To start as a disclaimer, this is all my opinion. However, many U.S. expats would gladly agree with my sentiments on some of the strange (to Americans) things that they do. So, here we go!
1. Walking Sticks aren’t just for old folks!
This one cracks me up. If you live in Bavaria for a little bit, you begin to notice that a lot of people use walking sticks…to walk around. They don’t have to be hiking (which here means walking through nicely carved trails in the woods) or climbing a mountain. The name for it is Nordic Walking. I’ve asked around and I guess you get a better workout versus just walking. My rebuttle to that is always ‘Why don’t you just run?’ but I guess some people would rather take their walking sticks out. Oh, and as the title says, this is a sport for all ages. I’ve seen so so many people in their 20’s going on nordic walks. This, to me, is downright strange.
2. Staring is completely acceptable
There’s not much to this one, people here stare, a LOT. If you come over here and don’t immediately notice it, you’re not American. The funniest part is that when someone is staring at you and you stare back at them, they don’t look away. Oh no, they just continue to stare at you. If you did this in the states, especially out at night, you’d be asking for a fight…American’s aggressive?? What?
3. Sprechen Sie Englisch?…’A little’
This cracks me up. I find it very humbling that most people in Europe speak at least 2-3 languages. We are oh so far behind them in the states. Here, it’s always funny when we ask if someone speaks English. About 98% of the time they do, but they almost always say ‘A Little’ then proceed to speak perfect English. I asked a friend here and she said German people in general do not like to mess up or look bad, so they’ll say that almost as a disclaimer in case they mess up. So now, every time someone says ‘a little’ I can just assume they speak perfect English. Works every time.
4. Must Follow the Rules!
This is something we learned quickly, Germans have no problem telling you if you are doing something wrong. They like their rules over here. People here actually wait for the crosswalk sign to turn green, even when there are no cars around. My friends have said Germans will tell you if they think your kids aren’t dressed appropriately or warmy enough.
5. Sunday is Quiet Day
On Sundays, it is illegal to mow your lawn. It is considered rude to ride your loud motorcycle. Basically, you shouldn’t use any mechanical or electronic device that makes noise. If the walls are thin between you and your neighbors, they might ask that you don’t do laundry on Sundays (which is when I do laundry). German’s like their quiet time. I have a girlfriend whose neighbors want her quiet 100% of the time, and they let her know it too. I think they should make thicker walls.
6. When it Snows, bring out the shovel
Every person is responsible for sweeping/shoveling the area in front of their house or rowhouse. The reason is that if someone slips and falls in front of your door because there is snow, you are held liable. I think this is another stupid law…just don’t trip and fall. Our neighbor’s kids are out while it’s snowing, sweeping the walkway off and also when it stops snowing. I’m not as dedicated.
7. When it doesn’t snow, bring out the Broom
Even living at a townhouse, our neighbors still expect us to sweep the area in front of our place. This includes falling leaves, dirt that accumulates, etc. I cannot tell you how many 80 year old women I’ve seen sweeping the sidewalks in front of their homes and the streets as well!
8. Washing your car needs to be done at the Car Wash
I’m not sure if this is actually illegal, but we’ve been told by many people that you are not allowed to wash your car at your house. This is because the chemicals can get in the drains, and that’s bad. Oh, and if you do a dry wash on your car, you should not do it on Sunday. It’s too loud.
9. People are outside, a lot!
Ok this is not strange, but it is different from the states (and sadly, it is getting strange to do). People here get outside, and a lot too. When it snows, all the kids are playing outside. When it doesn’t snow, all the kids are playing outside. People walk everywhere or ride their bikes. I am so impressed at how many people were running and biking when it was sub-zero here a few weeks ago. I am equally, if not more, impressed at how many people still bike when there’s a few inches of snow on the ground. These people are tough!
10. If it’s cold, dress appropriately. Always!
Whenever I’m walking to the gym and wear the capri three quarter pant thingys, I’m always waiting for someone to tell me I need longer pants. This happened a few times so far this winter. People come up and point to my bare calves and go on (in German) about how I need to cover my legs up. It cracks me up every time!