I’ve just spent €119 on a school bag. Yeah. Not a typo. Plus I am total cheapskate. It was on sale, reduced from €149.95. Granted the bags all come with a pencil case and gym bag included, but if you were to buy those separately it would cost around €30 for the two.I took the second cheapest one. The cheapest lightweight one. It only weighs 900g. That’s 2lbs. Empty.
I have yet to discover why Germans insist on equipping their six year olds with school bags that are so big, bulky and, most of all, heavy and expensive. But there is no alternative. We bought our bag in a run-of-the-mill chain store. If you go to a bag store you’re looking at €200 and upwards.
Buying a school bag for your child is a big deal here. I know more about school bags than I ever thought possible, having begun the research for Number One’s school bag a couple of years ago. You don’t just pick one up with your weekly shop shortly before the beginning of September, as I had assumed. Oh no. You look online, you read reviews and consumer magazines. You check weights and measures, how many reflectors are on the outside of the bag, whether it meets the norms it should. You weigh up the price against the possibility of your child suffering from back pain at such a young age. You compare prices and look for special offers. A lot of people get the grandparents or godparents to chip in too.
You see, a German school bag is an investment. It is supposed to last your child for their four years of primary school. Yes, four. The four, short but stressful years before your ten year old child is branded bright, mediocre or of limited capacity and sent off to the appropriate category of secondary school *feels blood pressure rise and jaw tighten*. But let’s leave that rant for another day.
I am not German, nor will I ever be. The choice of school bag is, for me, largely determined by which one my excited pre-schooler wants, within reason. So here I am, in November, with a school bag that cost more than twice what my handbag cost. We are organised for the first day of school ten months in advance. Is this what being German feels like?