mattress on the floor that the last guy left.”
         “It’s a very nice mattress though. I’m going to set you up with Robert.” Who was Robert? A friend? A former lover? A current lover? I got the first jealous pang of our relationship, if that’s what this was.
    “The Insurance Guy,” she clarified. “He advises people about insurance.”
         “Like, as a job?”
         “Yeah, of course.”
         “Like, free willingly?”
         “Yeah. Robert’s great. You’ll love him.” I had serious doubts about a person who would give the best hours of their day to insurance.
         “How do you know he doesn’t just recommend the insurance where he gets the biggest commission?”
         “He wouldn’t do that.”
         “Why wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t that make a lot of sense?”
         “You don’t lie about insurances. Insurances are serious business - almost sacred to a German. And because he’s Robert.” She took a breath, seemingly her first of the whole conversation. “The Insurance Guy,” she clarified. “I’ll set up a date for you two.”
         “I’m not meeting Robert.” I paused. “The Insurance Guy. And, if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be a date. I’ll do some research online if I have to, find something with no middleman.”
         “Okay. But you will get some?”
         “Uh-huh,” I lied. I’d only been in Germany a few months. Was I even going to stay? The subject rested. She rolled over to face the window but then suddenly spun back again.
         “But you do have health insurance, right?”I coughed. My eyes roamed my sockets.

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