The beginning of August marked the one and a half year anniversary of us living in Germany. (If you need a refresher or are new around here, here’s the story of how we moved abroad in February 2016). When I think about our first few days in Germany, I can’t believe how far we’ve come. We know where to go for most things, can speak enough German to get by and are loving all the traveling we get to do. It is so strange to say, but Germany kind of feels like home now!
Now that it’s been longer than a year, I feel like we’re basically Germans. Of course, there I things I miss about America, but we have adapted some parts of the German lifestyle that are making our stay here better, and, honestly, making us better people. Here are the five habits that we’ve adopted since moving to Germany.
Following the rules more
Germans follow every rule, every law, every “you should do this,” to a T. If the walking sign on the sidewalk has a red hand, no one moves, even if no cars are coming, even if it’s 3 ‘o clock in the morning. When I lived in Chicago, if no cars were coming, I would cross the street regardless of what the sign said. Now, I stand on the sidewalk until that light turns green. No matter what. The strangest part is that it’s become normal. When we went back to Chicago a few months ago, I waited until the sign changed while all my friends started walking.
German phrases in everyday life
This past month, I’ve started noticing that even when I am speaking English, I have a German accent during certain words, especially words that start with ‘S.’ The s sound in German has more of a ‘sch’ sound, so instead of saying small, it comes out schmal. Ugh. It is much more common for the area where we live, too.
I also started putting “or” at the end of sentences. This is a super German thing! A very common phrase is to say, “Yes, or?” and I’ve started putting or at the end of sentences when talking to Vinn, my mom, anyone really.
Vinn also has some that are also funny and just a testament to how much we’ve been studying German and embracing the language in our everyday lives. It is wild to hear us putting German language rules and idioms into English.
Paying for more speeding tickets
This one definitely is more Vinn, but it is much easier to get a speeding ticket in Germany. There are speeding cameras on the highway and on some side streets that automatically take a picture if you are going even slightly over. Vinn got a speeding ticket for going three over the limit. When Vinn got his first speeding ticket, his colleagues told him, “You’re definitely German now.” Well, he’s German several times over now!
Carrying a lot more cash
Germans love cash and hardly ever use their bank or credit cards. If you use your card at the grocery store, you get bad looks because you’re holding up the line for not using cash.
In the States, I never carried cash. Like never. Now, I always have at least 20 euro in my wallet ready to go just in case I need to run to the store and get face wash or a cappuccino somewhere. It also makes splitting bills easier.
Developing a thicker skin
I thought I had pretty thick skin before but it’s even thicker now. Germans are stereotypically straight forward and tell it like it is. I have had some situations at work that would be considered rude in the US but are normal here. After struggling through them and coming to terms that it is a cultural difference and not to take it personally, I realized that are worse things than being told exactly what someone thinks. I can handle it better, too.
There are other smaller things that we have adopted, too, but these are the biggest changes since moving to Germany. Overall, life is pretty fantastic and it’s interesting to see how we are evolving into this new culture of our’s.
What habits have you started noticing about yourself that are different? Did you get them from family members or a different culture?
I love that I get to take my dog everywhere in Germany. It’s absolutely the best to be able to go shopping or sit for a cocktail and having my four-legged best friend with me.
There are also so many walking trails around that are great for exploring new areas and making sure Copley gets exercise throughout the day. I was surprised, though, by how many rules there are for walking your dog in Germany, given how many places dogs can go. I wish I had a quick cheat sheet for when we moved here and hope anyone who is moving to Germany or bringing your dog with you on vacation finds this helpful! There are also so many other rules and laws for owning a dog, like leaving your dog alone and in a crate all day is against the law, but that’s a different post for a different day.
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Check the signs
There are signs everywhere that let you know if your dog is allowed on the path or now. The signs will tell you if your dog must be kept on a leash, wear a muzzle or can roam freely. Dogs must be kept on a leash on public streets or you can be fined up to 5,000 Euros.
There is a field with walking paths just behind our apartment and dogs are allowed to walk off leash. Many German dogs are super well behaved and stay right with their owners, which is incredible to see. I usually keep Copley on a leash because she stops to smell things every five seconds and if she was on her own, she’d never walk. She also doesn’t react well when other dogs get in her face. It’s better for everyone if she stays on a leash.
There are signs also that will tell you if a dog can be on the grass of some places, like parks or homes. Beware of those places because you can get fined for letting your dog go to the bathroom on grass that has this sign. I always keep these bags on her leash for easy clean-up.
Keep Your Dog Close to You
I’ve noticed that when I’m walking the dog and she is very far in front of me, I get dirty looks. Then I discovered that there are rules for how far your dog’s leash can be from you depending on where you are. If you’re on a busy street, your dog can only be 1 meter away from you. If you’re in a more open area, like a park, it’s 5 meters. Many Germans even have two different leashes depending on where they are going with their dogs.
It’s best to just keep your dog close to you when you’re walking so you aren’t in violation of anything.
Dog Registration Tags
If you are moving to Germany, you must register your dog with your city, similar to what you have to do the States. You pay a registration fee annually and then the tag is sent to your home with a number on it. Your dog must wear this tag at all times, otherwise you will be fined. Of course, if you are just visiting, there is no need to register your dog. It varies by city, but if your dog remains in our city for more than 30 days, it must be registered.
I love taking Copley for walks. It is one of my favorite parts of the day. You can bring your dog to most restaurants and shops, which is so great. Plus, having this smily-faced girl looking at me afterwards is the absolute best.
A huge positive to life in Germany is that you can get most places thanks to public transportation. We live in a decent size city outside of Stuttgart, Germany and can take a train and be in downtown Stuttgart in 20 minutes. It is fabulous. Plus, you never have to worry about who is going to be the sober driver.
Public transportation is convenient, easy to use and relatively quick. If you’re coming to Germany, knowing what to expect when taking trains or buses will help eliminate stress and allow you to focus on enjoying your vacation!
Download the App
This app saved me. I use the VVS app, which is for my area, and shows me the best route to take to get where I need to go and even has my credit card information so I can buy a ticket from there.
If you’re going to Berlin, the BVG Fahrinformation is the app to get. For Munich, it’s the MCC app. All work relatively the same. You just enter the departing location and the arrival destination. The app will then give you all the options of travel within the next hour.
A bonus of using the app, you get a small discount on the ticket price.
Utilize Google Maps
If downloading the app isn’t an option because you can only use WiFi, look up your route on Google Maps before you leave. Google Maps will show you the pubic transit option and then you can take a screenshot on your phone and then have it always. Make sure you know your stop closest to where you’re staying so you can easily ask someone if you get lost.
Buying a Ticket at the Train Station
If technology isn’t your thing, you can buy a ticket at the train station at an automated ticket counter. Many have the option to change the language to English, which is very helpful, as well. You just enter your destination, select the train you want to take, pay and take your ticket.
The biggest thing to keep in mind if you do purchase a physical ticket is that you have to validate it. You put your ticket into the machine and it stamps the date and time onto your ticket. This way it shows when you actually rode the train or bus and then it counts for one ride.
There are several different ticket options that you can purchase for your trip. When we travel to a different city for a long weekend, we usually buy a three-day pass so we don’t have to worry about buying a ticket each time we hop on a bus or train. It usually saves money in the end, too.
You can also buy per ride if you’re just hopping on after a night on the town.
Beware Ticket Patrol
When you take the bus, you need to show your ticket to the driver. When you take the train, there isn’t someone there checking tickets to make sure you have a ticket. Everything is on the honor system. There are, however, train employees who will check your tickets at random times. If you don’t have a ticket, they will charge you on the spot and it will be extremely expensive, like about 30 Euro penalty.
Overall, taking public transit is the easiest way to get around Germany. It is safer than before and there are police and security all around the stations and I’ve never had an issue. I really enjoy taking the public transit in Germany and spend time reading, listening to podcasts or studying German.
Do you take public transit where you live?
Summer is one of my favorite seasons. I love going to the beach and the pool, going on a boat and drinking rosé. What I don’t love is being hot and sweaty and feeling like there’s no relief.
I’m used to air conditioning and that air conditioning is always set to 68 degrees, especially at night. Walking into an air conditioned apartment after a hot day simply can’t be beat. And I miss it.
Many German homes do not have air conditioning. At all. Our apartment included. We have had some really hot days recently with temperatures topping 90 degrees! It’s been pretty terrible if I’m being honest. Somewhat thankfully, Vinn grew up without air conditioning, so he knows what to do to get the house as cool as possible. And thank goodness for that. I thought it’d be fun to share how we are surviving German summers without air conditioning because it is not the most pleasant thing in the world and I dream of air conditioning when we move back to America. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!
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Windows open at night and closed during the day.
This is fairly obvious, but it’s two-fold. Thankfully, we have black out, electronic blinds that keep the sun out of our apartment. We open many of them at night and open the windows to let the cool air in and then close the blinds and windows during the day to keep the cold air in from the night before and the heat out. Sometimes I open the windows in the early afternoon depending on how hot it is and if I want to sit outside on the balcony and enjoy a good book and a cocktail.
Fans, fans, fans.
I used to hate fans. I hated that they made noise and that they pretty much just spread dust all over the apartment. I am a vacuuming freak, not as bad as my friend, Kim, but still bad. (Hi, Kim!) Now, I love fans. We have one in our living room that we run all day to make sure Copley stays cool (similar here), one in our bedroom for sleeping and one in our dining room that we use only on super hot days because that one is a floor kind and intense (similar here).
Finding air conditioned spots.
Many of the malls have air conditioning, which is sometimes dangerous. I can go shopping, bring Copley and enjoy some cool air. The car is also a good place to hang out. As silly as that sounds, getting in the car and having that cold air flowing directly on my face is a God send at the end of a long, hot day.
Drinking lots of water.
Obviously, this is very important all the time, but it is especially important when it is so darn stifling. I keep a water bottle with me at all times and down probably 16 ounces of water before 9 AM. Staying hydrated helps me feel cooler and not like I’m on the verge of passing out, which has happened several times in my life because I was overheated. Water is so good for everything, isn’t it?
By doing these things, summer is bearable. Of course, air conditioning would make sleep better, but we do the best we can. The portable air conditioning units are super expensive and just not worth the cost for the few weeks out of the year that are in the super hot range. It certainly took some getting used to to live sans A/C but at least there are some things I can do to survive.
Have you ever lived with A/C? How did you deal with it?
One of the first things I did once we moved into our German apartment was join a gym. It had been months since our move and months since I last exercised and I was going crazy. Thankfully, our relocation agent is a gym rat and told me the best gym to join in our area.
I’ve been going consistently since I signed up in April 2016 and have realized that going to a gym in Germany is certainly different than going to the gym in the States. I realized it last night when I was on the elliptical that I haven’t shared what it’s like to go to the gym in Germany in great detail (I did share my BodyPump experience here, though) and thought it would make a fun post.
Overall, most things are the same. There’s dumbbells, cardio equipment, exercise machines, rooms for classes and locker rooms. It’s like most other gyms. It’s nothing too fancy or over the top but it’s nice. There are, however, some things that make going to the gym a little different. Here’s what it’s like to go the gym in Germany!
German architecture is definitely more modern than the United States. Our apartment is definitely more on the sleek side, especially our kitchen. The gym is no different. Everything has fine lines, there are interesting art and displays and the ceiling is open like a loft. I actually really enjoy the design because it is so clean and simple. There’s nothing super fussy about it and the machines are spread out.
There are several monthly payment options, but they all include childcare.
I was a member of Planet Fitness when we left Michigan and had previously been a member at LifeTime Fitness. Both offer different things at different prices. My gym in Germany offers three different monthly payment structures with varying ranges of benefits. For example, the most expensive option includes access to all the locations of this specific gym (there are three around me) and one workout with a trainer per year.
I have the middle option where I have access to an additional section equipment specific to stretching but don’t have access to the other locations because I only go to the closest one to our house. I pay about 55 euros a month, similar to what I paid at LifeTime Fitness.
This is a little steep per month, but it was recommended to me and one of my good friends goes to this gym, as well. What I did’t expect was to look at our bill one month and find that it was 25 euro more expensive than the previous month. When I looked into it more, I discovered that it was a charge for the childcare room….that I don’t use.
I sent an email to the club, thanks to Google Translate for certain German words, only to discover that everyone must pay for the cost of childcare once a quarter, even if you don’t use it. I even told them I don’t have a child and would, therefore, never use this service. I was told that it doesn’t matter. Perhaps, they will watch my dog.
The gym hours vary by day.
I loved that Planet Fitness was open 24 hours a day. Vinn and I would go for our marathon training runs at 5 AM before work most days during the week. I love exercising in the morning because then it’s over and I don’t have to think about it anymore. Plus, I feel so accomplished when I’ve already been to the gym before 7 AM.
Well, my gym now has very different hours depending on the day of the week.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday the gym opens at 6 AM. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday it opens at 9 AM. These hours aren’t terrible and I do take advantage of the earlier opening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but I wish I could wake up and immediately go to the gym everyday of the week.
You can only wear indoor shoes inside.
It is against the rules to wear whatever shoes you were wearing outside when using any equipment. I keep my “gym shoes” in my gym bag at all times so I don’t forget. I actually don’t mind this policy but it is something different, especially when I used to go straight from the parking lot to the treadmill at my old gyms.
Many people drink sparkling water while working out.
Yes, sparkling water. This would make me vomit. In fact, most people drink something other than water. My gym has a wide selection of drinks for its members, which I definitely use to my advantage. There’s still and sparkling water and different flavors of energy/sport drinks. I really like the blood orange drink mixed with sparkling water after a hard work out.
Towels are BYOB.
And if you forget, you can rent one for 5 euro. So, don’t forget your’s!
Greetings are big.
Just like at the doctor’s office, you say hello to anyone in the locker room, especially if it’s early in the morning and no one else is there. This isn’t different, but saying hello and goodbye to anyone working at the desk is appropriate. I actually really like how friendly the workers are at my gym. It makes me feel welcome even though I sometimes feel like an outsider.
Everyone takes a shower afterwards. And showers are timed.
The showers are in one big room, like how I imagine the showers were during high school in the 50’s. There are no shower curtains, so you just shower…with everyone. I’ve only taken a shower at the gym once because our hot water heater was getting fixed and, luckily, no one else was there. Oh, and everything’s on a timer. So, water flows for about two minutes and then turns off. Then you have to turn it on again. It’s to conserve water, which is nice, but not ideal when you are in the middle of a shampoo.
All in all, I enjoy my gym in Germany. It’s very nice and I get in a great work out five to six days a week. I find it interesting how different the small things are in Germany compared to the States. I hope you do, too!
What gym do you go to? Do you think you could shower in an open shower?