SJ on the Move

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Top 10 thing we will NOT miss about Germany

Since this is our last week here in Germany, it's time for a little reflection. So, here are the 10 things we will definitely NOT miss about Germany:

10) Store Hours : No stores open on Sundays and no stores open after 8 p.m. Many places close before 6 p.m. I don't know how people get any shopping done.
9) Language Barrier : We know a tiny bit of German, and in our experience about 50% of people speak at least some English. However, there are still plenty of opportunities where someone needs to explain something complicated and no one can really understand each other.
8) German Television : For some reason, really bad American television is dubbed in German and then re-broadcast on German television. While some of the hit shows in America like Lost and Desperate Housewives are also on here (about one year delayed) for some reason they bypass all the 2nd tier programs, and go straight for the bottom of the barrell - "Beauty and the Nerd", "The Nanny", "Sledgehammer", etc.

7) A "Nickle and Dime" consumer culture : We have found Germans themselves to be very generous people. However, the consumer culture is definitely not generous. This is not the "Land of the free gift with purchase". You are expected to pay for restrooms. There are no free refills on anything. Ketchup costs money. Dipping sauce for your McNuggets costs money. You very rarely get a napkin when you order something. You have to buy plastic bags at the grocery store, and some big department stores don't actually have bags at all.
6) Not being able to drive anywhere : While travelling on the train or public transportation is usually pretty convenient (although not always cheap), there are many times when it is really a pain. If you are going to a popular destination, everything is fine. But if you need or want to go somewhere that isn't a major hub, you'll often find that you have to make several train changes and be stuck with once an hour service that takes forever to get somewhere that is less than 20 miles away.
5) Grocery Stores : This is somewhat of a blend of the language barrier and the store hours issue, but this deserves it's own ranking. There are larger grocery stores around, but the one near us was pretty small, with narrow aisles and long lines (especially after work). They also don't seem to stock many of the items after a certain point in the day, so it was not uncommon to go the grocery store after work and find that they no longer had any meat for sale, for example. There was also the general issue of trying to figure out exactly what things were. "Is this fabric softener, or is this laundry detergent?"
4) No air conditioning : It's extremely rare to find air conditioning in Germany. Not in office buildings, not in grocery stores, restaurants, etc. and certainly not in apartments. So, when it's really hot outside, there is really nowhere to run to escape the heat.
3) German Bedding : I guess people feel comfortable with what they are used to, but German beds are much different than the U.S. The pillows are about twice the size of American pillows, but about 1/3 the volume. So, you end up with this huge, incredibly limp, pillow. They also don't have large comforters like the U.S., so you really have to be careful to keep yourself under the blankets in the colder months. In the summer, they don't have top sheets on the beds. So, your choices are either to sleep under nothing (which feels very odd to us) or sleep under your comforter (which is incredibly hot). Mattresses in Germany are also about 20% as thick as U.S. mattresses, so the overall sleeping experience takes some getting used to.
2) Cigarette Smoke : It's amazing how many more people smoke in Germany than in the U.S., and it's also amazing how irritating that is to people who are not used to cigarette smoke, such as ourselves. In the summer it wasn't as bad, since a lot of restaurants have seating outside - but once it gets too cold to sit outside the smoking is really bothersome.
1) Not being near our friends and family : While we were very blessed to have lots of visitors during our stay in Germany, we still miss our families and our friends back in Boston.


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