Jul 18, 2013

Pros & Cons of Living in Germany : Part Fünf

PRO: Parks
The beautiful Kurpark, where D and I spend quite a bit of our time.
They're everywhere in Germany. Every town across the country has a park or even multiple parks filled with lots of green space, jogging & biking trails, and playgrounds for the little tots. When D and I first moved into our flat here, our landlord showed us where he runs and plays football (soccer) each week...the Kurpark...literally a 5 minute walk down the hill beside our house. If it's sunny outside and at least 55 degrees, you can find me, D, and about a hundred German people down there wandering around. Germans take pride in being physically fit and active, so you'll never be in a park alone. In the states, the park near our apartment was vacant almost year round...aside from me and my morning runs. Yet another thing I think America needs to get more on board with. Less TV & video games...more parks (and actually getting outside and using them!!)!

CON: Lack of sweet desserts
As yummy as it gets for me here, folks. Warm Apfel Strudel with vanilla ice cream.
You won't find your mamma's triple chocolate caramel-dunked cheesecake cookie dough pie here in Germany, oh no. What you will find is an abundance of tarts, cakes (forget buttercream icings...think whipped cream toppings), and tortes made with fruit. Lots and lots of fruit. 99% of those cakes will also be bland and lack sweetness (aside from the fruit, of course), in my opinion. Not my cup of tea...especially being a Southern girl who grew up eating gooey pecan pie and gobs of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. German desserts are deceivingly beautiful, too. There's nothing more annoying than ordering a big slice of cake, expecting to be wowed by decadence, only to be disappointed by sub-par sweetness. Granted, Germany is known for some pretty spectacular Apfelstrudel and German Chocolate Cake (except in Germany, isn't it just chocolate cake? Redundant? Anyone?), but finding a dessert so outrageously sweet that it literally hurts your teeth to eat? Better get yourself on a plane back to America, because Germans don't make those kinds of treats. Gummie bears, Eis (gelato), & chocolate bars don't count. I miss Cheesecake Factory, just sayin'.

PRO: Thermalbaden

If you've never had the pleasure of visiting a German thermalbad, allow me to enlighten you. These places are neat. Thermalbaden are like spas, but not the kind of spa you're thinking of (although some German thermalbaden do have massage/scrub/wrap/tanning services, too, but those cost extra). The kind of "spa" I'm referring to is a warm body of water that is thought to have special health-giving properties. Thermalbaden are all over Germany. Right here in my host town of Wiesbaden, we have at least 5 different thermalbaden, but that's also because the town was built on 26 different hot springs and is the oldest spa town in Europe...hence the name Wies-BADEN, which translates to "meadow baths." Fun fact: 14 of those hot springs are still flowing here! When you visit a thermalbad, you're in for a strange treat. You walk into a place that looks a lot like the YMCA, but as soon as you're past all the lockers and showers, you enter what looks like a large solarium full of pools, fountains, and steam rooms. For about 15 euros per 2 hour session, all spas are at your disposal (most thermalbaden have cafés & serve beer, too!). Some pools have signs telling you there are minerals within the water that are good for certain ailments, but all pools are WARM. Like bathwater warm. Some thermalbaden also have an outdoor portion (complete with a fake beach and beach chairs!), where you can swim outside and bathe under the stars. Those parts are most fun in the wintertime. The water is warm, but the air is cool, making for an interesting sensation if you dare to poke your shoulders above the water. The thermalbad I visited in Bad Orb last November also had a sight, sound, and sauna room. A large, round pool was in the middle of this cone-shaped room with a high dome ceiling. You could hook your feet to a railing that went around the edge of the pool and lie back, floating on the surface of the water. While floating, you could watch the dome ceiling change colors and patterns, and as your ears were submerged just slightly underwater, you could hear classical music being pumped through the underwater speakers. Every 10 minutes, a puff of steam would enter the room, filling it with warm condensation. Talk about a relaxing experience! I'm lucky I didn't fall asleep and drown myself. A lot of thought and science are put into these thermalbaden (for example, they give directions on how long you should bathe in certain spas), so you're definitely in for a healthy treat while visiting one. German thermal baths get big thumbs up in my book! Well, on certain days, at least...

CON: Thermalbaden
Therme Erding-Bavaria
Yes, you read that correctly. These thermal baths can also be a con...if you end up going on the wrong day. Unlike Americans (well, the majority I should say), Germans love to be naked. And not just Germans, Europeans in general enjoy birthday suiting-it-up on a regular basis. That's why many thermalbaden also have "naked days." You can do everything you'd do on a normal spa day, just completely in the nude. Sometimes these nude days (or even just nude hours) are limited to specific rooms, other times it's the whole thermalbad. Sometimes nude days or nude rooms are only male or female...other times, they're co-ed. It just all depends on which thermalbad you visit. Imagine a bunch of old Germans doing the sight, sound, and steam room with their willies to the wind. Or don't. Ew. Forgive me for planting that ninja in your brain. But if your German is not so good and you don't realize it's nakie day at the thermalbad upon paying your money and starting your 2 hours of relaxation (and the receptionist fails to tell you...ahem), you could be in for a real surprise (and a non-relaxing 2 hour session). Precisely why thermal baths can also be a con. Word of the wise? Learn the German word for nude first thing. Hint: it's "Nackt." 

Wanna know more about the thermalbad bathing process (naked and clothed)? I especially love this run-down of one American's experience in one of the most famous thermalbaden in Germany. This article is pretty fascinating, too. Also, don't google "German nude thermalbad". You get lots of weird, inappropriate photos. Trust me.

PRO: 3-way windows
via
Man, I love these things. You can tilt them, turn them, swing them wide open, or just barely crack them...offering a variety of ways to keep your house cool in the summer and the dry air away in the winter. Simply ingenious. I never saw a window like this until we moved to Germany, but they're the European standard around here. Just twist the handle one way and the window tilts...twist it another and it swings out all the way. Makes cleaning windows a real breeze, too. Not that I ever do that or anything. America, have you seen these before? I want them in my future home. Nay, I NEED them.

CON: Germans wear imaginary blinders
via
No matter how hard I try to ignore this cultural difference, it still irks me to no end. Let me explain: when D and I first moved into our current neighborhood, we'd often take walks around to get acquainted with our surroundings. When we'd walk down the sidewalk and a German person was walking directly towards us on that same sidewalk, they'd automatically cross the street to the other sidewalk and continue walking. I was immediately offended. Did they know we were Americans and they're avoiding us? I mean, do I smell weird? It baffled me on why this kept happening. Even if they didn't cross the street to not walk past us, they'd walk past and not even acknowledge our existence (no eye contact whatsoever)...half the time barely moving and forcing us to move INTO the street so as to not bump into them. I finally mustered up the nerve to ask a few of my German friends what the heck was up with all the avoiding and they said, "That's just the way we are. No need for mindless waves or smiles as you walk by...we've got places to go, things to do, move out of our way. American waves and smiles are disingenuous. You don't know that person...why wave? It makes you look weak." WEAK? Well, tell me how you really feel, geez. Of course, you know that sparked a bit of a debate between me, a Southern girl who smiles and waves at EVERYONE who passes by me, and my German avoiders. We Americans do like to give a friendly smile or wave when someone walks past us, but I hardly think it's disingenuous or weak. It's polite. Nice. Friendly, even. I guess I'm crazy, but what's so wrong with that? Whether I know the person or not is irrelevant. If I'm happy, I wave or smile as a sign of my happiness and awareness of the world around me. Now, that doesn't mean I'm going to walk down the busy streets of New York City and wave at every person I pass, but if someone glances at me and smiles, I'm sure as heck gonna smile back (as long as it's not a super creepy smile). Germans, I do NOT agree with this avoidance mindset. Not one bit. If you're German and you don't do this, I'd love to wave and smile at you someday!! :)

{A little disclaimer: I should mention that not all Germans have adopted this blinder mentality. Nor does it mean Germans are unfriendly people as a whole. Quite the contrary. But, Germany, do you see why America has this stigma that you're an abrasive nation? Stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason, I suppose.}

Until next time...Auf Wiedersehen!

*Please keep in mind that all of these pros & cons are formed simply from my experiences and perspective as an American living abroad. You can find the other installments of my Pros & Cons of living in Germany hereherehere, & here.*

32 comments:

  1. I love the fact about waving. Here in England, I'm always being told by my Brit that I am "too friendly"! xx

    Amanda
    www.rhymeandribbons.com

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  2. Currently living in the Hohenfels area. Know what you mean, especially about the smiling at strangers. I have to say, at first I just thought they all knew I was American until I realized they don't do unnecessary smiling or waving. And they don't do well with small talk either. I've always just akwardly smiled and made small talk out of feeling compelled but I gotta say I enjoy that the Germans don't do this, cause then I don't have to feel compelled to have a fake smile or conversation lol I totally get it. I have noticed though that Germans living near American bases do smile back because of the amount of Americans they see. Haha I can just imagine Europeans getting together and saying how weird and creepy Americans smile at them. Anyways, I've never been to the German spas, I am going to Karlovy Vary next month though! Thanks for sharing!

    -Brittany Ruth

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    1. My landlord lady LOVES small talk. She's definitely the exception, not the rule. I think she likes to listen to me try and stumble over my limited German (even though she speaks prefect English), but I'm ok with that. Give me practice! :) I can totally see how you could grow comfortable with not having to smile and wave, but I feel like it's a reflex for me! I've tried stopping, but that hand just shoots up there before I can even think! HA!

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  3. It's so strange to read about these things as pros and cons. We accept them as the normal routine or just as a normal state. I live in Lithuania, but we do have lots of parks and green zones, three way windows and people would never smile back even if they are smiled at. That's just how we are. Europeans indeed think American smiles are rather fake but I believe, it's just our cultural differences. You were brought up to be friendly with everyone and European kids have been taught to be polite, yet reserved. Though I gotta say, younger people are more outgoing and would definitely smile back :) We don't have thermal baths in Lithuania, but I am so used to any country, like Slovakia or Iceland, having thermal pools and baths that I didn't even think in US it's a rarer thing. Though the naked part - ewwww.
    It's fun to read your perspective on Germany :) As a Lithuanian, I think Germany is an unbelievably neat country :)

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    1. Such an interesting perspective, Voriukas! I totally agree with you, Germany is one neat country! I also agree with your view that these things seem normal to you because you grew up with them being the norm. Just like all of the things I listed seem strange or amazing to me because they've all been introduced to me while living here as a foreigner in Germany. I'm glad you were able to shed more light onto the whole "no smile or wave phenomenon"...I didn't realize it was a European thing as I've never experienced it outside of Germany! On another note, I hear Lithuania is a lovely country. I so wish our Baltic cruise a few weeks ago made a stop there. Might have to make another trip back your way someday then, huh? :)

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  4. How in the world have I never heard of a thermalbaden? That is such a weirdly awesome concept (on non-nudy days, of course) - if we lived in Germany I think Jurg and I would be frequenting these gems quite often. It's weird that they have co-ed nude areas on certain days though - that would completely freak me out! In Turkey - I did the Turkish Bath thing with a friend and we did not anticipate that they were going to rip our bikini tops off us upon entry. Man was that awkward... and it wasn't even co-ed ;)

    xxx
    Jenna

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  5. Oh my word. Naked day at the thermal baths. You had me laughing out loud C! Thanks for the ninja. Or not. Ha!

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  6. The dessert thing makes me sad for you haha! I can have a light/fruit type dessert every now and then but I am a chocolate, peanut butter, caramel, covered in chocolate, brownie, cookie cake type gal lol!

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  7. I actually looooove you pro and cons of living in Germany-posts, because it's so funny to read those from an American perspective. I am German, grew up in Germany and studied abroad in California this past Fall semester. And many of those cons that you see (probably because you're not used to it and it may seem strange if you don't know it) are actually pros for me. :D Probably because I grew up with this and for me, the German way is the "normal" way and Americans do "strange" stuff. For example the waving and small talk: Yep, us Germans are not pretty good at that. But in the States I often thought that is feels so fake to smile at everyone and pretend that you're interested in smalltalk. ;) But I guess that's because I grew up in Germany.
    The same with the waiter (you've written about it earlier). I like it when waiters don't come all the time and ask if you need anything. Or I love to just stay at the restaurant, maybe have some more drinks or just stay there to have a great time with friends. In California, you go to a restaurant, eat, pay and leave. In the beginning I was so confused, because it is rude to bring the check without being asked. Because you can stay in the restaurant as long as you want. :) But after a while you get used to it. :)
    Please keep on writing those posts, it is so dang funny for me to read them because I can really see how you feel because I felt this way when I was living in California. :)
    Best from Darmstadt (pretty close to Wiesbaden),
    Sybilla

    PS: I'm not a fan of the naked stuff, either.... That is more for the 'older' generation. ;)

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    1. So happy you enjoy them, Sybilla! I think you should write up your pros & cons of living as a German in America! I'd love to read them! And you are so right, had I grown up in Germany, all of my cons would probably be pros as well. It's all in how we were brought up! Interestingly enough, I've grown to enjoy the slow paced dinners we've been having lately. Especially in the summertime out on the markplatz. I just have to keep in mind that our waiters aren't ignoring us, they're allowing us time to enjoy our dinners and dining companions!

      We're not to far from one another! We head down to Darmstadt every so often to stock up on beer at a warehouse there. If I'm ever in town (or you're in Wiesbaden), we should have coffee! :)

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  8. I've noticed that about most Germans, they're pretty tough. Sometimes they just seem downright mean and rude, but it's just the way they are! My husbands grandmother is German and it took some getting used to.

    I really want to go to a thermalbaden. Not naked though... Yikes.

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  9. This post is amazing, I have learned so much! And three way windows sound great!

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

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  10. Agreed with the windows! How are these not everywhere? And the Thermalbaden. Oh the Thermalbaden. Not much of a spa person in the US, I really want to go just for the nudity & German-ness. Just need to work up the nerve....

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  11. That's probably why people in Europe are on the thinner side - desserts are not as sweet and don't have as much sugar. Loved this post - learned a lot.
    ~Ashley (A Cute Angle)

    http://acutelifestyle.blogspot.com
    www.facebook.com/ACuteLifestyle
    www.twitter.com/ACuteLifestyle

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  12. I was really excited for the German spa...until I walked in on naked day. Oops! I haven't mustered up the courage to go back, but that Orb Spa sounds pretty tempting...

    Speaking of their windows, do you miss screens? I love the air flow but hate the bugs that fly in when the windows are open on top..

    Shannon

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  13. I definitely miss the thermalbad, so relaxing and enjoyable. The one in the town I lived in had two sweet indoor slides, and that was where I got to learn most of the German slang- riding the slides with the kids.

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  14. Such a great series! Being German I really enjoy reading about what you like about Germany and what you think is downright weird :) Having lived in California, Singapore, Switzerland and now Australia myself I think it is hilarious what things I find amazing / fascinating / weird about the places I have lived in - and the responses I get from my local friends after "confronting" them. Even if I can't remember that I was ever greeted by strangers on the street in California, I am one of those Germans who would smile back at you :) Promise!! Oh and I love our German desserts, my teeth hurt when I think about the sweeeeeeet desserts back in the States :)
    Kristina x

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  15. i love reading these because korea falls into a lot of these too! want a sweet dessert? go to baskin robins. otherwise you'll have a beautifully decorated, awfully bland cake on your plate. they think our desserts are too sweet and yet they put sugar on their garlic bread....? and we have the bath houses too except majority of them are segregated men and women and everyone is neked. they're super relaxing with pools of different temperatures, filled with different minerals...it just takes a bit getting used to!

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  16. Ha - most of these remind me a lot of Norway (particularly the parks, blinders & 3 way windows.) I'm also with Kristina - there is such a thing as too much sweet ;-)

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  18. Now I want to go to a thermalbad something terrible! It's refreshing to know there are places that allow you to go NOT naked! I'm pretty confident in myself, but I just don't think I could handle seeing that many old women naked at once. ick. Not ready for that nor will I ever be.

    Also congratulations, you've officially got me craving some apple strudel!
    -Amanda | Living in Another Language

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  19. I love my three way windows, LOVE them!
    And where I live in France, if you don't say hi to someone, they think you're rude. I go around smiling and saying bonjour like a weird bobble head doll :)

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  20. Hi Casey, thanks so much for linking to us! I've also thought about writing a post on the non-smiling thing (sometimes I used to really exaggerate my smiles and waves just to enjoy the look of shock!). However, I have German friends from other area that swear people are more open in their part of the country. And have you seen how they get once they DO know each other? If I had a dollar for every time I waited for a cashier as they chatted with their friend for five minutes, completely unconcerned that I was waiting....

    Anyway, you wouldn't believe the difference now that we're in Okinawa. Here, even the luggage handlers stop and wave as the plane leaves the gate! People bend over backwards just to be nice. I've never been surrounded by such open, friendly people (not even in the South!). I'd love to bring some Okinawans back to Germany as an example, and say, "See? I'm totally moderate in comparison!"

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  21. This is so funny! I am the person that sometimes doesn't wave to strangers because I think "what do they care if I wave, they don't know me". I usually do though because I know people think it's rude. I would fit right in in Germany!

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  22. Three-way-windows are Z BEST! And somehow avoided the thermalbad up until now... I think I'm a pool snob so the public pool thing is tough enough for me, but in the nude... man oh man

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  23. THREE WAY WINDOWS? mind blown.

    I love how Europe does parks - they're around every corner! such lovely green surprises all over the place :)

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  24. One of my good friends in Sweden is English and she has the same complaint about desserts there and is always lamenting that she can never get a good sweet dessert unless she makes it herself! I on the other hand am fond of the Swedish style of dessert except when it comes to birthday cakes, which should in my opinion have gobs of frosting and sprinkles!

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  25. I am German and for me this post is very interesting!^^
    Especially the last point... I think in a pretty german way, too, because why should I wave and smile to someone I don't know... maybe then he thinks I am into him or she thinks I am weird^^
    And I honestly still find it a bit fake when people ask you 'how are you' or similar, but you know... they are actually not REALLY interested... o.O

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  27. Germans wear imaginary blinders. Okay, now I get it! I'm currently living as an au pair in North West Germany. I'm from a small country town in FL so I'm ALWAYS smiling at people & waving, but hardly anyone smiles back at me. They all look straight ahead like I'm not there and I feel so rude not acknowledging them! Thank you for clearly that up!

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  28. This makes me so happy! We're hoping to get orders to Germany this year, praying in fact. I absolutely HATE it when people insist on waving & smiling at people they don't know. I'm from New Jersey. We don't do that shit lol. We're stationed in CA right now and it drives me crazy on base when strangers act all buddy buddy. Leave me alone I don't know you!

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  29. My parents have three way windows in their house! My mom is from Germany, and when they remodeled, those windows were a must! They are seriously the best. And they do make them in the States! Marvin Windows in Minnesota is where they got theirs. :)

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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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