Even though I’ve been living in Germany for a while now, there are still some things that I continue to find a little odd. These cultural differences are too small to be a big deal, but they occur quite often, and every time I encounter them my American brain does a double-take. However, different definitely does not mean worse; if anything, the things that are different about Germany is what makes my life here new and exciting! So, here are some of the most common petty differences I’ve experienced in Germany:
- Paying for public restrooms. In train stations, shopping malls, and other public places, it’s pretty common to have to pay to use the bathroom. While I’ve never paid more than maybe one Euro, it’s still a weird concept for me to have to pay to go to the bathroom. The bathrooms are usually cleaner, but I just try to use the bathroom before leaving the house.
- Sparkling water. When you ask for water at a restaurant, the server will more than likely ask if you want sparkling or still water. There’s always sparkling water bottles next to still water bottles in grocery stores and gas stations, and it’s common to mix juice and sparkling water together. Personally, I love sparkling water, so while it’s strange to see it in such abundance, I’m actually really happy about it!
- “Frische Luft.” Put simply, Germans love fresh air. In school, someone will always open the window upon entering the classroom, even if it’s cold or raining outside. During breaks, students will go stand outside, sometimes in the rain. Most (if not all) windows don’t have screens, either. Coming from Minnesota, where opening the window in the winter is practically sinful, it definitely still shocks me when someone insists on letting in the “Frische Luft” (fresh air). However, I’ve come to appreciate the fresh air a lot more, even if it feels strange to embrace at first!
- Not refrigerating everything. In the U.S., I’d always carry my lunch in a lunchbox with ice packs. Here, everyone carries their sandwiches in a container in their bag. I was a little freaked out the first time I ate my ham and cheese sandwich without having it be refrigerated during the day, but I survived.
- Rollladen. These are rolling shades that block out any trace of the sun and make the room completely black. I’m used to waking up with the sun, so I don’t use them when I go to bed at night, but they’re super helpful for taking naps during the day or watching movies in class!
- The Autobahn. It’s true that in Germany, there are stretches of highway (Autobahn) where there’s no speed limit (even when there is a speed limit, it’s much higher than what I’m used to in America). The first time I was on the Autobahn felt like a ride at a fair; I was a little scared, to be completely honest. I still get a little tense when I go on the Autobahn, but it’s also so much fun to drive super fast down a highway at night when no other cars are around.
Overall, even though I find these things a little different, they all have their purposes and advantages. I also really enjoy observing these superficial contrasts between Germany and the U.S. Now I have ideas about how to do things in a completely new way, and I’m excited to see what that looks like when I return to America!
Until next time,