21 first impressions of Germany

  1. It is very uncommon to drink tap water, especially in restaurants. Even though the tap water is perfectly OK to drink here, most people don’t drink it. The common thing to do is order sparkling water AKA “with gas.” If you order it at a restaurant, you will likely get grief about it. According to some, it’s a status symbol and you can very easily offend your guests if you offer them wasser from the tap. I’ve also read that the German translation is “plumbing water” or “pipe water” which is construed as unclean for many. Hmm…I personally think ordering water “with gas” sounds quite dirty! Ha! Germans and their bottled water…this won’t be the first time you hear about this from me.
  2. Crosswalk signals are obeyed at ALL times, no matter what.
    You better believe that even if a car isn’t coming for 200 miles, no one will ever cross the street if the light is red. I’ve heard that this sets good examples for children (Many of them run around without guardians!) and keeps things overall streamlined and efficient. You can get a serious fine for jaywalking…and an even steeper fine for giving the finger on the road!
  3. The German translation for speed limit is very, very long: Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkungen
  4. Did you know that every noun is capitalized? Enough said.
  5. Parking is entertaining. You’ll see cars up on curbs and parked in both directions.
  6. You pretty much need a certificate for everything. You could be speaking impeccable German in a job interview and still be asked for a certificate proving that you’re fluent. You could be a scratch golfer in the States, but still need to pass a test before you hit the links here.
  7. There are many funny words and phrases. It’s still hard for me to say “funf” (five) or “kartoffelpuffer” (potato pancake) without giggling. And here’s a silly one for ya, courtesy of my dad: Sitzpinkler is a term for a man who pees sitting down…
  8. Christmas markets are everywhere! Not exaggerating this one. It’s FANTASTIC. Gluhwein is a STAPLE for the holidays. Mmm…nothing complements a cold night out on the town like a cup (or four) of hot, spiced wine.
  9. If it’s your birthday, YOU treat. You bring the cake to the office for everyone. You buy dinner for everyone. You buy drinks for everyone. Get the drift?
  10. No one eats lunch at their desk at the office. Isn’t that cool? And when people go out to eat or visit someone’s home, it seems acceptable to be there for 2-3 hours.
  11. Weekends and vacations are sacred at the workplace. You won’t and shouldn’t be bothered. Amazing. At some companies, you START with 30 REQUIRED vacation days a year. And maternity leave? That’s another story. You can take up to an entire year of paid leave at some places!
  12. Bread, bread and more bread. There are bakeries on practically every corner, and bread comes with almost every meal at restaurants. During our hotel stay, I would sometimes spot people eating stacks of bread and danishes for breakfast.
  13. Almost everything shuts down on Sundays. That’s going to take some getting used to, but I know it will be for the best!
  14. Cake and coffee every afternoon. I have yet to witness this myself, but it’s a long held tradition I hear lots about. It’s such a big deal that even on Sundays, some places will open up for a few hours so folks can get their hands on fresh cake.
  15. Workout clothes are strictly for the gym. You won’t see women regularly prancing around town in yoga pants like you do in Denver. (THAT’s a hard one for me to adjust to. I got some STRANGE looks the first time I wore stretch pants and a Reebok shirt to our hotel breakfast.) And very, very rarely will you see anyone enter AND exit the gym with their workout clothes on. They bring a bag, shower and change.
  16. Children and dogs are insanely well behaved. I will never forget the day I saw a woman pushing triplets in a stroller with two toddlers walking on her left and a dog walking on her right…ALL in perfect unison. Every single one of those creatures was cool, calm and obedient.
  17. Eggs are not refrigerated. They are set out in stacks in the middle of the store, and if you’re lucky…you’ll find a feather in them. I did yesterday. Bah! In fact, washing eggs is illegal in much of Europe. Here’s more where that came from.
  18. You must bag your own groceries…and bag them quickly…in your own bags. I’ve ended up with other people’s pudding and honey in my bags. The checkout clerks are SPEEDY. And don’t expect these clerks to ever make conversation with you or vice versa. It’s all business at the grocery store, people.
  19. I’ve never seen so many elderly people getting around with such ease. They’re on bikes, walking everywhere and functioning in ways that I’m not used to seeing in the States. Half of the people I’ve turned to on sidewalks (“Is Henkelstrasse in this direction?”), trams (“Is this heading to my stop?”) and in grocery aisles (“Does this say chicken?”) are elders. And they’ve all been very sweet. I love it. That brings me to my next topic…
  20. People are very kind in Dusseldorf. With the exception of the baristas who basically laughed me out of Terbuyken when I asked for an Americano (Still trying to figure out why) or our very first cab driver who didn’t say a WORD to us, I’ve found that mostly everyone I’ve interacted with has been very welcoming. (However, I guess the further east you go, that changes. I shall see for myself!!) If you show a little effort in trying to adapt to their culture or speak their language, they really appreciate it and want to help…or they really just want to practice their English! (Which is amazing, by the way. Almost everyone will tell you they just know “a little bit” of English…then will speak perfectly.)
  21. There are SO many cultures here. Not only have I met people from various German cities, but I’ve already met folks from India, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, Mexico, France, Canada, Denmark, China and U.S. There’s a very large Japanese population here, too.

2 thoughts on “21 first impressions of Germany

  1. Brit, just saw your House Hunters eposide and found your blog. My wife and I are hoping to move to Bamberg some day (Charlotte, NC now. Best of luck to you and enjoy everything Germany has to offer!


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