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Lifestyle and Expenditures of a Public Servant's Family in Berlin (1889)

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The family’s amusements are as simple as one can imagine. Yet they are flavored with the cheerfulness of the housewife, a buoyant native of the Rhineland, who has passed down a good deal of her blithe nature to her children. On nice days, the family takes walks; in the summertime, they make three to four outings to the surrounding area; sometimes they go to the Zoologische Garten,* the concert hall, or, very seldom, to a theater. In the evenings, reading out loud is a frequent after-dinner pursuit. Socializing with familiar, closely acquainted families does not impose any great expense, and there is only one party thrown per year – it is one of the well-known “feedings,” the highlight of which is the moment when the last guest is led down the stairs by the maid-of-all-work.

With rare exception, the family clothing is always made at home; only coats and jackets are bought off the rack. The hardest trick is keeping the boys’ garments in order. If possible, the father’s jacket and trousers are handed down to the eldest son as a matter of course, and sometimes even from him to the youngest one. [ . . . ]

A paid summer vacation is out of the question. A lady related to the head of the household owns a little urban estate in Silesia, however; and this is where the father and daughter, or mother and sons stay for a few weeks each year. On holidays, this elderly lady also sends small amounts of money to members of the family, with whom she is very taken, or she enriches the pantry with an agreeable bounty of fruit, poultry, or sausages.

The pub hardly plays a role in the gentleman’s life. Only once a week does he meet with an association of peers that pursues more serious goals than the quenching of thirst. In order to economize, he has almost completely given up smoking. These facts suggest why the amount he has fixed for himself is so low, and why, still, less than half of it is used in some months.

* Berlin's Zoo – trans.

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