Cultural Differences Between Germany & America

 

I have certainly touched on some of the cultural differences between life in Germany compared to life in America, like no stores being open on Sundays and how your neighbor can sign for your packages in you aren’t home. Now that it’s been over two years since moving to Germany, I thought I would share even more cultural differences.

I would like to first say that these are not positive or negative things, they are merely differences. And differences are what make cultural so exciting and make the world go round. If you’re traveling to Germany, I hope these differences will allow for you to more easily adapt to life when you’re visiting. If you’re moving to Germany, I hope these will help ease you into your home.

Breastfeeding in public is no big deal here // I am not a mother but I have noticed that mothers here are more open and free with breastfeeding in public. I have seen women feeding their babies in grocery stores, restaurants, stores, etc. It’s a natural thing.

Car trips are given in distance, not time // If someone asks how far it is to your parents’ house, for example, Germans respond in kilometers. In the States, I would say I live 4 hours from my parents because I have no idea how many miles that is!

The middle finger // Giving someone the middle finger out of anger, like when you’re driving, is against the law. It can actually result in a lost license. Admittedly, I have to remember this a little too often.

Parenting and work reviews // I have been told by other Germans that parents are very critical and do that because it’s how they show love. If your parents aren’t criticizing you, they don’t love you. The same thing goes for work reviews. You will rarely get a, “That was so well done. Thank you so much. You’re great.” But you will get, “You have done a pretty good job, but…” Some say this produces children who can handle the world and are self-reliant and not reliant on trophies or pats on the back.

The German stares // It is well-known that Germans like things done a certain way and if you’re doing it wrong, they will point it out or just stare at you. If you wear athletic clothes outside the gym (hello, me everyday), then you will get stares. Sometimes, you’ll just be walking down the street and get stares. It takes some getting used to, but I don’t even notice it anymore.

More vacation time // It’s not just in the number of days, it is the acceptance that someone is on vacation that is most striking. Germans receive 30 days of vacation, as well as earning vacation days if they are an associate (not a manager, director or above) for working over 40 hours per week, but vacations are typically two weeks or more. In August, offices are a ghost town because people are on their summer holiday for 3 weeks. While this idea is unfathomable to many Americans, it is welcomed, appreciated and expected in Germany. The most striking thing is that co-workers, bosses and upper management accept when their employees are on vacation. No one bothers you, expects an email response or for anyone to log onto their computer at all. Projects aren’t expected to still be completed on time, either. “So-and-so is on vacation,” is a complete answer and is the project status. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but happens more often than not.

Team work // This one I know thanks to Vinn’s German teacher. He was in a lesson and asked how to say team work in German. She said, “team work,” just like in English. And then she went on to stay that Germans are not taught team work nor is it a focus in school or sports. Remember in college when you had 5 classes and 5 group projects? That doesn’t exist in Germany. Everything is by yourself. German students, even undergraduate students, must write a thesis surrounding a topic and include interviews with professionals. It’s all per student.

Splitting checks is easier // Eating out with friends is so much easier in Germany. The wait staff split the check for you and most places accept credit cards. There’s no getting a check, writing the last 4 digits of your card on the back of it and waiting for wait staff to swipe your card. In Germany, you just tell the waiter what you ate, how much you want to tip (you give the total amount you want to spent), and they run your card right at the table. It’s much easier! It will still take a long time, but it’s easier.

Of course there are more, but these are the ones that have affected me and stick out the most.

Have you ever been to a country other than your own? What culture differences did you notice? 

Cultural Differences Between Germany & US, What to know when traveling to Germany

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The German Post System

 

You would think getting mail would be the same everywhere, wouldn’t you? Sure, some places are quicker than others and some companies are most trustworthy thank others. And, of course, visiting the post office is never fun, no matter where you are.

Now that it’s been two years, I have gotten used to the German post system and, while it’s still not the easiest to understand, I’m going to share what it’s like to get your mail in Germany.

First and foremost, there are several different mail companies and not just for packages. Our mail, like bills and magazines, can come from either BW Post, which is the post for our state, or Deutsche Post, the system for the country. The mail carriers actually ride around on electric bikes to deliver the mail. They have a huge pouch on the front and ride around to deliver the mail. Copley loves to bark at them while on our walks.

Newspapers are delivered right to your mailbox, as well. They are free and take up a lot of space in the mailbox. If someone doesn’t want a newspaper, they have to put a note on their mailbox, otherwise, you get one.

When packages are delivered, there’s a whole other process. There are several companies that provide shipping for online ordering and they come at all hours of the day. If you aren’t home, you may get a note in your box that says a neighbor has signed for it or that it is at the post office and you need to go pick it up. Our first Christmas here, I ordered Vinn’s Christmas present from Amazon and I wasn’t home when it was delivered. The slip in my mailbox said that someone two houses down from me signed for it. So, I had to walk over to the house, ring the doorbell and ask for my package. I had never met the person, yet she signed for my package. “Hi Stranger, Can I have my husband’s Christmas present? K, thanks.” This is common practice. It says a lot about how trusting Germans are.

If you order something from another country, like the US, you will get a letter in the mail that notifies you that you have to go to the customs office to pay the customs. Sometimes it’s a couple Euros, sometimes it’s almost 30. It’s just a percentage of the total amount. This isn’t for every shipment, sometimes you can pay the customs up front. I actually have to go in the near future and it’s a pain in the butt. You have to provide the receipt of what you bought, your identification and the letter you received in the mail.

All in all, the mail system is pretty simple in Germany, it just took some getting used to. If you are ever going to move to Germany, I hope this helps!

Is there anything unique about how you get your mail? Any crazy post office stories?

How you get mail in Germany,  The Differences Between America

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Day in the Life of an American Expat 2

 

Today on the blog, I thought I would share another day in the life post. My last day in the life post was from April 2017 and while not much has changed, I thought it would be fun to see what life is like two years into living in Germany!

I am sharing my Monday, February 5, and would love to know what you did on Monday or what your typical day looks like! Let me know in the comments.

7:45 AM Time to wake up and take Copley for a walk. Thankfully, she has been sleeping through the night again and let me sleep in a little bit. She loves to take walks first thing in the morning and it helps get out all of her built up energy from the previous night!

Copley Loves Germany

8:30 AM After warming up from the cold, it’s time for breakfast. I make some scrambled eggs, peanut butter toast and coffee. And my Beauty and the Beast mug.

Breakfast

9:00 AM I watched some YouTube videos while I ate breakfast and let me food digest before hitting up the gym.

9:45 AM Throw in a load of laundry on my way to walk to the gym. The gym is about a 20 minute walk and I do a 3 mile run and a Tone It Up booty and ab work out. I am sweating like crazy.

11 AM I swing by the grocery store to pick up some lemons and paper products. Germans all take showers at the gym after a work out and I just can’t get on board with that, so I get some stares in line. I’m bringing athleisure to Germany.

11:05 AM I hop in the shower, change the laundry and prep for my friend to come over. We are both having some January blues, so we decided to have a day of drinking prosecco and just chatting.

1 PM My friend arrives and I make us some spinach, parmesan dip (I loosely used this recipe and swapped the sour cream for Greek yogurt) and we talk about life. Then we go through some of my jewelry that she might borrow for her upcoming vacation.

Spinach, Parmesan Dip

4:00 PM My friend leaves and I clean up from our snack. I work on my Monday post. I watch some old episodes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. 

7:30 PM Vinn gets home from a long day at work and we make some leftovers, chicken fried rice for him and chicken parmesan for me. We watch too many episodes of Modern Family. Yes, I still have up one Christmas decoration. It’s this lounging polar bear with a Santa hat and it just makes me laugh! We have named him Marv and I think I will leave it up all year.

Modern Family

9:30 PM I get ready for bed and start reading my new book, which I can’t really get into yet. But I’ll keep you posted.

This Monday was a typical, non-working day for me and it was pretty fun. I was feeling a cold coming on and just not feeling like myself. Maybe my thyroid is off? I don’t know.

What was your Monday like? 

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Two Years Living in Germany Reflections

 

This week marks two years since I left Michigan to move to Germany. I seriously can’t believe it.  730 days have passed. We’ve visited 24 cities, gone back to the States for 3 weddings, attempted to learn a new language, started new jobs and embarked on a completely new adventure.

In the past year, I have changed a lot. I am much more comfortable speaking German and am understanding more and more every single day. I’m speaking at work and able to say more than just one sentence at a time. A year ago, I wasn’t confident about my German but knew enough to feel comfortable in a restaurant. I am very thankful for my private German lessons because it really helps me understand how Germans understand and speak English, as well as German.

A lot of my job is editing already translated English documents into “better” English and about a week ago I was learning about relative pronouns and how the sentence structure functions in German. In English, we would say, “This is my friend, who takes me to work.” In Germany, it would translate to, “This is my friend, who me to work takes.” And the who can be said about 20 different ways depending on if the noun is masculine, feminine or neutral and based on tense. It’s so interesting and I have such an appreciation for anyone who learns another language and has to use it in business or school.

I’ve adjusted to nothing being open on Sundays, gotten the courage to order from the cheese counter at the grocery store and have a great hairdresser and doctors. I’ve even adapted some things from German culture to my daily life.

I have made some incredible friends and even traveled with some of them. It’s been so nice to find a community here in Germany. I would say that the majority of my friends are American but I have made German friends, some from Vietnam and others from Canada. Having something in common, being expats, is a wonderful common denominator. We share what we miss about the States and I learn so much from the Germans.

I have tried to focus on the positive sides of living here, which has been more difficult this year than our first year living here. I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of wonderful things that are happening with my family and friends back home, like engagements, weddings, baby showers and just the random Saturday night grabbing a cocktail spur of the moment. And then I sometimes fall down into the hole of thinking about what life would be like if we hadn’t moved here. Would we have a house? Would have a baby? Maybe even two? But then I remember to kick myself out of that and remember how incredible this opportunity to live here is. And how our story is just getting started and what is meant to be will be.

Overall, I can’t believe two years have gone by so quickly. It’s our last year on this wild ride and I want to make the most it. I think year three is going to be the best one yet!

Thoughts on Living in Germany for Two Years, as an Expat

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2018 Goals Check-In

 

We are one month into 2018 and I have been doing my best to stick to my goals. I have been eating better (most of the time) and started training for the half marathon. There are still things to improve, of course, which is why I’m doing a goals check-in. I’m not sure yet if I want to do this every month or not but I think this will help me stay on track and continue to focus on what I want to accomplish this year. Plus, we can all do it together. What do you think?

Here is the link for my original 2018 goals post.

PERSONAL

Fitness

  • Work out at least 5 days a week. I have continued to work out but I have not reached 5 days a week. I’ve been feeling a cold coming on, so I’ve taken a step back from my workouts. My goal for February is to stick to 5 days a week.
  • Finish the Berlin Half Marathon at my fastest pace or finish as a PR (personal record). The training runs have officially started and have felt pretty good. I am definitely faster than my marathon training runs from 3 years ago, which I attribute to weight loss and strength training. I think I am well on my way to meet this goal!
  • Add yoga and pilates to my routine. Half check. I started doing Pilates on Thursdays and I love it! I wanted to do yoga on Mondays but I think I am going to switch it to Sundays for after my long runs. I know that yoga will help me feel longer and be a great way to unwind after 10+ miles. I used to have some yoga DVDs but they didn’t make the move, so I’d love to hear your favorite yoga YouTube channels.
  • Stretch after each work out. A big fat yes! This is huge for me. I hate stretching and hardly ever did it, if I’m being honest. I have made a conscious effort to stretch after each workout and am falling in love with my foam roller.

Health

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Half check, again. I have definitely been eating more fruits but need to be better about vegetables.
  • Start the day with Greek yogurt or a smoothie. On working days, I usually have a Greek yogurt, which has been nice. It definitely keeps me full but want to get better about smoothies. I have read all kinds of recipes online and just haven’t done it. I think the noise in the morning is turning me against it!
  • Make my snacks nutrient-rich. True! I have started having almond butter with rice cakes or peanut butter in a tortilla as snacks. Sometimes I will have an apple or some citrus fruit. I do find myself reaching for a bag of chips less.
  • Find and stick to a skin care routine. I recently purchased a toner and Vitamin C cream and have been using it for about 4 days. So far I like it but don’t know if I’ll stick to it yet, just depending on how my skin looks after a little while longer.
  • Continue to take my vitamins. Easiest thing ever. I moved my vitamins next to my bed and it has made a world of difference. I have not missed a day in 2018!

Travel is a big goal for this year and I am so looking forward to our upcoming trips. We are going to Barcelona in February and I can’t wait! Slowly but surely checking off that bucket list!

Growth

  • Read my devotional every morning. Epic fail. I have not done this one at all. I think I need to move my devotional to my bedroom and not in the living room. Each day’s devotion is not even a page, so I have no excuse.
  • Figure out a savings plan for a house down payment. Does looking up houses religiously on realtor.com count? No?
  • Read at least 12 books. Well on my way! I’ve already read three books this year.
  • Journal more. Another one I haven’t really started. I have plenty of notebooks, I should combine this with my devotional.
  • Speak more German in the office. Ja! I am happy to report that I have been speaking German more in the office and I can feel an improvement. I feel less insecure about my speaking abilities, for sure.

PROFESSIONAL

  • Have 1,000 page views per month consistently. I HIT OVER 1,000 PAGE VIEWS IN JANUARY!! Thank you so much for reading and helping me continue to hit this goal. It’s only been one month but I think I’m on a roll.
  • Create an expat highlight series. Still working on this one. I want it to be well prepared, so I keep working on it and then leaving it.
  • Get back on Twitter. Nope. Just can’t get into it. Any tips?
  • Write at least half of my book. I’ve started an outline!!
  • Write consistently and quality content. I feel extremely proud of the posts I’ve done so far in 2018. I am doing my best to editorial plan and put more of myself into the posts. Being personal is vulnerable and scary, but these are the posts where I get the most connection and pride afterward.

Well it appears I have a lot to work on in February. My main takeaways for next month are to work out more, start making smoothies and read my devotional. Those are my top 3.

What top 3 things do you want to accomplish in February?

A check-in on the goals for 2018

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