“Welcome to Germany.”
This is what a stranger told me when I asked for help at the Frankfurt train station and couldn’t use Google to find the answer because I didn’t have WiFi…
I never realized how much we millennials depend on our phones, until living in a foreign country with no WiFi. There are just some things we need modern technology for…like finding your way around a new city and posting Insta stories to document your whole life. Sometimes I even find myself scrolling aimlessly through my newsfeed only for Ryan to remind me that I don’t have WiFi. Imagine going a full day without Facebook stalking!
We’ve hit the one month mark of living abroad and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what’s different about living here in Germany.
Learning the language is more difficult than we thought.
Sprechen Sie Englisch? Everyone told us most people speak English here so we shouldn’t have any trouble communicating. And after a couple weeks of Rosetta Stone and Duolingo, I thought we would be fluent in German. Haha. I can barely say Guten Tag. People typically look at us and start speaking German. We look at them and don’t say anything. And then they switch to English. It’s definitely a learning curve but we hope to be able to carry on a full conversation in German before we leave.
We walk everywhere.
People joked that we would come back heavier after eating all of the sausage and schnitzel but it seems impossible to gain weight with all of the walking we’re doing. I exceed my step goal almost every day and even hit my highest step count ever last week.
It’s a 20 minute walk to get from our apartment to downtown and 40 minutes to the train station so that’s a few miles on a typical day. And most of the walking is uphill so maybe we’ll start hiking soon. Unlikely, but possible.
We’re learning to love public transportation.
Taking the train (or walking) is the best way to get from point A to point B. Growing up in the suburbs, I never thought I would be riding the train multiple times per week but it sure beats sitting in a car during rush hour traffic.
Once you figure out how to buy your ticket, find the correct platform, triple check that you are on the right train, and make sure you don’t miss your connection, it’s pretty easy.
Unless you realize the train you’re on is about to split and you’re in the wrong section. Or you accidentally get on the part of the train that is staying at the station. Don’t worry, both situations worked out.
I do miss the convenience of Uber and Lyft, but I would much rather travel by train than car.
My beauty routine is more basic.
I haven’t straightened, curled, or blow-dried my hair since being here. I lied. I tried using the blow dryer that came with our apartment but it smelled like it was about to catch on fire so back in the cabinet it went.
I didn’t bring my straightener or curling iron from home because I still have PTSD from the time Megan fried my hair in France.
Honestly, most days I stay in my pajamas until it’s time to put on a new pair before bed. Okay, I’m not always this lazy but I do live in leggings pretty much everyday. I guess this is what working from home or being a stay-at-home wife is like.
It doesn’t cost as much to go out to eat.
We love going out to eat just as much as we did back home. We’re trying to limit ourselves to three meals out per week to save money but do allow ourselves to splurge once in a while #wheninwiesbaden. Luckily it’s less expensive than dining out in the U.S. which brings me to another major difference…tipping.
You don’t have to tip 20% like you do back home. Instead, you just round up or give 10% if the service was really good. Speaking of service, it’s very different than in the U.S. The servers will not bring your bill unless you ask. There’s no sense of urgency to push you out and get the next group in. Slow eaters like me fit right in here.
If you stop at a cafe for a pastry or coffee, the price is different if you get it for here or to go. Something you don’t see in the U.S.
The wine is cheaper but water isn’t free.
Another major difference of dining out in Germany is that there isn’t free water with every meal. But that’s okay, anyone that knows me knows I don’t drink it anyway. If you do want water, they will offer you still or sparkling and it will likely cost more than your wine or beer.
You can get a good glass of wine for under 5 euros at a restaurant. And you can buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store for just 2 euros. Okay it wasn’t the best wine we’ve tasted, but still, 2 euros for a whole bottle. Unheard of back home.
We aren’t eating German food all the time.
In terms of cuisine, there’s more variety than we thought. Our first week here, we had burgers, Italian, Thai, and German food. And we can’t forget about our homemade Mexican meal that was the outcome of our first fight in Germany.
I was craving Mexican and Ryan came back from the grocery store with pasta, for the second night in a row. He told me there was no Mexican food at the German grocery store. I refused to believe it. Luckily I discovered that they do have a Mexican section (guacamole included)…just no shredded cheddar. (Tip: Swiss is not a good substitute).
Don’t forget to BYOB when you go to the grocery store.
The nearest grocery store is a five minute walk from our apartment. This definitely makes grocery shopping less of a chore. Instead of making one big trip on the weekend or having to jump in the car and drive there anytime we forget something, we can just walk a few blocks and we’re there. We usually go a few times per week. Just not on Sunday, because grocery stores are closed on Sundays.
We quickly learned that you have to pay for grocery bags here so don’t forget to bring your own bags. I accidentally grabbed a paper bag after I had paid for my groceries and was quickly told that it would cost me 10 cents. It actually helps because we only buy what we can fit into two small tote bags and carry back to the house.
Germans are really into recycling.
There are multiple garbage cans for different types of waste. And everything is color-coded. You also get more money from bottle returns than you do back home…each plastic bottle gets you 25 cents. That adds up quickly – and goes right back into our grocery fund.
Potty breaks will cost you.
The toilets look different here. I won’t go into details. But If you have a small bladder, make sure you have coins with you at all times because it usually costs 1 euro to use public restrooms. They are much cleaner than the bathrooms back home (and some even clean themselves) so I guess it pays off.
We have more free time.
Maybe it’s because we’re new here. Maybe it’s because Ryan hasn’t found any hockey or golf leagues to join yet.
Back home, we would work all day, drive through rush hour traffic, go grocery shopping, make dinner, eat dinner, go to an activity or family party, watch TV, rinse, repeat.
Our weekends were always fully booked. Our friends joked that we did more in one weekend than they did in a whole month. Busy is normal for us and we don’t like sitting still but it’s quite nice to look at our calendars and know that it’s ours to fill however we want. We could hop on a train and go to Paris for the weekend or sit on our couch, binge watch our favorite Netflix series and fall asleep before 10. The choice is ours.
Moving from Michigan to Germany was a big change for us and an even bigger adventure. Like moving to any new place, there are some things that we’re still getting used to. But when the food is good, the wine goes down easy and the only difference between hello and hallo is an ‘a’ – adapting to life in Germany is actually pretty easy – and a whole lot of fun.
It’s been an amazing first month in Germany. Stay tuned for more highlights from our life abroad!