I have officially been living in Germany for 8 months. Sometimes it feels like we just moved yesterday. We slung our two suitcases around town in one hand with a dog leash in the other, marveling at the weather and the flowers everywhere. Other times it feels like we've been here for years. We've traveled so much (for me at least) that it feels like surely we've lived here for long enough to see 14 countries. The wonderful thing about Europe is your proximity to other countries. I can hop on a bus and be in France. A train and be in Italy. An hour or so flight and be in England or Bulgaria. Travel is inexpensive and highly accessible, which is precisely why we moved abroad.
In November I wrote my first installment of what I've learned about Germans since moving to Germany, but I thought it's high time to write some more. It's so interesting to me that the world can sometimes seem so small. The power of the internet means we can easily feel influenced by similarities from around the world. But I still love that cultures have such large differences. Even though I'm only a few hours from Paris, it's a totally different language and lifestyle. Europe is so much older than America, which means their ways of life emerged before the car. So they were able to develop and solidify their customs. To me, this is fascinating and makes my travels and what I learn even more interesting. So with that, here's the second installment of what I've learned.
– There is SO MUCH time off.
The most incredible part of working in Germany is the number of days off. It's downright shocking to an American. The standard number of days off (not including public holidays or sick days) is 30. THIRTY. That's 6 weeks of vacation just to start. I remember my standard was 5 days off. When we traveled to Thailand, Michael thought it was insane that he took off 10 days. Germans (and other Europeans for that matter) do it without blinking an eye.
They also only have a standard work week of 38 hours. If you go over this, you get paid time and half or… you get over time to take more days off! In case you aren't aware, I work for myself. Which means I basically never have a day off. Though I'll keep it that way. You can see how I make money as a blogger here.
In addition, there are many holidays, sick days, and maternity leave for up to (please brace yourself for this) 3 years. My best friend in Texas is having a baby and gets a few WEEKS! I think the idea of a work-life balance here is very inherit and really, a good thing. You could basically take a job and tell them that you don't work Fridays.
– German's population is in decline.
Like many well educated countries, the population is declining. Many people are choosing not to have kids, so many in fact, it's hurting the populace. This study says that by 2060 the census will fall by 19%! If you do have kids in Germany, you get paid an extra stipend (of 200 Euro) each month. This is to of course help with costs but to also increase the likelihood of Germans reproducing.
-Going to the grocery store is an experience.
America is all about convenience. I think this is a good thing. The grocery store, as an example, is neat and easy to find items with people that help bag your groceries most of the time. In Germany, you pay for a cart, try to squeeze down the aisles as they are stocking groceries at odd hours in the day, and then do a quick Hail Mary before loading your items up on the belt. Don't get me wrong, food is CHEAP. Really cheap. But the checkout process is like a Nascar race. Get everything on the belt then be ready to catch your bean sprouts and sauerkraut as they are shoveled and chucked down past the register. I once saw a checkout lady at Rewe (a big grocery store chain) fling blueberries down so fast the man wasn't ready and they all fell to the floor, berries rolling in all directions.
-Customer service isn't the top priority.
Every culture around the world is different. I am not saying one is bad or good, just contrasting. In Germany customer service is not as important. A waiter might take your order and bring your food, then you won't see them again for an hour or three. Same goes for any customer facing job. Once Michael was trying to buy a car. He went to a dealership and told him what he wanted, “No, we don't have that today. Bye.” To me, you wouldn't turn someone away trying to spend thousands on a car. You wouldn't close up shop in the middle of the day. But Germans do.
– There is insurance for EVERYTHING.
You can have pet insurance, car insurance, even lawyer insurance. So, if someone sues you, you can be ready with a lawyer.
-They drink sparkling over still.
Waiters, once they find out my German is poor, always ask: do you want water with gas or without? Meaning, sparkling or not. When I'm thirsty I don't want bubbly water. But they seem to just love it. They also seem to drink much less than Americans. I drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. The lack of hydration doesn't seem to bother Germans.
-You need to drive a stick shift.
Back when Michael and I started dating (at the tender age of 17) he taught me to drive a stick. I hated it. I'll fully admit I'm not the best driver. Having the addition of a clutch and a shifter made it all the more challenging. I cursed at him almost every time he made me drive, but now I'm thankful for it. Almost every car here is a stick. And if it's not, you pay extra for it.
– Germans are blunt.
Or better yet, they think I'm overly eager. I tend to use lots of superlatives (that's the best cake ever! It's an absolutely perfect day!) and to Germans this means I'm being over the top. I've been told that an American stereotype they subscribe to is that Americans think everything is just great. But really, we simply think this is polite. I'll never forget a friend telling me that I was so casual and how I never really did my hair. I was taken aback and a bit hurt, but then realized she's just telling the truth!
-They are fit.
Every Sunday I wake up and take the dogs on their morning walks. There are literally hundreds of people running past in the park. Germans have a love of the outdoors and stay in shape by working out often.
-You need a license.
Want to go fishing? You need a license. Want to go hunting? License please. Want to go… golfing? Get a license. This practice cracks me up. But for the most part it's to ensure people are following the rules (rule following is a German past-time).
-You can acceptably drink at any time of the day.
In America, after 5pm is a typical time. Sure, on the weekends and special occasions we might day drink. But in Germany it's perfectly normal to have a beer at lunch, even during work. I think German's attitudes about drinking is really wonderful. They are pro drinking, just not pro over drinking, from what I can see. They learn to drink earlier, legal drinking age is 16 but they learn to drink at home even before that. I think this instills a bit of responsibility and limits over indulgence.
-Getting a visa is not easy.
I can't wait to FINALLY tell you all about my experience of getting a visa. Lots of people tell me they want to move to Germany. Well, you don't waltz on in to any country and expect to live there. It's really really hard. Of course, it's been totally and completely worth it. But it's also been difficult. Stay tuned for that post. I get butterflies just thinking about it.
Living in Germany has taken a lot of adjusting, but it's been extremely worth it. I love this life and I still pinch myself that I get to live abroad.
Want to see more of what I've learned about Germans since moving to Germany? Check out part 1 here: