You guys, I live in Germany. Sometimes I say this out loud and I kind of freak out. Because… what?! It’s still very surreal and cold to me. The weather has officially changed and I was not prepared. At all. But it’s okay because we have a house, a yard, and two very happy dogs. And I take an extremely brief walk and I’m in the heart of the city.
I thought it’s high time that I share with you some observations and what I’ve learned about the German culture since moving here. I think what I’ve loved about actually living here, instead of just visiting, is what learning about their cultural differences.
Hanging on our street… like a cool kid.
Before I moved, I had never even stepped foot in Germany. Which is crazy because it’s full of so much rich history, beauty, and really incredible people. But before moving, I asked, “What is Germany like?” And plenty of people gave me their two cents or what they’ve heard. While some of it was strikingly accurate, a lot of it was wrong.
Everyone told me the food was bad. “It’s just potatoes and Sauerkraut.”
Let me tell you, yes, they have that. And they should, the best potatoes I’ve ever had in my life have been here in Germany (which means fries, potato salad, mashed potatoes, and any dish containing a potato…). But y’all, Germany food is divine. Some of the best meals I’ve ever had. When we go out to eat we try to eat at the traditional German restaurants. Every single time I’ve had phenomenal food.
On Saturday I tried this spätzle dish with cheese and onions. I thought I would die. It was like a glorified mac and cheese. Some typical German dishes are Bratkartoffeln which is fried potato slices, usually with dried bacon. Currywurst is sliced sausage, heavily seasoned, with fries. They serve a lot of hearty meals with meat and potatoes and a salad SWIMMING in dressing. That is one thing that I find hilarious, the salads have half a bottle of dressing.
Germany is all about beer. Yes, beer is a big deal here. But guess what else is… wine. No, really. Baden-Wurrtenburg, the area we live in, is a major wine region. Wine is everywhere. It’s delicious and inexpensive. During Christmas they also serve glüwein, which is a sweet red mulled wine served warm. AKA heaven.
Everyone and their mom told me that Germans were “cold” people. Meaning, unfriendly. Even when we moved to Heidelberg, many people asked us if we were getting accustomed the rudeness. I have to say, I disagree emphatically with this. Germans are kind, genuine, and helpful. Now, the service industry in general here is opposite from the US. They do not really care about helping you, getting a tip (if service at a restaurant is truly exception you can leave a couple euros), or making sure you are satisfied. Not a thing here.
However, with that said, people have been very nice. The other day we were walking around the city next door to Heidelberg, Mannheim, and we were looking for a restaurant. A man stopped us and asked us, in English (apparently, I look very American, or so I’m told), if we needed help. “Oh no,” Michael replied, “just looking for a place to eat.” The man gave us a full rundown of the best restaurants in the immediate area and offered to WALK us over. People are so nice.
What I’ve Learned
Despite eating all of the above, Germans are super fit. In general, Europeans are much thinner than Americans. But Germans seems to really love the outdoors and being active. On Sundays, the stores all close (all of them), and they are seen riding, skating, and running the various paths.
It is actually cold right now, but in September and beginning of October is was very pleasant outside. But that didn’t stop Germans from breaking out their down coats, scarves, chunky sweaters, and gloves. I remember it was in the 70s and their were people on the tram with leather jackets on. I mean yes, it’s cute, but I would have been sweating bullets.
Also, they don’t wear shorts. I was wearing jean shorts and a little kid actually pointed at me in dismay. Thankfully, they are super casual. Think, jeans, tennis shoes, and lots of scarves.
The sirens are deafening. They are so loud that you can hear them from miles away. When we travel and we hear a siren Michael always says, “Oh no, someone in Heidelberg is hurt.” Because they are THAT loud.
You need to carry cash all the time. You know what, crime is SUPER low. But you know what isn’t? Pick pocketing. YEAH DUH. Everyone has to carry around cash to pay for everything. We put the first two moths rent payment on our apartment in cash. That means we carried around thousands of euros around town. This is apparently normal.
The other day Michael and I were hungry for a huge bowl of soup. But we had no cash. We are used to using out credit cards for everything (hello, points!). But we couldn’t find anywhere that would take a card. ANYWHERE. We had cold cereal for dinner that night. They also don’t like ice. At all. No ice… anywhere.
They don’t have garage sales at all. We are trying to furnish our apartment and we’d rather not spend tons of money. We don’t have a car either, so it’s also hard to carry everything home. We would love to just hit up a garage sale for cheap stuff. But that doesn’t exist. They do have something called “Recyclinghof” which is a lot like a Goodwill. You have to dig to find anything. We did get a vacuum, a toaster, and a pizza cutter. Priorities. We have yet to make pizza but we’ve made LOTS of toast.
Speaking of recycling… they are NUTS about it here. We have 5 different trash cans for our apartment. It’s insane. I do not agree with it because it’s so confusing and ends up being such a hassle. I love the environment, but come on… 5 different trash cans? Since you asked: Restmüll (trash), plastic and metal, paper, glass, bioabfall. Oh, and you take in your plastic bottles (my Coca Cola Light bottles) in to the grocery store for a pfand (a refund).
Despite my above observation of how nice people are, they do tell you when you’re in the wrong. For example, you aren’t supposed to have bikes on the tram during rush hour. We are a little confused about when rush hour is, but thought around 12pm wasn’t that time. We hopped on the train with out bikes. Unfortunately it was fairly crowded. When the doors opened at a stop, an older gentleman looked over at me and proceeded to yell for about 45 seconds. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, he spoke German, but I assumed it was about my bike on the crowded tram. He yelled even as the doors closed.
Germans think it is the right thing to do to tell you when you’re in the wrong. Americans tend not to step on toes, Germans don’t seem to have that same problem.
They are very serious about Christmas. There are decorations up EVERYWHERE right now. It’s pretty incredible. Starting in December I’ll get to experience my first Christmas markets. To say I’m excited is an understatement.
Germans ride bikes everywhere. They are also expert riders. The other day, for whatever reason, I had a brain fart and I slow motion fell to the ground (wish I was making that up.) People looked at me like I was from another planet. I deserved it. Because children zoom by me in traffic on the street. It’s cute and somewhat terrifying.
Speaking of traffic, Germans do not cross the street unless told to do so. If the sign is red, they wait. It could be poring rain and 32 degrees outside, with no cars coming, and there they are, standing still waiting for the crosswalk to signal them to cross.
Their bedding baffles me. They like to have two separate comforters (or duvets with the comforter but I still call it a comforter). They also don’t believe in top sheets and their pillows are square. This is one area I’ll have to disagree with. Top sheets keep you tucked in and I like sleeping under the same blanket as Michael.
I’m sure as I continue to live here I’ll discover more! Is there anything you’ve learned when moving to a new place?