I’ll never forget the moment my husband got the phone call that we were moving to Germany. I was jumping around the house with joy. I have always loved traveling. I studied abroad in Italy when I was in college. I love travel and am fascinated by other cultures, and fell in love with the country. So although I knew nothing about Germany or what to expect, I know I love adventure, culture, and exploring the world around me so I was certain we were going to have a great time. My husband was excited too, but I don’t think he realized what a cool experience living in Germany would be until we actually moved here (and after we took care of the less extravagant details of living in another country i.e. setting up utilities, finding a house, etc).
I tend to forget just how different Germany is from America. While we’ve only been here for two and a half years, that’s still been enough time for us to get a feel for the country and the area. I’ve also only been back to the states once in those 2 1/2 years. You can read about that here.
We were with friends in Paris the other weekend who came over to England from the states recently. Once we started talking about life in Germany, I started to remember how different things are here. The streets are impeccably clean, everyone drives Mercedes or BMW or Porsche or Audi (or Maserati or Lamborghini), shops are always closed on Sundays, bars stay open until 7am and then the after parties open (we’ve never stayed up long enough for that..yet), the beer is cheaper than water, the wine is cheaper than water, water costs money and tap water is considered dirty, the entire drinking culture is completely different, the kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake) afternoon culture, elderly people are respected, you see 80 year old women riding their bicycles to the store to get groceries, children are loved, dogs are welcome in nearly every store and restaurant, and walking and biking everywhere is considered normal. I could go on and on about all the things I love about Germany, but that is a post in itself (and I’ve mentioned it at least a few times in other posts!).
So before we made the move to Germany we heard from more than a few people what we should expect, or they believed that Germany was a certain way based on…well…I don’t know what the basis was. Since Germany is so far away, all of these things seemed plausible at the time, and we thought they were true until we moved over here. In case you’ve heard these rumors about Germany, I’m here to put them to rest.
1. Oh wow you’re moving to Europe? I wouldn’t want to live there, it’s not safe.
I’m not sure how, when, or why Americans started to believe that every other country in the world is unsafe. Maybe Hollywood has made people believe that other countries, including many European countries, are not safe. Have you been to America? That place is the definition of not safe.
Setting statistics aside, let’s look at a few examples. In Germany we leave our bicycles outside, unlocked and not chained, and they don’t get stolen. We’ve gone on vacation and forgotten to put our bikes away and they’re still there when we return. We even have a bakery, butcher shop, and grocery store in front of our home, making us prime targets. But nope, nothing ever happens. Am I ever worried about going out and seeing a fight or someone trying to start a fight? Nope…not unless I’m with other Americans.
Germany is incredibly safe and culturally speaking, Germans enjoy their rules and following them so I know people generally aren’t going to be doing anything crazy. Is every European country like this? Is Germany completely safe? Hell no, but I would feel completely comfortable traveling through most European countries alone. The only exceptions are a few Eastern European countries, where I would prefer to travel with a companion. Are there, however, many places in the states where I would never venture alone? Absolutely.
2. German Beer is Always Served Warm at Room Temperature.
So you’re telling me that Germans make the best beer in the world, yet serve it warm? In some areas of Germany it’s true that they don’t serve beer really cold, but it’s still cool. While you’ll never be served an icy cold beer like some American beers (where there is actually a bit of ice forming at the top), it’s still cold here. And it’s fantastic. I need to learn how to sell our local stuff in the states, there would be a huge market for it.
3. Germans Never Roll Down Their Windows When Driving
I never had anyone verbally tell me this, but I read a few blogs that talked about how Germans don’t roll down their windows. I honestly cannot recall the reasoning behind it, but in my experience this isn’t true. If anything, Germans love fresh air and don’t mind rolling down their windows (especially on a hot day). I do have to say, though, that I’ve never seen anyone roll down their windows so their dogs could stick their heads out and enjoy the wind. We still do it, and we get stared at a lot for it. I’m assuming they’re staring at our adorable lab.
4. Milk is Never Chilled
A co-worker told me this when I was in the states. She lived closer to the Austrian border where this may very well be true, but where we live milk is chilled just like anything else. Eggs, however, are never in the refrigerator section, so I guess that’s a little strange coming from the states where eggs are always chilled.
5. Your Dog Must Be Quarantined Upon Arrival in Germany
Of all our concerns, bringing our hunde to Germany was at the top of the list. She is our child and sending her off on the crate with the airlines was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. We were assured by the vet that this wasn’t true before leaving, and made sure we had all of our documents in order. When we arrived in Germany, they brought her to us and luckily she was fine and that was all there was to it. No quarantine time, and to be honest I don't even know if they checked our paperwork when we arrived.
I’m very happy that we discovered none of these things are true, and I love nearly everything about Germany and our town. I love the foggy crisp winter mornings walking my dog, the fact that everything I need (even the dog food store) is all within walking distance of my front door, I love all the fresh food and ingredients I can easily find, I love the architecture, the biking trails and dedication to nature, how people are always outside, and Germans' attitude about enjoying life and taking the time to live. It’s a nice break from America’s philosophy of working just to die (at least that seems to be the philosophy these days). I’m also very grateful for all of the experiences we’ve had here, both good and bad.
What strange things were you told about living in Germany before you moved here?