I’ve been in Germany for just over two months now and I have to say, my overall impression has been really good so far. I haven’t had much of a culture shock compared to what I had in Asian countries like Japan or China, but there are some things that are definitely different here than what I’m used to. Most of the things are good and some are, well…nicht gut.
One of the first things I noticed in our Heidelberg hotel room was the double bed…with two single sized duvet covers laid out on top of it. Even the mattress was just two single mattresses put side by side – leaving a crack down the middle. It wasn’t just hotels I saw this in either, it was at bed shops and even Ikea. I guess it can stop arguments over who is pulling too much of the duvet, but splitting it altogether? Do people take their personal space that seriously? It’s a duvet mystery.
Before I came to Germany, the thought of a motorway with no speed limit seemed like a recipe for disaster, but after travelling on the Autobahn quite frequently and for long periods of time, I can see that the system actually does work. Of course, there are speed limits in some areas and accidents do happen, but overall it does get you from point A to point B with the fastest, direct route.
When travelling on the Autobahn, you come across a lot of wind turbines – and I mean A LOT of wind turbines. In some areas there was literally a forest of wind turbines and at night they have these blinking red lights that make it look like giant transformers are watching you – it really is quite a sight. I appreciate that Germany is taking their green energy so seriously.
I’m a dog person at heart so I always notice if someone’s walking their cute little fur child and there is definitely no shortage of them here. And I don’t see them just on the street either – they’re in shops, restaurants, buses, trains and even walking around in malls with their owners!
In New Zealand, the unwritten rule is that you leave your dog tied up outside when you go into shops unless they’re a guide dog…but in Germany it seems that rule does not apply. I still do a double take when I see a dog walking around in the mall – it’s just not a sight I’m used to!
I guess I should be used to seeing this by now, but so many people smoke here. I see young people, old people and anyone in between smoking on the streets and in cafes and restaurants (smoking in restaurants doesn’t seem to be banned here yet). I even see parents smoking whilst holding hands with their small children and babies – have they not heard of second hand smoke before? The sight makes my stomach turn.
In the good old days in New Zealand, all shops would be closed on Sundays. While NZ has outgrown this tradition and Sundays have become the day to go shopping, Germany still has this custom even now. Most supermarkets and shops are closed every Sunday, with the exception of restaurants.
While it took a bit of getting used to and forgetting to go bulk shopping on Saturdays, I’ve really come to like this idea. Sunday is a day of rest and you can see it in the way people and families are out and about just relaxing and enjoying the day.
In Germany you have to give tips to the waitstaff in restaurants and it is still a concept that I’m getting used to. Neither NZ or Japan has a tipping culture, so I usually forget to tip until the person I’m with reminds me about it. Another thing that surprised me was that you pay at the table after you’ve eaten, instead of going to the counter. The waitstaff brings a huge black wallet to the table, and you pay then and there.
One of the coolest things I’ve encountered here is the recycling machine at supermarkets. If a bottle has this recycle sign on it, you can take it to one of these recycling machines which takes the bottle and gives you a receipt in return, saying how much money you get back for it. You can then take the receipt to the cashier with your groceries and get that money taken off your total bill. Usually you get about 25 cents back per bottle and it is a really good incentive for people to recycle. I usually take a huge bag with more than ten bottles in it at a time!
Another thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised by is how cheap the food is. I can get a good lunch for €5 or under and I can get a decent dinner for €10. Plus, grocery shopping is a total breeze in terms of buying more than one day’s worth of food – it’s just so cheap! (New Zealand is so expensive in comparison).
I have to say the German video restrictions have been pretty annoying, though. Even on YouTube, there are videos that get blocked – and they are usually mainstream videos that are popular worldwide. And yes, German YouTube, this video could contain music because I was actually trying to watch something called A MUSIC VIDEO.
So, did you like my first impressions of Germany?
Did anyone experience these things too?