I’ve been living in Germany for almost a year now so it’s time to do our annual review 😀 Overall, I am extremely satisfied with life in Germany so that’s why I shall start with the good stuff…
7 Pleasures of Germany: This doesn’t even exist in America…
- Well behave, discipline dogs
Most of the time, I am in Berlin since that is where I live but even throughout my travels in Germany, I am always extremely impressed with the dogs everywhere. Unlike most dogs in America, German dogs show the utmost obedience to their owners and everyone else around them so maybe that’s why they are permitted to almost every public space like restaurants and even riding the metro station (Dogs ride the metro for free!). As I recalled in America, there are many signs that forbade dogs in several public spheres because American dogs are barbarians compared to these disciplined German dogs.
- Free Education for you dead broke students
As U.S. university tuition rates skyrocket to $50,000 per year, Germany has abolished all costs for higher education. That includes free tuition for foreigners as well! There are no strings attached. Well ok, everyone must pays a small administration fee of 200€ per semester. But compared to $50,000 per year, 200€ is heaven on earth.
- The honor system
Imagine entering a metro system in Germany where you pay for a ticket and board a metro train without anyone checking your ticket or having to insert your ticket in an automatic turnstile. This is very efficient for crowded hours when you’re in a hurry and your train immediately arrives. But it must be strange for those who live in more untrustworthy environments because what about those people that take advantage of this system and freeloads? They are called Schwarzfahrer (translation: black rider) by the way. The German response to this is “trust but verify.” When I first arrived in Germany back in 2011, I rode the metro (with a ticket of course) for a month and I wondered if anyone will check at some point. Then the moment of truth happens and one or two people, called Fahrkartenkontrolleur (translation: transportation ticket controller), come inside the train cart and requests to verify everyone’s metro tickets. From my experience, the majority will always have their tickets whereas one is a Schwarzfahrer.
- Proximity is everywhere
I hate driving. I love how I can walk to the nearest restaurant, cafe, bank, post office, shopping mall, doctor, etc. This is the case for both cities and small German dorfs (translation: villages). Even if I have to reach something further, the public transportation in Germany is everywhere and reliable. American public transportation cannot even compete. Germany serves to be more bike friendly with bike lanes on every street. This is great for the environment since people are driving less cars, which brings me to…
- We ❤ Earth
Germany is ranked one of the top countries in the world for environmentally friendly. Where I come from in America, recycling might as well not exist as a word. I quickly adopted to the separating all my plastics, glass, paper because the recycling lifestyle is not only unconsciously influential but prevalent.
- Fresh, fresh, fresh bakeries
Bakeries don’t even exist in America so when I came here and saw fresh bread, my eyes glittered curiously, “Wow… what is that brown thing rising from your oven?!” You could say my eating habits wasn’t that great in America since I skipped breakfast so often. There weren’t many breakfast choices for people on the go unless it’s McDonalds breakfast or Dunkin’ Donuts–both horrible choices. Now that there are fresh, delicious bakeries literally at every corner, breakfast is something I now look forward to every morning.
- For mature adults, less censorship on nudity and strong language
Showcase some advertisements with nudity in it. The German looks and moves on. The American sues the advertisement for disturbing their children’s purity. Why? Because Americans are prude! Well, I am actually a prude American myself. However, since I’ve been here, I’ve learned how to accept the human body for what it is so it doesn’t fathom me as before. What’s the difference between American and German sex scenes in films: the Germans usually show everything. Why are there nude beaches in Germany and none in America? And don’t get me started on the Freikörperkultur (FKK) movement, which translates to “free body culture” by the way…
7 Pains of Germany: I miss America…
Compared to American eating habits, the Germans are one of the healthiest eaters I’ve encountered! They eat so healthy, they have the potential to outlive the Japanese. Too bad smoking cancels that out. I am not a smoker for the obvious reason that it slowly kills you. After moving here, I probably will die from second hand smoke. The population of smokers in Germany definitely outnumbers America. You can’t always choose who your friends are and unfortunately most of my friends here in Germany are smokers. I have gotten so use to the smell of cigarettes because sometimes a friend pulls out their cigarette while we’re talking. It’s something out of my control. The rules against smoking in public areas like bars varies and depends on the particular area in Germany. Munich bars at least filter out the smokers for you but unfortunately, Berlin bars have decided to kill non-smokers as well. Clouds of smoke and the stench smothers you upon entrance in any Berlin bar. What really pisses me off is that, there are clear signs that forbade smoking in the uBahn (metro) but no one follows it.
I don’t care if you judge me, I’m going to still youtube Taylor Swift from Germany. No wait, the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (translation: society for musical performing and mechanical reproduction rights) forbides it. Wait, what? I hate Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte. Say that 10 times fast. Or just say GEMA for short… It’s basically a German organization that oversees copyrights on music distributed around the world and they are very strict. They police all public events that play music, such as street festivals, cafes, restaurants. So if your wild graduation party on the beach is playing a song on GEMA’s list, you will have to pay the full royalty fee. As for me, a huge number of my favorite music videos on YouTube are blocked by GEMA but there’s VPN for that 😀
- German bureaucracy and paperwork
When you move to Germany, you have to go through a shitload of bureaucratic systems that just don’t make any sense and take all of your time and energy. Don’t get me started on the Ausländerbehörde (translation: immigration office), and allow the documents required if you want to move into a new flat: Bürgeramt Anmeldung, SCHUFA Auskunft…you also have to register your bike with the authorities. These words give me a headache already so I don’t even want to tell you what they all mean. Just know that if you don’t do it, you don’t get it.
- Your University professors take you as lower priorities
After studying at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich back in 2011 and now doing my master’s at the Berlin School for Economics and Law, there are some things I miss about my university back in Washington, D.C. The professors not only took great care in reminding students of assignments and offering “extra credit” in order to make up for lost point, but they also were open to being your friend. You can start any conversation with professors whenever passing them by chance on campus or even asking them out to lunch. That concept will probably shock German students due to the fact that most German professors don’t have time to care more for their students because they are preoccupied with doing research in their field. On the first day they will provide the syllabus and readings for the whole semester but then you are on your own to pass the final exam or final paper. I can handle this type of learning but the times I had tea with my own professors really helped inspire discussions outside the classroom.
- Paying to Piss
I usually go to the bathroom without a wallet so this is a bit inconvenient. The costs for bathroom ranges from voluntary donations to up to a mandatory 1€ if you’re in a very touristy area. But if you’re going to hire people to attend the bathrooms, how come the bathroom still stinks and looks unclean? I think this maybe a German plot to keep unemployment low.
- No such thing as free water
Sometimes on the menu, bier is cheaper than water. I understand if it’s fancy water that I’m paying for but even if I ask for tap water, it’s not free. Sometimes the only option for water is fancy french alps water so I have to pay 2€. I strongly oppose this since water is a human necessary and should not be capitalized on. In America, there is a law that enforces free tap water upon any requests. How can I pay for water here when walking into Starbucks and demanding free tap water was such an integrated part of my life?
- Nothing is 24 hours, everything closes on Sunday
That’s why my Saturdays are all busy. I always shop for groceries and everything else on Saturday because I have no time on weekdays because of school and work. Everything closes around 8:00 PM on weekdays except for restaurants so it’s very difficult. It really sucks when you have nothing in your fridge on Sunday….