11 strange things about living in Germany.
Moving to another country is exciting, but challenging. Cultural differences become more visible and you have to adapt to a different way of life.
Here are the top things I found strange about life in Germany.
I thought Mexico was very bureaucratic, until I lived in Germany. Do you need to open a bank account in Germany? Are you a foreigner? you’ll need two weeks. First you need to ask for an appointment, then submit all the paperwork and wait until every single document, number and statement comes through the mail. Registering yourself at the local office? three days minimum. Germans know this and always complain about it. On the upside: Germans are very efficient and most things will be done right the first time.
2. Nothing is open on Sundays
In Germany most restaurants, supermarkets and stores are closed on Sundays as most people use this day to relax or be with their family. Most Cafés are open though and there are lots of parks where you can take a walk.
3. Cash only
The first two weeks I was in Germany I had lots of problems with my bank: I could pay with my card but I couldn’t withdraw cash from the ATM’s. This wouldn’t be a problem in most countries but German businesses rarely accept cards and when they do it is usually an EC Card issued by a German bank. Credit cards are not a big thing in Germany and most stores, bars and restaurants are “cash only”.
4. People will tell you what to do
Germans are very forward when giving advice and they will try to make you understand that the best way to do things is "the German way". When Germans are sick they drink ginger tea, so you must also drink ginger tea. Got a zit? rub some German ointment on it. For Germans their cars, beer, technology and everything Deutsch-made is the best (and it kind of is). I got told to “cover up” twice while walking from the gym to my house wearing shorts in the Winter so be ready to get free advice when in Germany.
5. Don’t jaywalk
Germans are very anal about this. Most people will wait until it is their turn to cross the street. If you cross before the Ampelmann turns green, there is a possibility you will be yelled at. It is vital for Germans to set a good example for children so people disregarding order deserves a good dose of public scolding. Just be civil and wait until it is your turn.
6. Internet censorship
In 2011 several foreign exchange students received fines for watching porn online ignoring Germany’s strict copyright laws. Streaming video is not always illegal, but still many youtube videos and websites are blocked and downloading illegally can get you fined with a couple hundred euros.
German cities and towns are full of beautiful buildings and monuments honouring historic moments, great people and also victims of Nazi persecution. Signs with the names of the most famous concentration camps with a big “Remember” on top can also be found outside several train stations. Other common sights are the Stopelsteine which are small golden squares found on sidewalks with information of people killed or sent to concentration camps during WWII.
8. Planning ahead
Germans love to plan ahead. You should have seen the face of my friend’s mom when I told her I had come from Mexico and had not yet found an apartment to live in Berlin. I ended up finding a place a week later but Germans tend to plan everything with lots of anticipation. Germans are not big on being spontaneous and feel more confortable when everything is carefully planned.
9. Beer is everywhere (and is everything)
Germans love beer. Legal age for drinking is 16 and people can drink just about anywhere: the subway, streets and university cafeterias. It is common to see people sipping beer at 11 a.m. and on the train heading back from work. Broken bottles are a common sight on weekends and passed out people laying in their vomit inside the train becomes part of the occasional scenery after a couple of months (in Berlin).
10. Disinfecting food
My friend Valeria who is also Mexican and has lived in Germany for over two years now told me how she looked everywhere for fruit and vegetable disinfectant when she first arrived, but couldn’t find it. Germans don’t use it. Need to wash vegetables? fill the sink with water, throw the vegetables in and stir a little. In Mexico people usually take fruits and vegetables, place them in water and then add some drops of chlorine, iodine or other chemical to disinfect, so that was a strange thing I had to adapt to.
11. Germans are the nicest people you’ll ever meet
I needed to end the list by saying that Germans are some of the nicest people I have met. The occasional douchebag is present, but Germans will go out of their way to explain things, show you their culture and cook for you. Germans will stuff you with their food, speak English to you when you have trouble getting your point across and buy you a beer when you need someone to talk to. Something I noticed as well is people buying extra loafs of bread for the homeless and young children helping the elderly cross streets, and most of all… Germans are fun!