Many of you know that we moved to Germany this past summer for my husband’s work. But if you’re new here, my husband is active duty military and we move often. We were lucky enough to move to Europe this time, more specifically, Germany. When we first got the news, it was nothing but excitement. No apprehension, no fear, sadness, just excitement. Then reality set in and we realized we had to pack up our entire life and move it overseas, in 6 months. For my military friends and followers, I’ll share more details about the move because it was a big process and I would have loved to hear from someone who went through it for tips and pointers. That’ll be another post though.
Today, I want to share a bit of the culture shock, ahem changes, and how we’ve adjusted. What we like, don’t, and are still getting used to.
Obviously, the biggest change is the language. We don’t speak it and that stinks. I love to go out and explore our new assignments as soon as we get there. I find the shortcuts and back roads to shop and eat, etc. Here, I’ve been more apprehensive to explore because I can’t communicate with the locals. A big goal of mine is to at least be able to carry a short conversation with someone in Deutsch. Luckily, most everyone speaks English. When we ask, “sprechen ze English?”, they all say “a little”, but then proceed to speak perfect English without skipping a beat. I wish I spoke “a little” Deutsch! We can say thank you, please, and goodbye. And nothing else. Our oldest is taking a class right now, but she is not comfortable enough to translate for us. Our landlords are the nicest couple and the wife speaks a little English, but their son has been our major point of contact because he is fluent. We are still able to get any questions answered though and they even had us over for dinner when we first moved here. We all used a lot of Google translate, but we made it work. If you have any tips on learning a foreign language, send them my way bitte!
Another change for us, especially coming from New Jersey is that everything is closed and all is quiet on Sundays. The big cities still have businesses open, however. Now, if you’ve ever lived in the south or are from the south, that’s probably not a big deal to you. But here, any loud noises are frowned upon on Sundays too. You won’t hear parties, people doing yard work, etc. Sundays are for rest, worship, and family. It’s kind of nice though. It feels like a calm reset for the next week.
Now this one is a weird one. And hard for me. Germans stare. I mean realllllly stare. Hard. Without emotion and when you respond with a smile or wave, nothing. No response. If you’re my brother, you’re probably wondering how I keep my cool, cause that’s a personal peeve, but Sammy, if you’re reading this (and you better be) I’ve grown up, okay? I’m not the hot-tempered teenager you remember from our partying days in Mexico. I did get frustrated once, but to my defense, I was mowing the yard and covered in dirt and sweat and the stare would just. not. go. away. But it is what it is, so if you come for a visit here, expect lots of stares.
That subject brings me to the next. The bird or middle finger or New Jersey wave or whatever you call it is illegal here. So if the stares really bug you, don’t use that to respond. Don’t do it on the highway when someone cuts you off or goes too slow, or anywhere else. This is another weird one if you ask me.
Next, the autobahn. It does actually have some speed limits and they do monitor it. Not by cops (or Polizei), but by radar stands. I got my first ticket already. And so did my husband. The radar will snap a picture of you and your license plate and mail you the ticket later. The fines are determined by how much faster than the speed limit you are going. Usually, the slower speed limits are approaching towns and cities or if there is road work going on. Otherwise, there is no speed limit. One good thing about driving here is that everyone generally follows the traffic rules. They only drive on the left to pass and then immediately return to the right lane. So if you’re like my husband and despise the slow left lane cruisers, you will enjoy driving in Germany. Honestly, I’m just happy we moved to a place where we still drive on the right side of the road.
Speaking of driving, the fog is a real issue. Upon arrival, all newcomers sit through a safety briefing where you’re warned about, among other things, the fog. There have been days where it is so thick, you can barely see the vehicle directly in front of you. Our girls are riding the bus to and from school now, which has been a huge relief. There were a few mornings when my stomach was in knots driving them to school.
Now this one has been the biggest adjustment for our family. Germans recycle everything. We have separate pickup for paper, plastic and residual waste. We also recycle our food waste and glass in various bins throughout the city. We are lucky to have one right down the street from us. We save all our table scraps in an airtight container and then I dispose of it once a week. The glass is separated by color (green, clear, and brown). You can return your empty water bottles to the local grocery store for money back. The city provides recycle bags for our plastic. Residual trash is picked up every other week and recycling (plastic and paper) is taken once a month. It has caused us to be more aware of what we use and how much we waste. We thought it would be a big pain in the ass, but it really isn’t and you get used to it. Even better, you feel like you’re doing what you should have always been doing.
So far, we’ve had a really positive experience. There is so much history and beauty to explore here and we have barely even begun to do that so it’s exciting to plan adventures. I can take my new camera along with us and share it all with y’all too. We have settled well into our new home, schools, and work. And as nice as our surroundings are, those things are our everyday and most importantly, so I am grateful for that. We have made new friends, reunited with old friends, and are looking forward to reuniting with more soon. Hopefully, I’ll be able to report next year that I am fluent (not likely but fingers crossed). And hopefully, I’ll get used to the staring (not likely either). Thanks for following along on this journey with us and I’ll have more to share with y’all soon!