Once you decide to move to Germany, you will embark upon a great new adventure with a lot of unexpected changes around the bend! Once you settle down in Germany and form a routine, new habits will take shape and before you know it, you’re almost a completely different person.
Here is a little list of personal experiences of transitioning from a fast paced, commercially obsessed culture to a more relaxed, laid back old school way of life.
1. I Walk EVERYWHERE
That is, until you buy a bus pass or a car. Walking all over Germany is a great way to discover many things about Germany, especially within your new home town. Not only do you get to see more, but it is very relaxing and makes me feel healthier! I lost a lot of weight when I first moved to Germany because of the difference from driving a car everywhere to walking. Now, I can’t stop walking. Unless I am on my bike!
2. I bike!!
This time moving to Germany for longer than a year, I knew I wanted to invest in a bike. I felt like I missed out on a biking culture when I lived in Heidelberg so this was one of my first big investments upon integrating in Germany. I find that even it has become a new favorite past time to soak up the sun and rock out to my “Bike Ride Playlist!”
3. I started using cold hard cash
This took me some serious transitioning after coming from a country which is becoming more and more reliant on ATM cards and fancy apps on cell phones instead of cash. In Germany, it is possible to run into restaurants and shops which still don’t use ATM cards. It is just always better to be safe than sorry and know you have cash on you in case you go shopping or to a restaurant which still doesn’t accept VISA or EC Karte.
Not just that, but you will likely start shopping only in cash instead of using a credit card. Germans in general don’t have a love connection with their credit cards. It is commonly thought that Germans love using their cash the old fashioned way still mostly because they can keep track of their spending. (I find this backwards). Many Germans also don’t seem to trust online banking and don’t want their information out there. I on the other hand, LOVE being able to see what purchases I made immediately on my online banking statement. For me, this is easier to keep track of my money than hard cash. So, that clearly goes to show that Germans are really sticklers for protecting their privacy.
4. I grocery shop 2-3 times a week…ugh!
Many apartments in Germany still have these tiny old fashioned fridges which really only hold enough food for a few days, unless you cram everything in. It’s just easier and better to go shopping 2-3 times a week. Sometimes you can get lucky and have larger fridges, but you can kiss supersized American fridges goodbye. They are ridiculously expensive here and would fit nowhere in your apartment, unless you don’t want a living room. (That little white square in the top right hand corner, ya… that’s my freezer!)
5. I drink beer on my lunch break!
I know 11 o’clock in the morning might seem early for a beer, but its perfectly acceptable to find people drinking a beer on their lunch break. In the States, this is a no-no. I once had a friend stay with me who was shocked that after a few hours showing her around my town, I said, “lets go get a beer” and she looked at me and said, “Now? It’s only 11am!” Hell yes now, why not!
6. I wear scarfs like they’re goin’ outta style!
Whether you think its fashionable or not, you will find yourself conforming to this European trend. For me, I never found wearing scarfs popular in the States, but I guess when you come from Cali, you don’t need a scarf. However, I came to Germany with only 2-3 scarfs and now I have over 30 to match my outfits and for different seasons. First it was just fashionable for me, then it became a comfort necessity. Now I feel naked without one! Or maybe I’m just afraid of catching the “Zug”.
7. I live without fancy appliances
This has been one of the hardest transitions of my life. I grew up very comfortably and enjoyed the luxury of having freshly washed, fluffy towels and a dishwasher to reduce the effort of cleaning. You will find that not all apartments, especially the older ones, come with appliances. Most times, you have to buy an entire kitchen when you move into your apartment, but this trend is kind of dying out. But many apartments are still rather small and there isn’t a lot of room for washing and drying machines and dishwashers. But more times than not, you don’t reallllly need one. A washing machine, definitely. But a dryer and dishwasher? … I’ve come to not rely on those and instead on my own two hands. Although I would like to have nice, soft, fluffy and warm towels again one day…
8. I had to learn not to ask ‘How are you?”
In the US, this is considered just a simple hello and a casual “I want to know how you are, but not your entire life story” kind of question. Germans don’t like being asked “how they are”, especially by a stranger. That’s too personal of a question, but they don’t realize it’s just a nice was of asking how their day is going. I learned real quick NOT to ask this question to Germans I don’t know for example, when I went to the Doctor’s office one day, and he spoke English with me. He walked in the door and said “hello” to which I replied, “Hi, how are you?” and my Doctor gave me this deer in the headlights look like he was astounded that I wanted to know how he was. Lesson learned.
9. I learned to live a more slow paced life
There is something about the US that is very stressful and I don’t know if its because we drive everywhere and everything is so spread out, we’ve got a million things to do plus working 40 hours in a week and a bunch of money to blow on random stuff but it always felt like go, GO, GO. People on the road couldn’t possibly drive fast enough and you always just want to yell “MOVE. B****, GET OUT THE WAY!!”
After having lived in Germany once already in college and coming back a second time, I knew life would be more relaxed, but its different when you work here, have friends here and a life. It’s more relaxed here and there isn’t always a hurry to get anywhere. Germans may certainly walk like there is a hurry to get somewhere, but I think its more they enjoy walking fast, not that there is any hurry to actually get to the final destination.
Life here is just way less stressful than in the US. Germans really do take the time to enjoy the things they are doing, and you can especially see this when they go out to eat or to a beer garden. They love to sit and linger and chit chat.
10. I got over my fear/disgust of public transportation
Coming from California, you have to have a car in order to get around. Public transportation just isn’t good. It’s terrible and we all have this image in our heads that it’s dirty, disgusting and the poor man’s car. We just don’t do it unless you’re in cities like New York. But in Germany, that fear will be swept away in a matter of minutes. The buses and trains run so efficiently here, they’re clean but not disgusting and is a normal form of everyday transportation here. I got comfortable riding the trains and buses, I even eventually know the bus times and the bus stop names.
11. I started traveling more
Luckily, Germany is in the center of Europe and it makes it easy to pick any direction and find a different country to travel to. Germany is surrounded by 9 countries, which makes your options plentiful. Since Germany is in the middle, traveling will be cheaper because you wont have quite as far to travel!
12. I started following the news more often
Being so far away from home will make you want to keep up with the current events and you will find yourself reading CNN and BBC and whatever home news channels you like. I was lucky if I watched the news once a week in the states, now I’m always reading the news and I am more up to date with what is happening in the world than ever before.
13. I traded my Jeans for Leggings
Even though jeans might have been invented by a German, Mr. Levi Strauss, Jeans face a tough competition in Germany and Europe. I see more women wear leggings than they do jeans. Or jeggings which look like jeans.
Before I moved to Germany, I was all about those J-E-A-N-S, especially after having just lived in Montana for 3 years. And then I got to Europe and I realized how frumpy I looked in my flare jeans and old bank blouses. Yes, I said bank because for 3 years I worked in a bank, which means they have to be professional looking. I stood out like a sore thumb.
Even in Montana I had leggings, but I had no fashion sense and no idea what to wear them with. But being surrounded by fashionable people in Germany/Europe, I got a first hand lesson on how to wear leggings. I now only own 1, maybe 2 pairs of jeans which are now stuffed in the back of my closet. I ONLY wear leggings now and I have a new found love of dresses. Thank you Europe!
14. I have a supply of beer, wine & schnapps at home
You just never know when the urge to have a beer or glass of wine with your dinner will hit you. You will be so overcome with desire, that you will go to the fridge (or your windowsill) and grab one out. There is never not a proper time for a good beer. You may buy 1-2 for every meal or just come home with a big ass crate. This way you are always fully stocked! And schnapps? This will become a habit, especially after large meals to take a shot of schnapps to help with the digestion process. I love having an endless supply of drinks in the house, but Schnapps will definitely take me much longer to get used to!
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