Today marks the day that I’ve been living in my second Heimat for exactly 22 months (I do love numbers). That is, of course, not including the 13 months I lived in Hannover before moving back to England for a year to finish my studies, but nevertheless – 22 months is quite a long time!
I once wrote about the 100 things I’ve learnt in Frankfurt over a year ago now. Today, I was interviewed by the son of one of my old colleagues from the school I worked at in Hannover, as he had some homework for which he needed to interview someone who has moved to Germany. He asked me a total of six questions, including “Why did you move to Germany?” and “Could you speak German when you moved here?” but there was one question that really got me thinking: “What have you had to get used to?”
Where do you start? The language, the food, the culture… It’s safe to say, as you can see in the above picture from Oktoberfest in 2012, I did have some trouble adjusting and I still do in some aspects. But the question itself was really interesting, so I thought I’d make it into a blog post.
As a Brit, what have I had to get used to living in Germany?
Well… (in no particular order):
Cars being on the right side. And by “right” I mean “wrong”. Still today I get Germans laughing at me saying “ha ha, you are driving always on the left side of the street, you are all so strange” (imagine that in a lovely German accent). HOW IS THAT STRANGE?! Surely, with your left hand on the gear stick – ignoring any left-handed people here (sorry) – it’s better to have your strong hand on the steering wheel in case something goes terribly wrong?
But, let’s not get into that debate. I’ve never actually driven a car in Germany, unless you count driving in a car park and staying in first gear. But when it comes to crossing the road – though it’s better to look both ways – I still did have to get used to it. Same with walking – people generally move to the right when passing someone on the pavement here. I’ve got used to this now and sometimes forget to walk on the left side in England. Whoops.
Waiting for the green man when crossing the road. I completely understand why it’s illegal to cross the road when the man is red. I completely understand that you definitely should not cross when the man is red and there are kids about. And I completely understand that it’s actually dangerous if the road is busy to cross when the man is red.
But I never thought I would actually be a good citizen and do it. I’ve even started tutting at people who cross when the man’s red, whilst hoping that a police car is right around the corner. Maybe the tutting bit is the English in me, but still…
Shops being closed on Sundays. I… well… I just… Why, Germany? Why? It’s so difficult having to plan a whole day ahead for groceries. And apparently that’s the case for a lot of Germans when what feels like the entire population of Frankfurt decide to go shopping on Saturday evening at the supermarket opposite where I live. That also applies for the day before a public holiday. I once stood in a queue for about 30 minutes for two bread rolls because I didn’t have anything to eat at home. The more I waited, the more adamant I got about staying in the queue because I was not being beaten by all the Frankfurters who were doing shopping for what looked like a month because of one public holiday. Aaaand breathe…
Being the one who nearly dies due to the heat whilst the Germans talk about how lovely the weather is. How do they do it? Last year, we had a heatwave in Frankfurt of up to 39°C. Thirty. Nine. I was sweating. I showered, and the movement of drying myself with a towel made me sweat and need to shower again. The Germans? They loved it. And laughed at me for being the poor English guy. I’m sure I heard the phrase “Awwh, you’re not used to this with your constant rain in England, are you?” at least twice a day.
But on the flip side – when it’s cold… no sorry, I mean when it’s pleasant outside, I can go out with a shirt and jeans on. The Germans? Jacket. Scarf. Coat. Gloves. Hat. Another jacket, just in case. It’s hilarious. What I call “nice and sunny” the Germans call “Antarctica”. What they call “nice and sunny” I call “cooking temperature”.
German directness. If in England you, say, hold a presentation and it could have been better, you may hear: “Well, I really liked the information you included. I mean, you could possibly maybe perhaps make the text bigger so I can actually read the information, but I’m sure if I had been able to read it, I would have really liked it. I’m sorry. Please. Thank you.” On the other hand, you’d probably hear from a German: “The text was too small. I couldn’t read it *evil stare*.”
Nah, maybe not with the evil stare, but still – they’re pretty direct. The first few times this happened to me I was quite shocked and a little bit offended – where was the politeness with the forced finding of positive things to make me feel good about myself?! But then I realised they truly do mean it for the better, and now sometimes hearing an English reply irritates me with how polite they’re being when, really, you can just tell me it’s shit. It’s fine.
German TV being rubbish. There, I said it. Maybe it’s my inability to understand German humour, but wow is German TV bad. The only good thing on TV is Tatort, a weekly murder mystery, and even that can be sometimes rubbish as every week it’s based somewhere else with different detectives. I miss decent Saturday night TV like talk shows and quiz shows and (dare I say it?) soaps like Corrie and Eastenders.
Bread rolls. All weekend, every weekend. This is certainly what people may expect to be a stereotype which isn’t true (like the one that Brits drink tea every day at tea time (OK so maybe I’m actually drinking a cup of tea whilst writing this post)), but, actually, Germans love their bread rolls. And I have also come to love their bread rolls. Who doesn’t love a good German bread roll?!
However, there is one problem – I miss a good fry-up so bad. Most Germans turn up their noses to the idea of eating beans for breakfast (“Beans?! With tomato sauce?! For breakfast?! It is making me feel sick just when I am sinking about it!”)*. And I miss roast dinners. And I’m going to stop now before I start to get hungry and sad.
*”sinking” was on purpose. Obviously. I don’t actually know any Germans who talk like that.
So those are a few things I have had to get used to here, and really just touch the surface. No doubt I’ll think of and realise more things as I go about my day-to-day life, so I’m sure there’ll be another similar blog post at some point!