Apr 3, 2013

Pros & Cons of Living in Germany: Part Ein

Welcome to the first installment of my Pros & Cons of living in Germany! Many of you have asked what life is really like here in the Land of Lederhosen, so here's a little breakdown of some of Germany's great things and not-so-great things from my perspective as an American expat. Enjoy!

PRO: Travel 

Being right smack dab in the middle of Europe provides us with the opportunity to travel almost anywhere in Europe in the blink of an eye. For example, from our host city we can travel to: 
Paris in 4 hrs by high speed train// practically anywhere in Belgium in 3-4 hours by car// Amsterdam by car in 4 hours// Austrian Alps in 5 hours by car// Prague in 4 hours by car// Lucern, Switzerland in 4 hours by car// Northern Italy (Milan) in 6 hours by car// Poland in 6 hours by car// Venice in 8.5 hours by car// Tuscany 1.5 hours by plane// London in 1.5 hours by plane// Barcelona in 1.5 hours by plane// Dubrovnik,Croatia in 2 hours by plane//Ireland in 2 hours by plane// Stockholm in 2 hours by plane// Greek Isle in 4 hours by plane
Not to mention the hundreds of cities in Germany there are to visit in just 1 to 2 hour car rides.
 Living in Germany is a travelers dream!

CON: Almost everything closes at 7pm. 

Most grocery stores, drug stores, and shopping malls are all closing up shop by 7pm (8pm at the VERY latest). The smaller the town, the earlier the closing times. And if it's Sunday, you might as well just stay inside your house. NOTHING is open. Restaurants are the only exception to this rule. I get why they do it...more time to focus on family, enjoying life, yadda yadda...but I always inevitably run out of something or need to go to the store when it's closed. Always. This is when my little expat heart starts longing for Target and, dare I say it, Walmart. You don't know how much you miss even awful places like Walmart until they're not around anymore. In all fairness, though, Germany does have large stores like Walmart (my favorite is Globus), but they aren't open 24 hours.

PRO: Wine & beer often cost less than water.
  

I honestly don't know how everyone in Germany isn't perpetually dehydrated. I almost never order just water. If I can get a glass of wine for €3 and a glass of water costs the same amount, you can almost always guarantee I'm going to order the wine. You'd be crazy not to. Which brings me to my next CON...

CON: You have to pay for water...and to pee it out later. 
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Tap water is a big no-no. Germans equate tap water to bath or "plumbing" water. You clean with it or poop in it. So, don't ask for it unless you want to get strange looks. You'll always have to pay for your water and 99% of the time it will come in a fancy glass bottle with its own etched drinking glass. But make sure you specify what kind of water you want...because there are about 4 different kinds of water options. Wasser mit gas (water with carbonation or "bubbles"), Still wasser (still water, no bubbles), Mineralwasser (still water with minerals added...tastes weird to me every time), and Medium Mineralwasser (mineral water with a light amount of carbonation). Consider my mind blown. Another mind blowing quirk of Germany? Having to pay to pee. If you're out in public enjoying a day of sight-seeing or park playing and you've "gotta go," better find yourself 50 euro cent or you'll be going "wee wee wee" all the way home. It's one of the quickest lessons you'll learn after moving abroad. The reason for the fee to pee? Most German bathrooms are pristine. Many of them often having self-cleaning toilet seats! And if the self-cleaning toilet isn't around, a bathroom attendant is. They clean every toilet after each patron. So, it makes a bit of sense to pay a little bit for a super clean bathroom. Germany isn't the only country that makes you pay to pee in public. Practically every country in Europe does the same. Now, if you are buying a coffee or having a drink or meal in a restaurant, you can use their bathroom facilities free of charge. But if you're driving along the Autobahn and you find yourself needing a bathroom break at a rest stop, get ready to ante up some dough. 
PRO: Festivals 

Germans love any excuse to throw a party. Wine harvesting season started...wine festivals galore! Anniversary of a castle being refurbished...bretzels & spundakäse for everyone! Re-naming of a street...break out the oompa band and beer steins! Seriously, there's a festival for everything under the sun here. Heck, Oktoberfest is one giant celebration of beer started all because of a wedding in Bavaria way back in 1810. You don't see us complaining! Because of the German inclination to party and enjoy every aspect of living, we always have something to do. With a short walk downtown, we're in the heart of every festival Wiesbaden throws. And for that, I love Germany.

CON: No closets 
{Super old photos...but as you can see, open shelving in bathroom, ugly wardrobe, JUST my summer dresses and short sleeved shirts in that wardrobe, and all the hangers we had to get rid of upon moving into our closet-less flat}


Before moving to Germany, I was aware that closest were rarity in Europe. If you found a house that had them, take it...otherwise you'd be fighting your way through IKEA with the rest of Germany to get dozens of wardrobes to hide away all your clothes. Thankfully, or not so thankfully (I still can't decide), the military allowed us to borrow 3 wardrobes for the duration of our time here. Only problem is...they're hideous and smell like boot camp. No matter how many lavender sachets I put in them or how often I Febreze my wardrobe, it smells like old wood and sneakers. Not to mention they're enormous (but only hold a fraction of the clothes I own...I know, that's my own fault) and they don't match any of our furniture. Big eye sores, for sure. As for storage in the bathroom, we've got nothing but open glass shelves. So, everyone who comes over for a visit and has to tinkle, they get a nice viewing of all my hair care products, make-up, and tampons. Nothing left to the imagination there! Thank you, Germany.
PRO: The wine  

I know I've mentioned this about a million and a half times, but the wine in Germany is some of the best in the world. Living in the heart of Rhine wine country has proved to be very rewarding for this little wine lovers heart. Riesling is Germany's specialty and it's done in more varieties than I ever knew existed. White, red, dry, semi-dry, sweet, fruity, sweet as syrup Eis wine...you name it, they've got it. After sampling almost every kind of wine Germany has to offer, everything I taste in Italy just doesn't satisfy me. I know, GASP! I should be stoned! Honestly, Italian wine is fantastic...if you like red wine. Too bad white wine is where my heart belongs. To each, her own. Needless to say, wine is definitely high on the list of things I'll miss about Germany when we move next summer. I'm already having withdrawals.

CON: Parking lots & tiny parking spots
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You basically need a smart car to live here. Those things can park anywhere. Parking lots are few and far between throughout Germany. Places that will usually have parking lots are detached grocery stores or big tourist attractions, but those are still often small and offer teeny weenie parkings spots. The rest of the time you'll find street parking (I've gotten REALLY GOOD at parallel parking) or parking decks (also with teeny weenie parking spots) that you'll have to pay for. Nothing in Europe is free, as it seems. If you find yourself moving abroad and you want to bring your Ford F-150, think again. You won't be fitting in most parking decks or in basically any parking spot in Germany. Trucks don't exist here. If they do, it's usually an American driving it. *Hand smacks forehead* D and I sold my beautiful Nissan Murano before moving here and bought a small Ford Focus soon after we arrived. Best decision we ever made!
PRO: Christmas
 Germany does Christmas like no other. It's really hard to miss Christmas at home in the states when Germany does Christmas so beautifully. There are hundreds of Christmas Markets that start popping up all of Germany the second the first chill of December starts to roll around. Each market is uniquely themed, but they all have treats like Glühwein, twinkling lights, & holiday handicrafts in common. Christmas in Germany is such a magical time of year!

CON: Lack of Air Conditioning

Air conditioned homes are a rare thing around Europe. Granted, Germany rarely ever has temperatures above 80 degrees, but on that off occasion that it does, we all but suffocate in our flat. Germans basically melt out in the streets...and so do the candles in my living room. I never thought living without A/C would make me as uncomfortable as it does when August rolls around. Restaurants are hot. Shopping malls are hot. Sitting on a train cramped together with dozens of Germans is practically unbearable. Multiple oscillating fans placed strategically all over the house is a MUST. And sometimes the only relief from the heat is a short sit in my air conditioned car. True story.

That's all for now! Be on the look out for more pros & cons next week!

54 comments:

  1. This was really interesting! I don't know very much about Germany so it's always fun to learn about new places. I am originally from the US, too, but I currently live in Japan and need to write more about what it's like to live there - you've totally inspired me! I've also heard that Japan and Germany's cultures are similar in certain ways, but I don't know what Germany is like so I have no idea why! hahah Looking forward to your future posts to find out more about that :) Anyways, thanks for a fun post!

    xoxo
    Melyssa
    http://thenectarcollective.com

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  2. I had no idea you had to pay for water in Germany and to pay to use the restroom in public? That's crazy. I don't know how you do it, I'm such a wimp.

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  3. Beer, wine, parties and self-cleaning toilet seats - sounds pretty amazing. I can't wait to travel there with my husband.

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  4. I love reading these types of posts! We hope to get to Germany one day, so it's nice to know what to prepare for.

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  5. I feel very informed. I had no idea what Germany was like. I wish we could be stationed there. Unfortunately, we are Marines and the chances are pretty slim. I will settle with looking at your posts :)

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  6. I really enjoyed this and the way you organized the post - I had a lot of fun reading this! I'm glad you're able to see both the pros and cons...the bathroom bit is especially interesting.

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  7. Oh the lack of closets!!! I so miss my walk-in!!! Fun post, thanks!

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  8. This was SO interesting!! Hilarious that water is expensive... good excuse to drink alcohol huh?! And that is so annoying things close so early... I've been to some very business centric cities (like downtown Houston) where everything closes at 5pm... even Mickey D's! The travel is def the best PRO!

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  9. I'd definitely pay to pee and lose my closet space for living in Germany. Yep.

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  10. It's quite funny to read this post, as someone who grew up in Germany and England. Your blog is great, so I have nominated you for a Liebster blog award. Take a look here http://thegoodthebadthequirky.blogspot.co.uk/ and you can see what it's about. You don't really have to do anything, but there are some random questions you can answer if you fancy it. :)

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  11. I love all the helpful stuff you post! Thanks for all the tips! It'll make our travels a little easier someday.

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  12. that's interesting that people don't do tap water in Germany. I wonder how it compares to the rest of Europe? in France I always asked for une carafe d'eau without getting weird looks.

    and honestly, I'm more than willing to pay to use the toilet. when you compare the quality of the bathrooms in Europe to what you see here in the US...I think the price is well worth it. most of the bathrooms on my campus don't even have functional locks on the stalls!

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  13. These are all great tips, wow no joke about the AC, crazy!

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  14. All of these could not be more true! Ahhh...brought back so many fond memories of my time I spent living in Austria. Which, really isn't *too* different than Germany...at least on these points. Thanks for sharing and bringing back some fond memories and smiles to my face this morning! :)

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  15. I love this! It's such a different perspective & so interesting to read! :) I always find it so intriguing how people live so differently around the world, but how everyone manages to get by just fine. Love this! (And love your new layout - it's gorgeous!)

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  16. Thank you for another great blog post! I've always wondered why Germany seemed so much cleaner than here. I guess Germany proved that you get what you pay for. I wouldn't mind a bit paying to potty here if we could guarantee clean bathrooms. As always, love your photos too!
    Miss you much, love you more,
    Momma B

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  17. Hi! Sorry but I do not agree...Closets and air conditioned are not rare in Europe...Not at least in "my" part of Europe: Spain...
    Gracias
    María

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  18. Loved this! :)

    I was so surprised when I went to Poland and had to pay to use a restroom! I was all "whaaaat? But I really have to go!"

    Germany sounds pretty awesome though, Sebastian always tells me that's where he'd like to live :)

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  19. I love Germany. But dehydration is an understatement!! When we were there I could only think how thirsty I was all the time. And hardly any water to be found!!
    The first time we went over and were trying to figure out how to use the public transportation, I looked at everyones shoes till I saw some I thought were American. The girl had just gotten over there and couldn't figure out how I knew SHE was an American out of all the others. I told her it was the shoes and she'd figure it out. lol

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  20. That car parking picture is hilarious! How do they even fit in them?!?

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  21. Great post! Living in Austria is very similar, although I haven't been to many festivals! Before we leave in a couple months, I need to go to some. I wonder what'll come into season next that we can throw a party for!

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  22. paying to pee is so ridiculous! I was so confused when I saw that in Sweden!

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  23. Love this list. Paying to pee does suck BUT it sucks even more when they don't even freaking have toilet paper or clean bathrooms once you pay.

    Germany really is the travelers dream - I love being smack dab in the middle. I look at maps and think I could not be more centralized!

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  24. What a fun post! Beer is cheaper than water? Sounds like my kind of place -- well, except the part where you have to pay to tinkle. ha, ha.

    Cheers,
    Kristina

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  25. We pay in the NL for water too- but thankfully not as much for the WC. MY family and I just did a road trip through Germany and I had to laugh at the miserable weather and pay to use WCs! I am so over this cold spring. My boys need to get outside and enjoy some of this experience expiating in decent weather!

    -beer is cheaper than water here too in restaurants. Really weird.

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  26. I live in Amsterdam and the No Closet things drives me crazy. The rooms are so small to begin with and then there isn't a closet? It's so weird. Also, hell yes I order beer and wine over water every time I go out. There the same price! What American wouldn't?

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  27. As a native German gal who moved abroad I enjoyed reading your post a lot. I have to admit there are some things you named as cons that I just don't agree with but that may be because I grew up in Germany and just don't see these things as anything unusual. I've been living abroad for eight years but honestly I kind of miss the quiet Sundays, the time for family and friends and to just relax and chill out without having to worry about anyone or anything. I'm quite used to being able to pop to the store whenever I want now and sometimes when I go home I consider it a bit of an inconvenience not to be able to shop on a Sunday but that's more because I'm on a schedule and less because I consider it a nuisance. As for the air-con, we really don't need that, we just find loads of other activities. A stroll by the river to catch a cool breeze, a whole day spend in an outdoor swimming pool, ice cream, cold water... You get imaginative and creative... ;-)

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  28. One of my proudest moments in our old town was finding out the library had a hidden free bathroom on the second floor! I felt so cool when I told all my friends! Honestly though the thing that gets me most is no refills!

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  29. Thank you for linking up with us today!

    I have family in Munich and we visited them about a year and a half ago. I agree with this entire list. I seriously felt dehydrated the entire time we were there because I had more beer than water. And it's always horrible when you don't have coins for the bathroom!

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  30. Great list and as someone who has lived in Germany and now live in England I can relate. I'll have to make a similar list for England.

    ps. Looooove Christmas in Germany, makes me miss Germany when it's Christmas time.

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose

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  31. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing and so glad I found your blog!

    *newest follower :)

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  32. Great post! I may have to copy this idea in the near future :)

    Ditto on many of these. Mainly do NOT drink the tap water {GAG!}, No air or heating {sad}, Horrible parking, NO CLOSETS?!??! We had to build some in our current house cause this girl cannot live without closet space!

    Stopping by from The Expat Diaries!

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  33. When I lived in England having to specify fizzy or still drove me crazy. Paying to use the toilet was also something I definitely had to get used to!

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  34. Thanks for linking up! It crazy that a lot of the pros and cons are the same here in Korea. Traveling is easy and relatively cheap (compared to the states), we have wardrobes but no real closets, they built the country and forgot about parking spaces, thankfully we don't have to pay for water!

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  35. Imagine I'm nodding my head along with everything you wrote. Except AC...we got super lucky and not only got AC units on two floors, but they're in optimal positions. Not something I would have thought about, but our friend's apartment has a unit in the hallway so he had to rig a sheet or something to get the air to flow into his room.

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  36. I loved reading through this! Why would you not pick wine when its the same price as water!? Living in Germany sounds like it would be my downfall. ;)

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  37. hahha love this pros and cons! basically everything the same in spain except everything closes super late here. stores at about 9 and restaurants about 11 then bar and clubs 6am!
    something i've gotten very used to and is very strange when everyhting starts closing early in other countries

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  38. Love the list. I think the Pros far out weigh the Cons...so far! Good tips too, for if I ever get to visit Germany.

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  39. Great post! I find myself loving all the different places I've visited in Europe for very similar reasons to yourself (especially the wine!) and disliking for a few of the reasons you mentioned too! I find London is slightly different to Europe but still so different to USA & Australia (one I've visited, one I'm actually originally from)

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  40. We're brand new to Germany (Heidelberg area) and I loved reading this list! We also are having to get used to paying for restrooms and are nervous for a summer with no A/C. Of course, there may never be a summer since this is the seemingly endless winter! Ugh. I look forward to reading your blog more and getting ideas for our own travel here in Deutchland!

    -Kailin
    hisherstories.blogspot.com

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  41. Ha, ha, you are soooo cute and soooo right. I am german and i can confirm that everything you said is RIGHT!!!!

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  42. Hi!
    I've recently discovered your blog and I have to say, I love reading. Your writing style is so fun and real! I'm looking forward to reading more about your story. I also love the pro/con list! I've always wanted to live in Europe, but it's good to hear both sides of things! I know I will miss my Chick-fil-a! I would love to (someday) see a post about your favorite trips in Europe so far. I'm heading there this summer and am having trouble picking WHERE I want to go--so many choices!!!

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  43. Ok, the car and candle photo, d.i.e. funny. I think any former and current expat can feel the humor in that one!
    In my "American" pilates class are Latin expats. My Mexican expat friends miss the fresh food you can buy on the street. It's all relative, huh.
    Loved this post!
    Cortne
    cocoinmagnolia.com

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  44. This is my exact list from living in Brussels. With the price of wine here + the incredible Belgian brews, we'll be able to out-drink 21 year olds by the time we move back to the states. And, seriously..paying to pee is the worst.

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  45. Love this post! I just came across your blog from Travel Tuesday. I have always wanted to go to Germany at Christmastime, I'm a December baby and love to travel when places are all decorated! My mom and I are thinking about going this year during Oktoberfest so I'll definitely have to remember your pros/cons!

    I love riesling, so I should be very happy there! HAHAH! :)

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  46. Yup. I may just copy and paste this into my own blog (kidding. Heh...I think I've even used that line before.) Seriously, though, those are my same thoughts about living in Italy. Only here things not only close early every day, but they close in the middle of the day, too. That's been the biggest con in my mind.

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  47. My partner and I recently made the decision to move to Germany and I found your blog! Looking forward to reading EVERY post haha. Thanks so much :3

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  48. I enjoyed reading this and must say I found it quite funny how your expectations are completely different to what I'd be looking for. In the UK, we don't have closets or air conditioned homes as a general rule so I wouldn't really pick up on these things. I must add though that your pros are quite appealing and help me to look forward to moving there next year.

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  52. Water is one of the biggest adjustments I would have to make living abroad. The tiny little glasses drive me crazy when all I want is a jumbo sized cup of ice water. Sometimes it's best to just give up and order wine. I love your Rothenburg ob de Tauber pic! We had an amazing time there.

    Sarah
    recentgradventures.blogspot.com

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  53. As a German, I love this little series. So entertaining :)

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  54. so funny!!! and agreed on the lack of air conditioning. But christmas markets are one of the greatest inventions...
    http://www.livingincinnamon.com/travel/2016/2/18/living-in-germany-our-1st-year-in-review

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I appreciate your feedback, friends! I read every comment and try my hardest to respond to each one, but if your email address isn't attached to your blogger profile, you might find my response in the comment thread instead. As always, thanks for reading!

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