Every time I meet someone new, be it a German or a fellow expat, everyone always has the same questions and I always have the same answers. So I thought that I would write down some thoughts about the things I love about Germany and the things I miss from home.
1. What do I miss about home?
Home for me has many meanings. I grew up in California both in the South and the North. Then I decided to move to Montana for a few years. I don’t miss much other than my friends and family. I do miss the luxury of driving everywhere and always having air conditioning from your car to any store you enter. It is rare in Germany to find a building with air conditioning because the hot summer season can last anywhere between a few weeks to two months. I can’t talk about missing home without talking about missing In N Out. The California girl in me miss that Double Double Spread Only with Animal Style Fries. I especially miss my little Sheltie – Sabrina! I also miss real Mexican food or SoCal Mexican food I should say. Germany definitely tries to make good Mexican food, but no one does it better than the source of origin!
2. What do you love about Germany?
There are many things I love about Germany. I really enjoy the laid back German society. Life here is much more relaxed and enjoyable and much less stressful on a day to day basis. As much as Germans love to follow rules and have a strict work ethic, they always take their leisure time seriously. Sundays are a day of rest and everything but restaurants and bars are closed. For Hans and I, Sunday has become a day to relax at home in our pajamas or maybe do a nice bike ride along the river. I love how there are castles and churches/cathedrals and beautiful bridges everywhere, which makes going for a casual Sunday drive (when we have a rental car) very relaxing. I just love the architecture which is my main reason for having moved to Europe. The US just doesn’t have a lot of historic buildings and California is especially young!
3. What’s the food like in Germany?
German food is delicious! It frustrates me because when I lived in Heidelberg I only ever ate the German basics: Schnitzel, Bratwurst or Döner. Not until I moved to Regensburg did I really start trying and learning about new German/Bavarian foods. Pork is a very common meal in Germany especially for breaded schnitzel with French fries or even Schweinebraten (Roasted Pork). I have discovered that I prefer a roasted duck with Knödel more than I like a roasted chicken now. Hans enjoys eating rabbit as well, but I just can’t bring myself to eat Bugs Bunny. Many meals in Germany come with a side Rot/Blau (Red or Blue) kraut. I’ll eat some of the kraut but not all of it.
4. How do you get around without a car?
Selling my car and learning to walk all around town or figuring out how to use the bus system has been one of the most liberating feelings. As much as I love to drive, I no longer have to deal with finding parking spots or crazy drivers. Now it’s the bus driver’s responsibility. Thankfully, Germany has a pretty accurate bus and train system to get you anywhere you want in Germany…unless you are traveling to a small village. The smaller the village, the more difficult it is to reach. Beige Taxis are always available in front of the main train station to take you anywhere, but it can be a bit pricey as the starting price usually begins at about 3.20 €.
5. How easy is it to travel around Germany?
Traveling in Germany is super easy and relatively cheap! Traveling by train is one of the easiest ways to get around and allows you to enjoy the scenery. This is definitely a change from being a constant driver and keeping your eyes on the road. Traveling by bus is also enjoyable, but for short distances. Although, for long distance traveling you can find cheap deals, but it does take longer to get there. Traveling by plane within Germany is also very cheap but sometimes, it’s just easier to go by train. Overall, its pretty simple to get anywhere within Germany, unless you are going to smaller villages. Then it could be tricky!
6. How easy is it to travel outside of Germany?
Surprisingly, traveling out of Germany has been relatively cheap in our experiences. Always check on bahn.de for special offers to other European countries via train. We once paid 100€ each for a round-trip ticket to Budapest, Hungary for the New Years weekend. Regensburg also has a special deal which always offers to go from Regensburg to Prague and back for only 42€ per person! Always check out what special offers the main train station has for neighboring countries, especially if you are close to the border.
Thankfully, Europe is very small and many people don’t realize this. In California, I could drive 8 hours from San Diego to Sacramento and I would still be in the same STATE! In Europe, however, if you were to drive even 3 hours, you would most likely be in a different COUNTRY! We drove 8 hours from Germany, through Austria and into Italy when we rented a car for the weekend. Many Germans think driving anything over 3 hours requires staying the night somewhere, whereas many Californians are used to sitting in 3 hours of traffic just to go from San Diego to LA. 3 hours is easy-peasy!
7. Do you feel safer in Germany or America?
This seems to be a popular question, mostly because all Europeans are downright confounded when they watch news about the newest school shooting or terrorist attack in America, or even all the different natural disasters that hit on a yearly basis. I would have to say I feel 100% more safe in Germany than I ever felt in America. For one, Germany is lucky not to have natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes etc. Germany does have minor tornadoes every now and then, but they don’t have the power that the Midwest has. The deadliest natural disaster to hit Germany are the floods that plague Europe every now and then.
Speaking of feeling safe, this leads me to talking about guns. Germans are always amazed that any American over the age of 18 can get their hands on a gun so easily. Yes, we have many many restrictions and guidelines and regulations that need to be followed, but it still doesn’t keep the crazies from getting guns. In Germany, in order to own a gun, you must be a part of a shooting club and have proof that you are trained and know how to properly handle a gun. And the guns, never go home with you. They stay locked up in the club. Just knowing that crazies aren’t walking around town carrying guns makes me feel safer. Now, I grew up in a home with a father who has multiple guns and taught me how to shoot. (Yes, I’m a girl and I know how to use a gun!) I don’t want to get political here, but I have always been torn between the right to bear arms and protect myself and my family and no one having a gun. This always leads to very interesting conversations with any European.
8. What do you do in your free time?
Besides doing my girly hobbies such as scrapbooking, painting, crocheting or crafting, Hans and I enjoy our free time in many different ways. On a nice beautiful day, we love to go for long bike rides along the Donau river and have a small picnic. Any excuse to go to a beer garden and sit outside enjoying the beautiful weather is a favorite past time for many Germans. Germans LOVE their beer gardens so much that its even called “Beer Garden Season”. During the summer months, many people love to lay out at the outdoor swimming pools or plop down on a nice green Weise (grass lawn) and soak up the sun. Nothing makes a summer day more perfect than having a BBQ in the park. For a more simple activity, we simply love walking around Regensburg and sitting down at a little café where we can get a coffee and cake. This is a favorite past time of many Germans and me and my waistline have been learning to take it easy on the sweets.
9. Is there anything about Germany you don’t like?
Little American children grow up learning not to stare at other people because it’s rude. I find that staring is a very uncomfortable and awkward habit that many Germans participate in. I don’t think they realize they are doing it but I feel like I am starred at all the time. I don’t know if its because of what I’m wearing or because I’m speaking English. There have been times where I have asked “Can I help you with something?” because it is so uncomfortable to be sitting there, eating my meal and someone is staring at me.
Another habit I think Germans don’t realize they do is shoving past people when they are walking. Not everyone pushes past you, but this is just an exception for the people who don’t apologize. There are times when I am standing in line for something or just simply standing and waiting for the bus and the next thing I know, someone is plowing into me as if I am invisible, without saying “excuse me” or “I’m sorry”. Lately, I have taken to snapping at people who plow into me by saying “Excuse me, I’m standing here!” I understand they might be in a hurry, but at least apologize!
10. Do Germans speak English? How is your German?
A long time ago, the German government made it a requirement for children to start learning English in what we call “elementary school”. The younger generation can and will speak English to you if they realize you speak English. With the older generations, it’s a bit harder because they didn’t have the opportunity to learn English. I find as hard as I try to speak German, people immediately realize I’m an English speaker and to make my life easier, they immediately switch to English. At first this was ok for me as I was trying to remember the language. Now after nearly 2 1/2 years here, if they respond to me in English after I have already spoken to them in German, I keep trudging through my German skills and eventually they realize that I can speak German and I’m not just some tourist. My German has really improved since I have been here, but I still get nervous every day and get tongue-tied and the next thing I know my German has come spewing out of my mouth like hot coffee.
11. What about Nazis?
What about them? The Second World War has been over for 70 years. Yes, there are Neo-Nazis in Germany, but honestly I don’t really know how to spot one. The war is still a sensitive topic to talk about and is pretty hush hush in public. In private, people do talk about it sometimes, but for the most part, Germans would really just like to forget about the terrible crimes that were committed during the war and move forward. Every day, Germany tries to make up for the past by creating new memorials or giving speeches or remembering those who died. It is still possible to find very old Nazi guards from concentration camps or others who are now being tried and imprisoned for their crimes committed during the war.
Life in Germany is pretty amazing and every day I love my new life here. At this point in my life, I don’t see myself moving back to the States anytime soon.