It’s been 2 months now that Andy and I have been together in Germany, and I would love to say that it’s been all rosy. I’m as an old co-worker used to say, a ‘keep it real-ist’. So for my friends at home, or those that wonder what it’s like living in Germany, I’m here to give you the deets from my honest perspective.
First, I have to say that we feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity, and live in a country as great as Germany. We will get to travel and see things that we never thought we would be able to see, and experience another culture. We’ve also been so lucky to get into a nice home, and have some instant friends here that have helped us get acclimated and listened when we’ve needed to vent.
But here’s where I’ll get real: despite all the fun travel adventures and new experiences, there are just as many moments of loneliness, fear, and feeling homesick. You don’t hear that side of the story very often. As it turns out, a photo of someone ugly-crying into their pillow or clutching their chest during a panic attack doesn’t typically make for great Instagram posts. I’ve had to give myself lots of grace in not being okay all the time. I’ve also had to remind myself that I’ve climbed taller mountains, and I can climb this one too.
Now, that you know where I am emotionally, I’ll give you some tidbits on German life according to Christan…
The language barrier is real.
If there’s any tip I could give to someone moving to another country, it’s learn the language ASAP! Prior to our move, I did some online lessons, but didn’t have the time to really dive into language classes. I’m currently on a wait list to get into an intensive course, but the time in between moving here and learning the language has been hard! Feeling ill-equipped to communicate in day to day life makes simple tasks feel so much bigger and harder. Last week, I was sick as well as our dog, and the thought of trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment and veterinarian appointment not knowing if the receptionists or doctors would speak English was daunting!
You follow the rules.
Germany is notorious for being very rule-based and unafraid to tell you if you are breaking a rule. Coming from the United States, and Texas, in particular, I feel like we have a bit of a ‘devil may care’ attitude and feel very comfortable pushing the envelope and challenging rules. But in Germany, rules were created to make the country an organized, safe place to live, and everyone is expected to follow them.
Many of them have been easy to get behind. Don’t cross the street on a red light. Okay, that makes sense. When you’re driving on the highway and merge to one lane, there is a rule that you merge like a zipper. And EVERY SINGLE PERSON does the ‘zipper’ like kind, emotionally stable human beings. How handy would that have been in Houston traffic? I love this rule.
But there are some rules that just don’t make much sense to me. But even when my unruly heart wants to put up a challenge, I remember that I’m a Christian first, a guest in this country second, and that I don’t know enough German to win an argument!
Everything is bigger in Texas.
Except for the beer and the schnitzels, that is! When we were in Texas, we were living in a very small house for Texas standards. Now we’re in about half of that space. Our kitchen is only big enough to fit the four trash cans we require to properly recycle (that could be another post), our refrigerator is smaller than most wine coolers, and our freezer is about the size of a bread box. I’m not going to lie, I REALLY miss my big, open kitchen with an island, and my big stainless refrigerator. But I’m learning to appreciate the more minimalist way of living. We aren’t tempted to fill our place with more STUFF, so we have more time to focus on the important things.
Sundays are sacred.
That means that most stores, including grocery stores are CLOSED. You have to be very strategic to make sure you make your grocery and drug store runs before Sunday. Also, Sundays are quiet. You are expected to not run your lawn mower, vacuum, or drills. It’s intended to be a day for church, family and rest. I happen to really love this rule. When we were in the US, on Sundays we would go to church, but then Andy and I would go our separate ways. I would go to Target (duh), Andy would go to Lowe’s, and then we would probably not truly spend time together until the evening. Now we rest and spend time together – we take the dog on walks, we read books, or just catch up on Netflix and naps. This is a habit that I sure hope we can keep when we move back.
Germans are green.
No, they’re not actually green like the color, but they are very into recycling and energy efficiency. We now recycle with four different bins for the different types of recyclables. Air conditioning and clothes dryers are far less common. That’s right. Being from Texas, the thought of living without A/C is terrifying! But here, most summers the weather doesn’t get too warm, so you just crack a window or get outside. This last summer was a bit of an exception! And yes, we live life without a clothes dryer! I hang my clothes out to dry outside on a line during the summer and inside in the furnace room during the winter. This is not my favorite chore.
Public transportation is common.
Germany, like a lot of Europe, has wonderful public transportation. Many people rely on the local buses to jet around town easily, and the trains to travel regionally and even across Europe. Since we are only here for 18 months, we chose to fully embrace public transportation and not purchase or bring over a vehicle. This is really handy, although I do miss the ability to just hop in my car and go to Trader Joes. And it makes grocery shopping more difficult since I can only purchase what I can carry home! What I don’t miss is fighting that crazy Houston traffic with people who don’t know how to merge civilly, like the Germans.
Restaurant service is very different.
First, most restaurants require you to make reservations. The reason for this is because they believe that once you have a table at a restaurant, it’s yours for the night. No one will push you along to hurry and get out so they can seat someone else. Once you order and are served, the server is very likely not going to come around and ask if you need anything. They feel it is interrupting and rude, so servers tend to leave you alone unless flagged down. And finally, cash is king! That goes for restaurants and pretty much anywhere in Germany! Even many restaurants are cash only.
The world has felt a little turned upside down over the last few months, learning to fit into a new culture. I miss so many of the conveniences of home, but I know that this is a season and one where we are sure to grow and also have some amazing experiences. Prayers, chemical-laced cold meds, and Trader Joes paraphernalia still being accepted.