10 Things I’ve learned after living in Germany 10 years
IT'S MY GERMANNYVERSARY! :D
Yes, I've been here one decade of my life now. It's crazy to think about when I moved here in 2012. I have to say, the first time I came to Germany in 1996 after high school, I never imagined I would end up living here. And yet, here I am! I had no idea how much I would love it and how much Munich would suit me at this point in my life. You can read more about what I love about expat life in general here.
Every year in Germany has taught me something new and I am so grateful to everything this country has given me. I have to admit though, it's not always been an easy ride and many people find that setting up a life here can actually be quite challenging, especially when it comes to finding friends and social circles. Every country has its positives and negatives and benefits and challenges and Germany is no different. There are things I absolutely love and also things I still find difficult to navigate but overall, I think this is the best place for me at the moment and I also can use Germany as a base tro travel to other countries in Europe, which is amazing.
In Munich, I am 2 hours from Austria, 3 from Switzerland, 5 from Czech Republic, 3.5 from Italy, etc.
So here we go, after 10 years, here are some of the things I love and some things I find challenging about Germany.
#1 Learning German is hard
I’ve been here for 10 years and even though I feel I can speak and express myself well and read mostly anything (sometimes I need a dictionary but that’s the beauty of the internet), writing well in German is hard! There are so many articles, cases, exceptions, etc that never cease to trip me up but I'm not giving up and I am leaps ahead of where I was last year, 5 years ago, and especially 10 years ago.
After a while, I turned my focus to the conversation and making myself understood. I’ve taken B1 level several times now because there seems to be a plateau there that’s been quite challenging for me but I made it to B2. I’m still doing classes on a weekly basis to try and improve myself and am practicing EFT tapping in German to be able to offer my sessions in German as well for local clients.
#2 Germany is extremely eco-friendly and environmentally conscious
I've now lived in the US, UK, Argentina, Mexico, China, Italy, and Germany and Germany is definitely the most eco-conscious countries I've ever lived in. There are colorful recycling bins all over the city and people actually use them.
I've noticed that people seem to make choices that consider the environment and I was shocked to see in Munich, when people go have a BBQ down by the ISAR river or a picnic at Reichenbachbrucke, they pick up all there trash and leave it like no one was there. This is not only something older people do, but teenagers and everyone in between.
You see parents telling their kids which bin to put trash in and this was such a refreshing change from many of the countries I’ve lived in where environmental conservation is not such a daily concern.
When they sell glass bottles for juice, soda or beer, they have a Pfand, or deposit, so you can get anywhere from 10-25 cents per bottle. So people order crates or glass bottles and just call the delivery person to come pick it up and give them a new one.
#3 Living by nature is one of the biggest privileges I’ve ever had.
I live in Munich, so I do take that into account because Bavaria is known for its nature, mountains, beautiful glacial lakes, biking, hiking, and outdoor activities. I fully admit that in my younger years I certainly did not appreciate nature until after living in Beijing.
Being able to take a train one hour and be in the mountains is absolutely unreal to me as someone who has lived in many big cities over the years, I never knew how wonderful it was. I love taking a train on the weekend and having it be filled with hikers headed to the mountains for the day since veryone comes back in the evening.
#4 German bureaucracy is hard to navigate
I thought the DMV in the US was hard to use, I thought getting a visa extension in China was hard, frustrating, and expensive. I thought traveling around before the internet was hard. Nothing could prepare me for German bureaucracy. If you need a visa, there are a million documents, different translations to get, waiting all morning just to have them go out for lunch all at the same time while you wait there not knowing when they’ll return.
Even if you can read German, the legal language can be really, really difficult even when you have a native German speaker to help translate and if you accidentally tick the wrong box or misunderstand what document you need, it can cost you days or even weeks. For most people, it can be extremely overwhelming
#5 Biking culture is awesome
I have to say, aside from when I was a kid, I never rode my bike much. In the US, the size of the cars and the small, busy streets always made me uncomfortable except on college campus and in China, the sheer amount of Beijing traffic seemed pretty chaotic and unsettling along with the pollution that was pretty bad some days I didn’t want to be outside very long and we hardly opened the windows.
In Munich, one thing I absolutely love is being able to bike around in the early evening on the outskirts of town. There are so many wonderful places to explore and it’s incredible how easy it is now to get back home due to Google Maps navigation I have no idea what I did without it.
Being able to use a bike practically instead of taking the subway in warm weather is an absolutely dream for me.
#6 German service can be confusing and frustrating
One thing I will say that’s challenging at times Germany if you’ve been anywhere else is service culture. I realize the US due to tip culture that we have a different service standard but I can honestly say after having traveled to about 40 countries that Germany’s service has been most frustrating for me. Some common examples include ordering something extremely heavy by post that you can't carry and so that's why you want it delivered then having DHL leave it outside your apartment door when you live on the fourth floor so you have to carry it up yourself.
Other times, I have had the phone hung up on me while I was trying to explain my situation. There is a very low tolerance for questions, especially when the answer doesn’t make sense and you ask for clarification.
Example: Hi there, I’d like to express mail this envelope to the US (my voting ballot)
Lady at Package shop that has DHL: the pickup isn’t until tomorrow morning and it’s 30 EUR express.
Me: OK that’s fine, I will do that, thanks.
Lady: No you can’t do that you have to come back tomorrow morning and pay and leave it.
Me: I don’t understand what you mean. Why can’t I pay for it now and leave it here for them to pick it up tomorrow morning? Isn’t there a mailbox?
Lady: NO! BECAUSE YOU CAN’T SEND IT TODAY THERE IS NO MORE PICKUP TODAY! COME BACK TOMORROW at 9 AM.
Me: I can’t come tomorrow at 9 when you open because I have to work at that time and you are closed during lunch hour (11-2 pm) so this is the only time I can leave it. So you’re saying I can’t leave it here overnight after I pay 30 EUR so they can take it in the morning?
Lady (screaming): NO!! NOW GET OUT!
Yes, I’ll admit, on these days sometimes it’s hard to manage and I have done lots of EFT Tapping and meditation to deal with this on those days because it doesn’t feel good.
#7 There are many cool things about German culture
Germans are very educated, worldly as a culture I find in having conversations with friends, colleagues, and partners.
One of the of things that has really impressed me about the people here in Germany is how knowledgeable people are about so many subjects and enjoy dicussing them. People are not afraid to discuss religion, politics, and current events and they listen thoughtfully and comment and ask questions. I have also found so many Germans I've met have studied abroad, speak several languages and traveled around the world and are very knowledgeable about other places.
I’ve also learned that sometimes it can take longer to create solid friendships here (common expat struggle I hear many times with my clients) but my German friends are incredibly helpful and loyal and it’s something I will always appreciate.
In the workplace, it's a very efficient environment where they expect quality, but they dont' micromanage either. Deadlines are usally respected and people are direct and usually honest overall. I find it quite refreshing that Germans say what they mean so there are fewer misunderstandings.
#8 In Germany, they value work and life balance
One thing I admit that we struggle with often in the US is work/life balance. I remember being shocked in the office when people would take a month off in August to go with their families to the South of France or the beach in Greece. I still don’t know any of my American friends who do this and it’s still pretty amazing to me that companies don’t have an issue with this. Another interesting thing is that in the US, I always felt terrible calling in sick because many employers will still ask you to come in anyway or make you feel guilty for taking a sick day. I remember one time I showed up at the office looking like death (pre-Covid times, mind you) and my colleagues told me to go home and asked me what I thought I was trying to prove! I said I thought they needed me and my colleague laughed: “so you think you’re so important the company will fall apart if you’re not here? If so, we’re doing something wrong. Please go home and get in bed.” Lesson learned. :D
#9 Germany loves insurance
This was something quite new to me that during lunch, many people talk about their insurances. In the US when I was younger in my 20s, I didn’t have insurance including health insurance in the US (I shudder to think now about not having it).
Since moving here, I would never dream of traveling or doing anything without insurance. Funny how you adopt certain habits in other countries and I have to say this was a big eye opener for me after having been here so long. There were even insurances I had no idea you could get!
#10 Germany has the best bread
Yeah I said it!
German bread is the best. The variety is incredible and there are so many healthy whole grain breads and rolls to choose from. They're amazing. Before I moved here, I didn't like wheat bread since many times I had tried it only with honey or something with sugar or it was sweet. I can't eat sugary sweet things and never have so being able to try savory wheat bread with seeds, etc was awesome and now I can't live without it!
Also, it should be said that real German pretzels are amazing and nothing like what you get elsewhere.. The step that is usually forgotten in other places is to leave out the baking soda bath for the dough FIRST before baking. that gives it the yummy, characteristic chewy and not 'bready' outside that makes pretzels delicious. Also, I love that here you can buy pretzel sandwiches with ham and cheese, or cream cheese and rucola.
What about you? Do you live in Germany? What are some things that you love about living here or things you find challenging? Let me know in the comments!!
ANDREA HUNT - Online Transformational Life Coach & EFT Tapping Practitioner based in Munich, Germany
I'm an accredited transformational life coach from Animas Centre for Coaching UK and a member of the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a Level 2 practitioner in EFT Tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique) and a member of AEFTP (Association of Emotional Freedom Technique Professionals).
If you're not sure where to start transforming your life, you can download my free ebook on How to Start Your Personal Growth Journey.
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