Having spent the last year living and working abroad in Munich, Germany as my latest adventure in searching for a new place to call home, I have come to understand several points unique to Germany and in particular, Bavaria. Click here to check out the 10 things I learned living abroad in Germany!
Beer is a culture of its own and a vital link to both history and community, particularly in Bavaria.
Bavaria’s storied love affair with beer dates back hundreds of years, most prominently laying claim to the world’s oldest continuously-operating brewery, the Weihenstephan Brewery which was established in 1040. Beer is such an integral part of the Gemütlichkeit so associated with Bavaria, it even gets its own special meal time between breakfast and lunch known as Brotzeit. This meal typically includes a Münchner Weißwurst, Bretzel, and a nice Weißbier. Anyone who criticized President Obama after he partook in this tradition at the G7 summit in Bavaria 2015 has clearly not lived in Bavaria. Living in Germnay, you’ll see beer on the metro, in the classical beer gardens, and in pretty much any other activity that involves socializing.
Almost everyone speaks English…better than you
I found this to be true for Munich and least. Almost everyone who I asked spoke English replied simply “A little bit” and then went on to use more complex vocabulary and grammar than most of my college English professors. The German attitude of perfection and efficiency is evident in their zeal to perfect their English. I also found; however, that the best conversations and responses I received were when I spoke in German, even though mine is far from perfect. While it is tempting to speak English, make an effort to use your German and you will make far stronger connections with people.
Silence is Golden
This was one of the most unnerving parts about my move here. Whereas in America silence is awkward and we strive to fill every lull in the conversation, silence is appreciated and even encouraged in Germany. The metro is almost always silent (except on weekends and early afternoons when the high school and college are heading home or to hang out). People read their books, work on their laptops, and generally enjoy the peace on their way to and from work or their busy days. Silence is also tied closely to privacy. In the USA, we ask everyone how they are and not really caring what the answer may be. In Germany, these questions are reserved for close friends and spoken interactions are limited to only what is necessary among others.
Recycle Like Your life Depends on It
Upon moving to Germany, I felt like I had signed up for a second unpaid job working for the refuse department of Bavaria. Recycling is a religion in many parts of Europe and this is particularly pronounced in Germany. There are different bins for bio, paper, plastic, and the trash that can’t be recycled. Then there’s glass recycling bins which are divided into separate containers based on the glass color. There are also separate receptacles conveniently placed throughout the city for used art supplies, clothes you wish to donate, and even dangerous wastes.
While complicated, the best part about this system is you can make a little money recycling. Each grocery store has special machines to deposit glass and plastic bottles. Then, you receive a slip which can be used towards groceries or redeemed for cash. Even the crates used to lug home your endless beer bottles can be brought back to the store for money.
Renting a Furnished Apartment Can Mean No Sink
For many foreigners, it can be a huge surprise to find out you have rented a furnished flat and discover that there is no kitchen. Often times, when Germans relocate, they take the entire kitchen with them. This includes the counters, sink, oven, fridge, and even the cabinetry. For this reason it is important to note in the listing whether an einbauküche is included or not.
By far one of the biggest changes moving to Europe is getting used to Sundays where everything is closed. Some cafes and shops are allowed to remain open, but for the most part the law requires businesses to close on Sundays. This requires planning in how to entertain yourself on Sunday Sunday. You also make sure you have enough food to get you through the weekend until Monday. While irritating at first and still sometimes so, I have learned to enjoy Sundays. I usually visit the parks or some Museums, which offer entry for only 1 euro.
One of the biggest learning curves for me was learning how to be direct while working in Germany. Germans are notorious for their direct manner and saying things as evidently and plainly as possible. I once spoke with a client whom, upon hearing I was from California, responded “Isn’t it so much better to live there?”. Germans do not waste time on unnecessary pleasantries and are pleased when you get right to the point in a polite manner.
Freedom of Nudity
The freedom to be nude in Germany is not unique for Europe, but still notable. On sunny weekends, it is common to find men and women enjoying the weather in the English Gardens nude. Topless sunbathing is also widely acceptable and encouraged as in many parts of Europe. What sets Germany apart is the degree of comfort with nudity. It is not uncommon for business colleagues to go together to one of the nude spas just outside the city. As someone who loves the freedom of nudity, this was one of my favorite parts of Germany.
Following the Rules
Breaking rules in Germany is so taboo, even the dogs are the most well-behaved I have ever seen. Cross the street when the light is red and expect to get dirty looks. Other Germans, particularly the elderly, will sometimes reprimand you. The signs at the streetlight even remind you to be a good example to kids and only cross when the light is green. The metro system runs on an honor system basis. You must buy a ticket and validate it, yet there are no gates preventing entry if you do not. The only deterrents are the occasional random metro checks by MVG employees. Maybe also the stern looks from other passengers if you are ever caught without a ticket.
German has an uncanny ability to put entire sentences and indescribable feelings into one word in a way that English cannot. Perhaps this can be attributed to their love of compound words. Open a German dictionary and you will be stunned by how long some of the words are. German becomes simpler because you can break these long words down into their roots. You can decipher the meaning by relying on the smaller parts you already know. By far my favorite part of the German language is the ability to put indescribable feelings into one word. Some of my favorites are Fernweh, Gemütlichkeit, and Backpfeifengesicht.