After five months of living in Germany, my eyes have re-opened to compare and contrast cultures from around the world. At first, I experienced difficulty adjusting to the German culture. With the ability to speak five German words, I felt hopeless in succeeding my ADL’s (activities of daily living).
I could not communicate and I felt like a child trying to hand gesture my needs “to order one chocolate croissant.” To say the least, when in the Deutschland, one must speak German to succeed, especially with the older generation.
Throughout the dark winter, I could not distinguish whether I found Germany a fascinating place or not. It did not pull my heartstrings like other places such as Australia, Riveria Maya, Thailand – can you sense the overall theme around warm whether and beaches?
However, after visiting nine other European countries in five months, I have realized Germany is an amazing place to live. Keep reading to discover why below:
-Work-Life Balance: Like every other over-worked American, I desired better balance for years. In my opinion, Germans are one of the most balanced cultures in the world. First, stores close at a reasonable time. Most shops close between 6 to 8pm so people can enjoy the evening. Also, the majority of the city is shutdown on Sundays. This seems sleepy and annoying for those who are used to 24-hour stores. However, it’s refreshing to know that some cultures do care about their country’s well-being and private life.
Now, technically a store may close at 8pm. However, one must not dare to enter that store 10-minutes before closing. If you do be prepared for a snapping employee to say, “ Nein! Wir Geshlossen!” This translates to “No, we are closed.” Why do they do this? Because they close at 8pm, which means “I go home at 8:00pm, not 8:01pm.” It’s definitely different from the American culture where customer service rules priority.
Finally, between public holidays and vacation time, most Germans are racking in 30-days of vacation per year. They graciously TAKE their vacation and leave the inbox behind. Must I explain more?
-Trustworthy and Reliability: Although Germans can come across as rude, egotistical and superior, they are some of the most trustworthy and reliable individuals I’ve ever met. “Flaky” is not a word in their vocabulary.
If a German says he or she will do something, they will do it. They will do the task, errand or request to the best of their ability. Germans follow the rules and do what is asked of them. As a rebel, this behavior seemed robotic, but in reality, I like it. Why? Because it is reliable.
In Seattle, I constantly missed buses because the app, website and bus stand showcased three different bus times. In addition, the drivers would zip past bus stands, coming anywhere between 30 seconds to two minutes early. In Germany, everything is unison and you know the bus or train will never leave early. Deutsch Bahn trains may not always be on time, but will never leave one second early. In short, you know what you will get in any type of service in Germany.
–Efficiency and Privacy: A year ago I read an article that said, “Out of all the western countries, Germany had the lowest percentage of Twitter accounts.” Shocked, living in Germany I realized why.
Germans are practical and functional beings that do not understand wasted time. I spoke with several German girls my age who do not have a Twitter account. They do not understand the logic and point behind the app. Plus they questioned, “Why expose your personal details to the world?” They questioned me as I smiled while tweeting a picture of my meal. Combined with efficiency, these social media tools are a distraction.
When Germans go to work, they work. They sit and do their seven to eight hours and leave. They do not go to work, sit online and then complain about working 10-hour days. They are productive and do not waste time. This includes work meetings. Work meetings start and end on time.
-Affordability and Views on Money: It’s no secret that Europe is expensive. Outside of Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, Germany is highly affordable. Hamburg and Berlin are not even on the same scale of expensive as neighboring countries such as Austria, Switzerland and France.
Germans care about affordability for life. Rent control, reasonable food prices, affordable phone contracts and inexpensive beer is valued in German culture. Here are some of my favorite purchases:
-1 Kilo of Kale – $2.99 Euro
-1 Pack of 160 Q-Tips – $0.25 Cents Euro
-1 Kilo Carrots – $0.69 Cents Euro
-10 Liter Bag of Cat Litter – $2.35 Euro
-1.5 Liter Water – $0.39 Cents Euro
-30 Load Laundry Soap – $3.59 Euro
-1 Hand Pump Soap – $0.59 Cents Euro
Most Germans live off regular means. Everyone says a schoolteacher has a great life of earning on average $2,500-3,500 Euro per month. Most Germans do not crave six-figure salary, but enough money to survive and afford a holiday. Although this depends on geography, I feel in America most people find happiness when making incredibly high wages. It’s nice to experience that income and wage is not the most important factor in life.
–Environmental Friendliness – From my knowledge, Germany is the most energy efficient culture in the world. Some may say it’s extreme, but the logic and ration behind energy conservation is necessary with climate change. They are born, bred and leak efficiency in their DNA.
An example, hallway lights in apartment and various buildings are not left on day and night. Each area contains a switch, which turns the area’s light on for 60-120 seconds. Do you know how much energy the world would save if every culture did this?
Plus, Germans love being outdoors. Any sunny day (or dry) day you’ll see locals walking on lunch breaks and drinking coffee at street side cafes (even in 30-degree weather).
-Brutal Honesty: There is no “beating around the bush” with a German. They will say exactly what is on their mind. Words to the wise, if you ever date a native German be prepared for the cold hard truth. I enjoy this because the truth can be hard to hear, but what is harder are the mind games when someone doesn’t say what’s on their mind. It’s a cycle of psychological questioning and analyzing. Enjoy the honesty!
-They Take Care of the Culture: In Germany, if someone is homeless, it’s because they choose that path (drug abuse) where they cannot function in society. Everyone in Germany is provided shelter, health insurance and means to live in society. No one person is left behind.