Aug 15, 2013

Pros & Cons of Living in Germany: Part Sechs

Pro: Architecture

It's no surprise that Germany is a gorgeous country, but the one thing I still can't get over even after over 2 years of living here? The architecture. Timbered houses, colorful walls, flower boxes, bell towers, castles, ornate gates, signs and doors; I practically melt into the cobblestone streets just thinking about how beautifully built 
practically every square inch of this country is. In the states, you'd be hard pressed to find architecture as colorful and rich with history as Germany is famous for. Every new town we visit is like walking into the pages of some sweet fairytale. I know, I know...it all sounds overly romantic and dreamy. No place is that cute. Crazy thing is, I'm not exaggerating. Anyone who's ever been to Germany would agree. Around every corner is some old fountain or massive buttressed church just reminding me of Germany's expansive history and unique style all its own. I look like a perpetual tourist, always having my camera out and my eyes to the sky. Deutschland, I can't take my eyes off of you!

Con: 19% VAT (Value Added Tax)

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Gahhhh, Germany you may be gorgeous, but you are EXPENSIVE! Ok, so prices for things are relatively the same. But that NINETEEN PERCENT sales tax really gets me. Most of the time it's added into the price on the item sale tag...other times, it's not. Those times are really when you see the hurt in your wallet. Some stores/hotels/service providers allow patrons to use VAT forms which exempt you from paying that 19% tax if you're not a German citizen, which is nice. But, those businesses are few and far between. I believe D and I have used a VAT form at IKEA, H&M, the train station, and at a handful of souvenir shops around Germany...but the majority of the time, we're paying the 19% tax and not getting it back. We try not to think about missing our low 6.5% sales tax back home (although those of you back home probably think 6.5% is steep!)...it would just make us crazy thinking of all the money we'd be saving if we were home. Thankfully, the military does give us COLA (cost of living allowance) to help offset this tax and the conversion to the euro. Otherwise, we might not be traveling anywhere! Thank you, Uncle Sam?

Pro: Tipping

I guess while we're on the topic of money, I should mention that tipping in Germany (and in many other places in Europe) isn't necessary. It's definitely appreciated, but it's not something most waitresses and waiters expect after serving food to restaurant patrons. Tipping is a very American thing. Which kind of makes me want to punch America in the face. Employers should be paying wait staff for their hard work, not relying on customers to foot the bill. But that's just my opinion. And usually no one asks my opinion. ;) Here in Germany, D and I usually give a euro or two as a tip (whatever coins are left over from paying cash), no matter the bill amount. I have to admit, it's a weird feeling not leaving a 20% tip every time we go out to eat. I almost feel like I'm cheating someone out of money. Interestingly enough, you learn to get over it...and really appreciate that extra 5 euros in your pocket. Until you have to pay 19% VAT for something. {hand smacks forehead} 


Con: Smoking

Ok, I swear D and his friend aren't smokers. They just wanted to have a cigar after a whole day of Oktoberfesting it up in Munich last year. But this photo was too funny not to share. What's not funny? Having to constantly move your seat or leave a restaurant because a gaggle of German people are blowing cigarette smoke in your general direction. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many smokers as I have since I've been living in Europe. Yeah, that's right Europe, it's not just Germany that's to blame. But since this post is all about Germany, I'll stick to Germans. Smoking is gross. Addicting and gross. And after watching my MeeMaw suffer with Emphysema caused by smoking 30+ years of her life, you can bet my tolerance level for smoking is slim to none. Like, I wasn't even thrilled the boys bought cigars that day. At all. I get that people like to smoke when they drink (and Germans love to drink!), but the abundance of smoking here just makes this gorgeous country smell like one big ashtray. Thankfully, many stores, restaurants, train stations, and airports are starting to ban smoking or are creating smoking sections to make their non-smoking visitors a bit happier. Maybe when I visit Germany 5 years from now it'll be virtually smoke-less? Fat chance...but one can hope.

Pro: Maternity Leave
This is another issue that makes me want to give America a proverbial smack in the face. In Germany, they are doing maternity leave right. Heck, much of the rest of the world is doing it right compared to the US. By law, working German women are given up to 12-14 months paid (65% of their income-employer pays part and public health insurance pays part) maternity leave. In America? Maybe 6 weeks...tops. In fact, German women aren't even allowed to go back to work until after 8 weeks postpartum, if they so choose. In addition, if a mother was working before she got pregnant and goes on maternity leave, her job will still be there waiting for her when her maternity leave is over. No if's, and's or but's about it. The employer can't legally fill the mother's position with anyone else. Fathers can also take advantage of these leave benefits (together this is called parental leave). Moms can also work part time during their maternity leave for up to 30 hours a week and still receive partial maternity leave benefits. Additionally, women can opt to take maternity leave (called Elternziet) up until their child's 3rd birthday. No salary is paid during this period, but the mother's job can't be given away by her employer either. Mothers can even hold off a year of their maternity leave and use it when the child is between the ages of 3 and 8 if their employer allows it! Craziness, huh? America, read my words....THIS IS HOW MATERNITY LEAVE SHOULD BE DONE!!!! I know when it comes time for D and I to have kids, I'll be wishing I was German.

Con: Urinating Sitting Down (for Men)

I really could care less about this, but my husband HATES this...and FIY, doesn't do it (Uh oh! Call the Polizei!!). He's not an idiot pee-er. Learned how to aim a long time ago, I'm sure. All over Germany (and even around Europe for that matter), men are pretty much shamed into peeing sitting down. For now it's more of an unspoken "rule" or common courtesy, but I just read an article that Germany and other countries in the EU (most notebly, Sweden) are proposing to make sitting down to pee a LAW. Who knows if this is really true, but if it is...craziness, right? Ok, so I understand why it's even a thing. Some men have bad aiming skills and no one wants to walk into a bathroom with pee all over the floor. Or toilet. Larry David knows what I'm talking about. But making it law? C'mon. That's just silly talk. And what happens when men go to sit and pee in a toilet with one of those poop shelves? Not much wiggle room, if you catch my drift. I feel sorry for their manhood's. Maybe you guys should lay off some of those Hefeweizen's and making it in the toilet wouldn't be a problem? Just throwing that out there. Also, "Sitzpinkler" is an awful word.

Until next time...Bis Bald!

*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, & here.*

28 comments:

  1. 19%?! whoa. no thank you. But yes please to paid maternity leave and restaurants actually paying servers what they are worth!

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  2. I always love your Pro and Cons-Series! Especially since I am German and it's so interesting to see how others view our country.
    I was just a little confused about the tax-thing: Unfortunately, the VAT is higher here (but food is still 7%) but it always is included in the price tag that you see somewhere and it doesn't have to be added up at the cash register. So I think that's a huge plus compared to the States! When I was living there, that drove me crazy ;)

    Cheers from Munich,
    Jasmin

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  3. Ok... this peeing sitting down thing is just plain weird! I have never ever heard of this until now! I'm going to tell Jurgen tonight and he's going to freak ;) So then I'm assuming there are no urinals in Germany? It's weird considering that they love locker rooms and nudity in general otherwise.

    In SA we have 14% VAT and it kills me! 19% is even crazier though. And the smoking... it's pretty bad here too, although they're finally starting to beef up their smoking laws. Maternity leave, non-existent. Employers are only required to give employees 3 months UNPAID. How lame is that?

    xxx
    Jenna

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  4. Oh I love these posts! That maternity leave sounds like America could learn a good lesson. ;) When I was in Italy, the smoking really bothered me (lucky allergy to have), but I tried to ignore it as much as possible! Again, great post! I love learning about all of this stuff.

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  5. 19 % tax is outrageous, but I love the maternity leave. I only had six weeks when my daughter was born, and it was definitely not enough.

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  6. Love this idea!

    I literally LOL'ed at the idea of mandated sit-down peeing for men. How would they enforce it...?

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  7. only 6.5% tax??? that's not even fair! I'm paying 10% sales tax in Alabama! it always makes me want to cry a bit when I'm at the register checking out.

    and if I remember correctly, I think in France the VAT funds help cover things like tip money? something along those lines - it's been several years since I've discussed any of this. you usually only leave a tip at a French restaurant if you had exceptional service; otherwise it's really not necessary [there's a voice in the back of my mind saying it's somehow related to VAT...]

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  8. this is such a great post! I have never been to Germany, but I feel like I have learned a little of what to expect if I go. gotta love the peeing visuals they give you in case you didn't know what standing and sitting looks like, too funny!

    A Golden State of Mind

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  9. I love this post! Europe has got maternity leave SO right. It irks me like crazy!

    Also, what are the odds of two Kaity's posting right in a row...?

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  10. VAT in Scotland is 20% and I just about died when it went up from 17.5%. I mean, come on!!!! That is ridiculous!!

    I received 52 wks paid maternity leave. I'm so so grateful. I can't even imagine trying to go back to work sooner. Especially not at 6 wks! I was still healing and sleep deprived!

    Scotland smells like an ashtray too. Yuck.

    I was a server for 3 yrs in college. I have always been a big tipper. Until I moved to Scotland. Now, I don't even tip at all. The service is lousy. But, they get paid by their employer and tipping isn't usually done. My husband loves this. Me, I just want some decent service! I'd gladly give a tip!

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  11. I love reading these!! Along with maternity leave, America is also doing paid vacation wrong. I don't even get paid vacation and most EU countries require at least 3 weeks, I believe.

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  12. I loved reading this! The last one made me laugh out loud. I think the unspoken rule about sitting to pee might come from the Germany's proverbial love for beer and drunkenness. Maybe? I don't know.

    xo,
    Ana Paula
    {Visit me at Mommyhood, PhD}

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  13. Germany is really pretty and the little towns and villages are very fairytale-esque. We want to take our boys en route to Italy one year. The tipping thing is the same in Italy and the tax! A pack of nappies was 15 euros in one shop, just a small pack. People here in the uk moan about cost of living, but we're pretty lucky - it's the housing and renting thats the prob. Smoking is a bit better in Italy of late. So interesting to hear how people live in other countries.

    Louisa @ My Family & Abruzzo

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  14. OMG that peeing sitting down photo is great. They really made it, um, anatomically correct huh? Balls and all.

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  15. Being from Germany and living in the US ... I'd have to agree with almost all of those! So, I think that totally validates your opinion coming from a native :) However, I do think the 19% is awesome (especially when you are used to it from the get-go) because it benefits the entire country - free college/universities, health care, etc. there are a lot of great things that this money is at least partially used for, so I'd much rather pay higher taxes than tuition..
    I always love reading your blog, it's my piece of home over here :)

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  16. 19%?! that's insane. ours is 6% in MI, so it's pretty low compared to Europe and to most of the US!

    I've never been to Germany, but the pictures I've seen of it are just beautiful. That's one of my favorite things about Europe: the natural beauty as well as the gorgeous architecture!

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  17. Geez... and I thought Chicago's 9.5% tax was rough... Also, I completely agree about the tipping thing. My hubby was a waiter all through college and while tipping can allow you to make pretty good money, they should not be paid below minimum wage while they work. Great series!

    Also, that peeing photo is hilarious!

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  18. Wow 19% is craaaazy, but it was interesting to see what Rebecca said in regards to how it helps so much with education and health care.

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  19. The peeing sitting down doesn't bother me as much as the sign does!
    Lol. They actually put "it" on the sign... like we couldn't use our imaginations!!!
    Britt @ One&20

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  20. I love reading your views on living in Germany and not tipping is just the best!

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  21. haha i always love these posts. i wish so badly that we had maternity leave like the rest of the world! i had a friend from sweden that had her baby here and was telling us she got the same pay for a year after the baby was born. she was shocked that we got so little in the states!
    and those photos really do make it look like a fairy tale town!

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  22. VAT in England is 20% but it's ALWAYS already included in the price of things - it took me a few weeks after coming back to the States to remember that, if a price tag said $5, it didn't really mean $5!

    (and I'm going to move to Germany when we're ready for kids! thanks for the tip haha)

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  23. that was my biggest shock moving to England, %20 @*%$! sales/income tax?!?! It's always included in prices here though, so it hurts a little less. Also right before moving here they banned smoking in bars and restaurants, I was pretty overjoyed. I am mildly in love with that yellow building as well!

    Dannielle | Chic-a-Dee

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  24. Oh my gosh! This was toooo funny! My daughter is planning s trip to Germany at Chrustmas to visit her boyfriend. When she saw the toilets -we had to click to find out what a poop shelf was- she said "I'm not pooping the whole two weeks I'm there!"

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  25. hOLY MACKERAL!! I want that maternity leave so bad. Why couldn't the U.S. have something similar?? ):

    Your photos are lovely btw... and now I want to travel the world (or just maybe Europe)

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  26. I would save a TON of money not having to tip everytime I went out but then again I do not think I would be able to handle the smoking!

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

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  27. I definitely say tipping is SUPER necessary in Germany after working at a pub. I'd say about %5 of people don't tip and those 5% are assholes. But yes, tipping is less, but still necessary. I'd say you should tip 10% in Germany.

    Anyway, saw that maternity map the other day too and the US just sucks sometimes doesn't it? Gah-lee.

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  28. The smoking kills me! I was out having dinner with my cousin over the weekend here in the south of France... gorgeous restaurant, gorgeous view of the Med, gorgeous meal... what wasn't gorgeous however was the three (3!) tables full of smokers surrounding us. I know that we were seated outside and all but come on!!!

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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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