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What I’ve Learned About Germans Since Living In Germany

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.

girls_sweatshirt_helene

Sweatshirt (similar) // Leggings // Socks // Boots // Lip Color

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.

Misconceptions

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.

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Germany is all about beer. Yes, beer is a big deal here. But guess what else is… wine. No, really. Baden-Württemberg, 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?

Want more?! Here's PART 2 Of what I've Learned About Germans Since Living in Germany.

Comments

We lived in Garmisch for 3 years and got some cool stuff by “junking.” People would leave their discards on the curb and have to pay the city to pick them up. If there was something there that we could use, we’d pop it into the back of the car. We also got lots of cool stuff, including antiques, vintage stuff, wonderful coats, etc. at the flohmarkts or an occasional yard sale. One large antique store had monthly auctions/estate sales and we loved going to those. My engagement ring actually came from one estate sale along with furniture, coats, Christmas pyramids, dishes, rugs, etc. Reading your blog makes me want to move back to Germany!
Sue

This is too great! Moving to from London to Berlin in a week and so excited! I have found that generally the whole ‘people from [insert country here] are so rude’ argument always fail when you travel with an open heart. Also, jaywalking is pretty much life in London…we’ve only visited Berlin for a couple of weeks but the way everyone waits for the green man to cross the road is UNBEARABLE! It’s so funny and frustrating all at once!

Discovering all the differences is what makes it an incredible life adventure! I’ve discovered so much since living in Colombia, even when I am from another latin american country, but we still have so many differences. Some times it’s cool, other times it isn’t. Personally, I love tasting all the food.

The area you’re living in is called Baden-Wuerttemberg 😉

That’s the best part of traveling/living in a different country – the differences, right?! Why move if it’s the same as here, lol – I LOVE the idea of just a flat fitted sheet and a duvet/comforter! 30+ years ago, my family discovered this in England and our beds have been like that ever since. Just roll up in the duvet, and you’re golden, hahaha 😉

Sounds lot like Italy esp the ice! I went thru a whole week in Italy where at every meal my uncle would joke- where’s the ice?

Oh they do have garage sales, but they band together in groups, and it’s called a Flohmarkt. People put signs up around the neighbourhood about them ahead of time – but they tend to be themed, like baby stuff or clothes. Also, there’s a great FB group called Sell Your Stuff Heidelberg where people seem to get rid of all sorts of things – lots of furniture. But you do have to go and get it yourself. Maybe use a Stadtmobil or something. Just FYI, it’s Baden-Württemberg… I was putting the ‘r’ in the wrong place for months… x

It’s spelled right. She doesn’t have the ü on her keyboard and used ue instead. fYI

No actually, it’s Württemberg. M instead of N, two Ts and only one R. It’s wasn’t the umlaut that was the issue.

You’re so right!! I changed it, thank you!

Johanna Braunschweiger

Thank you for seeing us as wie are. You are correct in everything. Sauerkraut? Yes. Potatoes? Yes. Spaetzle? Oh yes, please. Closed shops on Sundays? Thanks heavens for that. Outdoor activities? The best. Recycling? It nicht be annoying sometimes. But our world has restricted resources and even more restricted dump space. And we don’t want to leave the world a dump for the next generations, do wie?
Thanks again for your correct and kind words.

Hi Helene! This is such a great post to read and all the comments to see how there are other people doing the same thing as me! Its really cool to find a community of people all experiencing the same thing and adjusting to German life together! I am in Braunschweig and have been here for the past year and a few months now. I definitely have had some of the same thoughts as you. the no sheets thing is crazy to me too! it was so funny when my parents came for a visit, they couldn’t sleep without one and asked if we could go to the store to get one. I told them you won’t find one here, its just not a thing. They were so baffled! Ive learned so much already though and really love it here. As for the stereotype that Germans are unfriendly I also have to agree that they are so much more friendly than they think! Everyone is so helpful! Cant wait to keep reading more from you 🙂

I’ve been living in Germany for over a year. Just wanted to point a few things out. First of all, there is also a Glühwein made from white wine. It’s delicious, but hard to find. You should also try Feuerzangenbowle, which is served to you literally on fire. Second, Germans do wear shorts; they just wear them earlier in the year. I think mid-August was the last time I saw a German wearing shorts. You were just too late for them. The third thing – and I noticed someone already mentioned them – is that there are no garage sales because they instead take their junk to a Flohmarkt. If you want to go the the ultimate Flohmarkt (and I bet you do) then come to Konstanz next summer. The Flohmarkt is once a year, 24 hours straight, and runs along the Rhine, over the Rhine, through Altstadt, and all the way across the Swiss border into Kreuzlingen. You should also come to Konstanz in general because it’s an amazing city, but I may be biased. 😉

I love this!! You have seriously inspired me to move….abroad! I have been searching for positions everywhere. Thank you for being such a great inspiration!

[…] writes about what she’s learned about Germans since moving to Germany! Very interesting […]

I can’t agree more! I’ve been in Koln for a month and will be here for a month more and I love the food and the people. We have 6-7 Christmas markets! They are truly crazy about it. But everyone is nice and friendly, they joke with us and it’s honestly been welcoming here!

I also forgot to tell you to look for a “Flohmarkt” – a flea market is a great place to get stuff for cheap. Now that it is winter, they will be harder to find, but meandering through German flea markets was one of my FAVORITE Saturday activities – absolutely fascinating and entertaining, regardless of whether or not you find something! I also sold a bunch of our stuff on ebay Kleinanzeigen – like an online flea market. Some people will even deliver (we only sold stuff to people who could pick it up themselves: Selbstabholer). The Facebook Verkaufsgruppen are also great resources for cheaper used stuff – I was part of one in Karlsruhe but I am sure there are ones in HD as well. (for the record, the “Kruschtelmarkt” in Karlsruhe-Durlach is one of the best small flea markets IMO)

Hi there and welcome to Heidelberg! I just left after 8 years of living in the area and it’s been interesting transitioning to life in the US. Reading your post made me miss Germany and especially Heidelberg. If you haven’t yet, you should go by the DAI (near Bismarckplatz – the German-American Institute) it’s where I worked for the last 6 and a half years and it’s a great place to get to know people and get involved (the sewing cafe on Tuesday afternoons in the Makerspace is my baby 🙂 it is free and open to beginners and experts alike plus everyone there is SO nice!)

This is so interesting! Especially being cold at 70 degrees! That’s like the perfect temperature here in Tennessee! And the food sounds amazing!

oh i love that Tennessee temperature!!

I loved the curry wurst, like borderline obsessed. We had the greatest German red wine in Berlin recommended at a nice restaurant we went to, and I can’t for the life of me remember the name. I think Gengenbach is pretty close to you and apparently they have the largest advent calendar made from the windows of their rauthaus. I would thoroughly enjoy all the Christmas decorations and that spiced wine, sounds yummy!

I have only just tried a bite and i need some more!! AHH if you do remember the name, let me know! and we were JUST talking about advent calendar! I’ll have to check that out! thank you so so much!

I love this! I’ve been living through you on snapchat so this was very interesting for me. I like hearing the differences between us and the Germans. PS, did you get that fence built? haha I felt sorry for you when I saw that snap.

ahh you are so sweet!! YES! we got the fence built! i NEED TO SNAP IT!! thanks for the reminder!

I think I could get used to having two comforters….my husband is a notorious blanket hogger! Haha! But I need the top sheet. Also we never carry cash, so that’s good to know. We plan on travelling to Germany next summer, your posts make me so excited!

haha i love snuggling, we are weird like that. girl you are going to love it!

It’s so cool to read about the differences between German and American culture. I love how into recycling they are! My neighborhood here doesn’t even have it. Sidenote: I love spatzel!

spatzel is my JAM. i am obsessed.

It must be a big cultural shock to move from the US to Europe (and the other way round of course). I also have one, thank God positive – and I was only moving within Europe (from the Czech Republic to Switzerland). I´m living in the German part of Swizterland (3hrs from Heidelberg :)) and the Swiss are in some points similar to German (but they don´t like hearing about that :)) They recycle also aluminium cans (incl. Nespresso cups!), old CDs, water filters etc :O

As for garage sales: there may be shops with old/used/antique furniture – try to look for “Brockistube”

And the last thing: recently I´ve also writen a blog post about Living abroad, so it would be kind of you if you could take a moment to read it, ev. leave a comment 😉
https://adinajustina.blogspot.ch/2016/11/zivot-v-zahranici-realita-vsedniho-dne.html

it is for sure! and there really aren’t any here- we’ve asked! I will definitely check you out!

I think I’d go crazy waiting to cross the street. As soon as it’s clear I book it across the street. Depending on traffic I even cut cars off to cross if I’m rushing. They would probably look at me like I’m a lunatic in Germany! I really want to visit Germany after reading all your posts. Seems like such an interesting and fun country.

oh girl, I GO! haha don’t even worry, i can’t handle it!

Oh, be careful with that! Germans don’t cross the street until the light gives the okay because they think it’s important for adults to set good examples for the children. Yes, you can get a ticket for crossing on red, but the main reason they wait is because they don’t want to teach kids that it’s okay to break the rules!

I’m aware of why! but if no one is around I do not wait. Or if there are no kids around haha

I’m a sensitive person…and I don’t think I’d like someone telling me that I was wrong or just pointing at me. Ya know? And the whole cash thing…I NEVER carry cash!
xo, Lily
Beauty With Lily

i am too, but it was more funny because i couldn’t even understand him!

Wow reading about these cultural differences is super interesting! I am so that person that waits for a walk sign even when there aren’t any cars coming, haha. Christmas markets will be so phenomenal!

haha no way! you’d fit right in 🙂

I studied in Germany so I can agree with lots of these. Czech Rep does many of the same things, including, what I always called “German comforters”. I suppose I am neutral on the issue, although yeah, it is kind of weird getting used to no top-sheet but on the plus side, there’s no comforter tug-of-war, so that’s good 😉 The no credit card thing is by far, the most annoying thing about Germany!

see but we don’t turn on the heat, so we snuggle up! that’s my favorite part of winter haha!

This is my favorite thing about talking to people from different cultures. It’s so crazy to stumble across things like the shape of pillows in conversation…bizarre little things that are so different, but still not. It’s weird. More of this please!

yes! so so true! it is the little things that are so strange haha!

I think you’re fine carrying just cards in big cities, but yeah, you kinda need cash for a lot of things in smaller cities in Europe, unfortunately.

I’ve had such good experiences with people everywhere, honestly. When I was in Bremen someone offered me help as well when I was lost. When I was in Paris, at least six separate men offered to help me with my ridiculously heavy luggage down the metro stairs without me having to ask. I love nice people.

But Heidelberg isn’t tiny! And even in Munich they wouldn’t accept cards at some restaurants, it’s crazy!
And I’m glad to hear that everywhere people are basically good 🙂

John doesn’t believe in top sheets either, must be all the German in him 🙂 (His mom’s maiden name is Koegler.)
I’m half German and I love German food and beer. All the delicious carbs. I would eat everything in sight and be giant!

OMG haha no way! Seriously the food here is incredible.

I’ve been reading up in Germany since we’re moving there in May and I gotta say I’m looking forward to their recycling! We live in Texas right now and it drives me crazy how no one recycles!

I feel like the no ice thing might be common outside the US, I know in Chile we never put ice in our drinks and that’s something that I’m still not used to even after 12 years of living in the US ?

In texas?! I’m from Dallas and I feel like people do. Nothing like here tho!

I can’t say Heidelberg was high on my list until reading this post!! It sounds like Germany is very honest, but genuine and kind. Sounds like a breath of fresh air to me. Adding this to the top of my list of places to visit. Also- great work on the pizza cutter, would be my top priority as well!

Oh i am so glad to hear that!! It’s seriously a magical place. And you know I needed that pizza cutter.

Yay for cultural differences! And after two years in Europe, I LOVE having two different comforters and no top sheet 🙂 but it was a strange adjustment! Budapest has a few Christmas markets already–but no one beats Germany’s! We’ll be there for a few days before Christmas because they are unmissable! 😉

haha yes! I love seeinging the differences! oh how cool that they do christmas markets there too!

It takes some guts moving to Europe. Jake and I have been thinking about it but it will be so hard leaving behind family. Loving all of your pictures. Eat your heart out!

-Anita
http://www.theaveragegirlchronicles.com

Family can visit! just remember that 🙂 it’s been crazy and hard but also worth it.

It’s so fun learning about a new country and their culture. I love reading about your adventures in Germany! My boyfriend’s always wanted to visit because he’s a fan of beer, but now that I know Germany is all about wine too, I’ll have to drag him along to wine tastings if we ever visit!

Bryn || The Wine Chronicles

omg yes! i sear the region of Baden Wurtenburg has just as much wine (maybe more) as beer!

I visited Germany several times once in the summer and once at Christmas time. I have to say that my favorite was at Christmas. We visited Nuremberg and the kris kindle market. It was awesome and yes I did have the glüwein that was served right out of a big barrel with chestnuts roasting alongside. It was like a fairy tale. All the towns were elaborately decorated for Christmas I also remember seeing all the bike riders in the summer and couldn’t believe how many used that form of transportation to get to work! You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful country!

I can’t wait to see Christmas here!! I have never been to europe this time of year so I’m excited to see!

It all sounds so great! Except for the ice and the bedding. On my two brief trips to Europe that was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. No ice? Craziness. How do they have a refreshing drink in the summer?

Drinks usually get served cooled. Some put 2-3 ice cubes into your glas while others dont do it because the drink comes out of the fridge. But you can order ice cubes for free if you want, you just have to tell the waiter. Germans dont get used to get their glass filled from the bottom to the top with ice cubes – and i think its because in germany you dont get free refills.

haha so true, the ice thing to me is ODD!

What a fun read! I’m Dutch and I do recognise some of the points. Bad food in Germany, oh then they just haven’t eaten at the right place. Whenever you’re in Amsterdam drop me a message 🙂

haha such a good point! I usually always love the food everywhere haha. And Amsterdam is very very high on my list to go back to!

Let me know when you go!! xx

I love hearing others’ takes on different parts of the world. Sounds like you guys are enjoying yourself so far!

we really are! it’s been very different, but so fun!

Christmas in Germany is magical! So excited for you to experience it! And you’re so right about trash/recycling. My great grandmother’s trash can was a COFFEE TIN back in the day (in Germany)! They don’t waste a thing!

hahaha omg! that’s so hilarious!

This is totally interesting about Germany! We moved from Toronto to Vancouver and there are still differences even though it’s still the same country – like Vancouver’s obsession with fireworks. They will find ANY excuse to set off fireworks at all hours of the night.

oh that’s so cool! I like that even though the world can seem so small, we all have our differences!

My husband and I are really hoping we get military orders to Germany!!!

I’ve never been to Germany but I found this post very enlightening and interesting. Hopefully I’ll make it there someday! I love that they are really into Christmas and the outdoors.

Yes! It’s a definite must, so much fun!

I legit brought American pillows and a top sheet back with me one time and they are glorious – people always compliment my bed here too so I think Americans win the bed battle. Although I think it’s cool how there are no box springs here, the wood contraption seems to work just fine. Sure you will continue to be baffled, but I mega disagree – I love the recycling! I feel like it is a little thing I can do to help and the Pfand is brilliant and great for helping the homeless population while also cleaning up.

haha okay okay good point!!

Awww, love that they go nuts w/the Christmas decor. That’s my kind of place! I enjoyed reading your observations and sorry to hear you got yelled at. Yikes!

I am so excited to finally see it in action! and it was no big deal, honestly we laughed!

Germany has never really been on my bucket list, but you might just have convinced me to add it! I would definitely love to go during the month of December because I LOVE Christmas.

So before we moved it wasn’t high on my list. I knew I’d always want to go, but I wasn’t sure about it. I WAS SO WRONG. It is seriously beautiful (munich compares to Paris to me) and great food and just a wonderful place to visit!

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