Observations on Germany: Part 1

This is now my third time living in Germany for an extended period of time and it is amazing how many differences exist between the United States and Germany. Here are some observations and cultural differences I’ve noticed! I was inspired to write this list after reading this list.

1. The German health insurance system is much easier to follow than the American system. I email my insurance adviser about once a week and always get a response within a day. (Hey Blue Cross, Blue Shield…take a HINT!)

2. Germans really love the environment and there have been elections decided based on a politician’s environmental viewpoint.

3. The garbage is divided by plastic, paper, organic/food waste, glass, and basic waste. They get really offended/upset if you throw away garbage into the wrong section.

4. German men love brightly colored pants. I approve.

5. Germans aren’t religious individuals (they think it is weird I want to go to church…especially as a young adult) but they are OBSESSED with Christmas and Advent. Seriously, Christmas decorations started going up in September. Yet, they only go to church on Christmas and Easter. I’m so confused, it doesn’t make sense.

6. They don’t like small talk and don’t partake in it. It is kind of eery how quiet buses and trams are because no one talks to each other.

7. Germans don’t have many friends. They think it is weird that Americans have many friends and call everyone a friend, even when we initially meet someone. Germans tend to just have a few close friends.

8. They’re crazy about soccer (oh, excuse me, fußball). Very crazy! Probably doesn’t help that the USA and Germany are in the same grouping for the World Cup this summer…

9. They really like their bread and cake and coffee (and cake with coffee). They have an obsession with gelato as well.

10. Government officials never work. The hours to get my visa were limited to about 3-4 days a week for a 3 hour time span. It was more difficult figuring out when they were open than actually getting my visa.

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11. Speaking of being open, Germans celebrate just about every random Christian holiday. I think in my state alone (Baden-Württemberg), they observe 13-15 Christian holidays every year.

12. German stores are required, by law, to be closed on Sundays. Which causes a lot of issues when you forget to stock up on food the day before…

13. Germans love these type of shoes. All of my German friends own a pair. They really know how to wear short boots!

14. There are no superstores in Germany (think, no Target!). Therefore, in order to get hair supplies, groceries, and storage bins….I have to go to 3 different stores.

15. It always rains in Germany. It actually is quite depressing sometimes! However, Germans know how to dress fashionably for the rain.

16. I think Germans learn how to ride bikes before they learn how to walk. These little 5-year-olds are much better at biking than I am!

17. Germans go all-out on breakfast! They love their boiled eggs, bread, cheese, meat, coffee, müsli, and yogurt.

18. You have to pay for public restrooms…always bring loose change with you!

19. Smoking is still very prevalent in Germany. For how advanced and progressive Germany is compared to the United States, everyone still smokes!

20. According to my little brother, Mercedes, Audis, and BMWs are the equivalent to Fords in the USA. Everyone drives one of those 3 car brands!

21. Another observation made by my little brother, meat (and meals in general) are served colder in Germany than in the USA

22. Germans don’t jaywalk and judge you if you do jaywalk. They even have signs in German that say, “Set a good example, don’t jaywalk in front of children.” This is a hard habit for me to break!

23. Going along with #22, in general, Germans are rule followers. They like to follow rules and they like order and they don’t like people who don’t follow rules.

24. If you’re on time, you’re late to the Germans. They take punctuality very seriously and are always on time.

25. They aren’t politically correct and say however they feel about a certain situation. Very different from Americans who tend to censor and try not to offend anyone.

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26. Americans tend to give movies rated R ratings for language and nudity. Germans tend to give movies the equivalent rating due to violence. Very different standards for judging movies

27. German men don’t ever approach women. EVER. American men are much more forward and willing to at least talk to a women. German men won’t ever make a move. I honestly don’t understand how this country even reproduces based upon the shyness (awkwardness? lack of forwardness?) of German men.

28. Germans love their beer. But, you will rarely ever see a German drunk.

29. Germans don’t like ice, especially ice in water. They say that ice hurts their teeth.

30. Germans also don’t like spicy food. If you order something that is spicy, it will probably be very mild.

31. It is really hard to tell straight German men from gay German men because they all dress so well! And they always are so well-groomed!

32. Going through the checkout lines at supermarkets, DM (dm-drogerie markt), etc is the most rapid process ever. I always feel like I’m in some high-speed chase when trying to pack up all my groceries into bags.

33. You have to bring your own bags everywhere. They charge outrageous amounts of money if you want to use bags at the store (like 10-20 cents per bag).

34. Germans bring their dogs everywhere. In stores, in restaurants, everywhere!

35. In America, we wear Birkenstocks everywhere. In Germany, they think it is weird that Americans wear Birkenstocks out in public. They are considered “house shoes” in Germany.

36. Everything is closed for at least an hour during lunch time. I swear, the bank is only open for like 5 hours a day.

37. German men are much more hands-on fathers than American Dads. German Dads are typically seen (alone) with their children in public…playing with them, pushing their stroller, going to the park, etc. (Side note, my Dad was a very hands-on Dad…maybe due to his German roots!)

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38. Because everything is closed on Sundays (due to law), Germans consider Sunday to be “family day.” You will frequently see German families outside at parks or strolling in the Altstadt.

39. Bottled water costs more than beer.

40. Also, Germans don’t ever drink tap water (even though I find it perfectly fine). Everyone drinks bottled water

41. Jack Wolfskin is the unofficial national brand of Germany. Everyone wears Jack Wolfskin.

42. As much as Germans love punctuality, Deutsche Bahn is really hit-or-miss in terms of running on time! Get it together Deutsche Bahn!

43. Most Germans don’t use their real name on Facebook. Instead, they have some random last name.

44. Besides bratwursts and beer, Spargel (aka Asparagus) is the national food of Germany.

45. They are obsessed with the show “Tatort.” I’ve never seen it but heard it is kind of like “NCIS”?! It is a crime scene show that takes place in a different German city every Sunday

46. Döner, a turkish food, is the best drunk food. Ever.

47. Germans don’t ever throw away a plastic bottle in the trash. Each plastic bottle has Pfand (a deposit) and when you return it to a grocery store, you can easily get back 25 cents per bottle. That adds up quickly!

48. A waiter/waitress will never just bring you the bill. You must always ask for it. They think it is more courteous this way.

49. Most people pay for everything in cash. They might have a debit/credit card, but they rarely use it.

50. Germans are really into, and concerned with, titles. It isn’t surprising to have a Professor who’s title is “Herr/Frau Professor Dr. Dr. Dr.” And they get really offended when you don’t use the correct title to address them

51. Germans don’t sleep with top sheets, only duvet covers.

52. Mothers actually get paid maternity leave in Germany and substantial time off.

Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear other opinions…especially from Germans and Americans living in Germany!

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  • Haha, I love nr. 13. Don’t you wear these in the US? And döner really is the best drunk food! Excuse me, but I do not own one piece of jack wolfskin ;)
    Apart from that I would say that there are many religious people around, especially in more rural areas and maybe not so much in cities like Heidelberg where you have so many students.
    I think you are very generous with the German men. I do not see them as so well dressed ;)

  • Some of these are new to me because they are the same in England (doner kebabs, maternity leave, no top sheets, etc.) I think maybe they are more European things than specifically just one country? I never understood the need for a top sheet. I just have a summer duvet and winter duvet. Sometimes blankets for cold autumn nights.

    So many of these are so true they made me chuckle! It’s the little things you don’t notice after living here a while, they feel like the norm.

    Are you still in Heidelberg? I love Heidelberg!

    • haha, true true! Some of these are definitely more “European” than “German”! You’re totally right…after a while you start noticing all the small things. I actually have another list going into my phone that I hope to publish soon. All my German friends know I’m making this list so they’re constantly pointing out things to me.

      And yes, I’m still in Heidelberg! I’ll be here until April 2015. You’re leaving Germany soon, right? Plus you have your wedding coming up soon! If you’re ever in Heidelberg, I’d love to meet up with you :) xoxoxo

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