I have not uploaded a blog post in a while and I have not done anything interesting lately (unless you consider my day job to be interesting). So I have decided to write about the top 10 (in absolutely no specific order) cultural differences between the United States and Germany that I have noticed so far!
Without further adieu:
10) Do you have no manners? Knock!
In the office and at home, your door remains shut. No one wants to walk down the hall and see what you are doing and you sure don’t want anyone to be able to see you while they walk by! In the United States, most offices are open spaces or people leave their doors open- not here. Everyone loves their privacy and the closed door policy is everywhere.
9) Lunch time!
In the United States, workers are generally required to take their lunch as quickly as possible and get back to work. Here, it is not uncommon to take over an hour! My office has a cantine where you go to get lunch (very much like the Caf) and sit with your colleagues. This builds comradary within the office and gives you a much needed break from your hard work. In the United States a lot of workers bring their lunch from home and eat at their desks, but here, we eat together and talk about non work-related things.
8) Is hydration really that important?
When you go out to eat in America, the first thing they bring you is a free glass of ice water. Not only is ice nonexistent here (a topic for a point all of its own), there’s no such thing as “free”. My first day in Berlin I ordered water and I was asked if I wanted still or sparkling (tap water is not to be consumed- ever!), I requested still assuming they would bring me a free glass of water. Nope! I paid 2,99€ for a 200 mL (tiny) glass of plain, bottled, lukewarm water!
7) On the topic of water…..
There’s this thing here called Minealwasser (mineral water) and the Germans cannot get enough of it! It is regular water, just with more carbonation in it than you could imagine. Let that bottle sit still all day thinking it is safe to open and you’ll be in for a wet surprise! I always have a towel on hand when I am opening my daily 1.5L bottle of the stuff. At first, I was scared to try it (why would you carbonate WATER?), but it’s actually pretty good! You can buy a huge bottle at Aldi for 0,19€ plus your 0,25€ deposite on the bottle (you get a quarter back when you return your empty bottle to the recycling center).
6) ICE-ICE Baby
I said I would get to it, Germans do not know what ice is (except when the whole counry freezes over in the winter time). The refridgerators do not have an ice maker, and they would never, ever take up the valuable real estate in their tiny glasses with frozen water. I guess when you are paying 4,50€ for a soft drink (without refills) you want to get every last drop of soda possible. The German word, Eis, pronounced as we say “ice” actually means Ice Cream, because that’s the only frozen concoction they want.
5) The bill, please?
When you go out to eat and are ready to go home YOU are responsible for asking for the check. The waiter will never bring it to you, because to Germans, that would be rude. When you seat yourself at a table (you always seat yourself), you get to keep that table for as long as you want. If you need something (drinks, food, etc) make eye contact with a waiter (who will HOPEFULLY be somewhere nearby) and beckon them. They will not check in on you, and they will not ask you to pay. I have grown to like this seemingly poor service as I often find it annoying in America when waiters come by every 5 minutes and interrupt my conversation to ask if I need more free ice water.
4) You mean we aren’t here to make new friends?
The first time I went out with some colleagues for drinks, we went to a pretty casual bar in Braunscwheig. By the time we got there, it was past midnight (prime party time in the US of A) but the dance floor was empty, and every group sat at their table, with their friends, not interacting with anyone else. Having never been “of age” in America, I can only go off what I have heard- but that is that going out to bars is a great place to meet new people and even dance a little if you want to. Not here! You go to the bar with your group of friends, and sit and try to scream at them to have a conversation (the music is very loud).
3) You are 30 and don’t have a driver’s license?
Cars exist here. Germany manufactures some of the best cars in the world, but because public transportation is so advanced and efficient, a lot of Germans never bother getting a car- or even taking driver’s ed to get their license! The streets all have bike lanes, and thats how everyone gets around on a nice day. The buses, trams, S-Bahns, U-Bahns, and long distance trains all have regular schedules- usually in intervals of 15 minutes or less. In fact, even the scheduled train between Berlin and Munich (hundreds of miles) operates several times per day. Gas is also very expensive- around 1,50€ for a liter- so it is no wonder that most folks bike or take the bus.
2) The yellow form! The other lady told me it was the blue one!
Ah, bureaucracy. In the United States you deal with those grumpy folks only at the DMV and the Passport Office. In Germany, bureaucracy is in every aspect of your life. Need to change your address with the bank? You have to go to the city office to get a form verifying where you live. Moving? Go tell the city that your are leaving. Need to get on payroll at work? Go get a NEW tax ID number for your new job from the state. Nothing is simple here, but on the bright side it is almost impossible to slip through the cracks or mess something up.
1) Drinking? You haven’t even had breakfast yet! And you have work in an hour!
Germany has about the most relaxed alcohol laws of any country. The other day I biked past some dude holding onto the handle bar with one hand with a beer in the other- at 8:30 am! Drinking in public is fine- no brown bags here. In fact, I have never even been carded and I barely look like I am above the 16 years old limit. People here are very responsible though, and rates of alcoholism are actually far lower than in America.
I hope these little tidbits were interesting! I will probably do more posts like this soon as I had a lot of fun listing out my ideas.
Cheers from Braunscwheig!