Expat Diaries

2020-02-23

When we first moved to Germany, I didn’t think it would be that different from life in the UK – just more paperwork. However, it has elicited a bigger culture shock than I realised. Here are a few things that shocked me when I first moved here:

Sundays:

I am just about old enough to remember when stores closed on Sundays in the UK, but for my whole adult life, I have lived with the convenience of having a supermarket or corner shop open 7 days a week. Not in Germany. The only places open on a Sunday in my town are the bakery, church and local bar/cafe. 

Comfort is the universal dress code:

I am yet to see a woman in high heels or a “going out” dress, or a man in a damn pink Ralph Lauren shirt and chinos. Trainers are the accepted shoe of choice for all ages, and most people wear jeans, t-shirts and jumpers for all outings. As somebody who does not fashion well, this culture shock has made me so happy! 

How direct Germans are:

The rumours are true! The Germans are very direct and ‘to-the-point’ about EVERYTHING. If you are in their way in the supermarket, they will tell you; if you have done something wrong/said something wrong, they will take great pride in correcting you immediately; their emails will be very short and contain only the information required – no small talk!

Recycling:

If you thought the Welsh were anal about their recycling bins, you’re in for a shock! Recycling is law in Germany and from what we’ve worked out so far, the following items each have their separate bins:

  • Newspapers/Magazines
  • Cardboard/Paper
  • Plastic packaging/containers
  • Biowaste (food waste, etc.)
  • Everything else

You are expected to recycle any glass bottles/cans into their respective bins, which appear on the sides of the roads, in supermarket car parks and at the local recycling centre. 

Most plastic bottles are recyclable at the supermarket, where you receive €0,25 per bottle. You pay a Pfand (deposit) on crates of anything in the drinks supermarkets (soft or alcoholic) and get money back when you return empty bottles and crates. 

Mahlzeit/Servus

Despite being direct people, the Germans are also very respectful and polite. In the workplace and social environments I have been in since arriving, it is a given that you say “Mahlzeit” to every person you come across at lunchtime. Translated it means ‘Mealtime’ but they use at as a way to say “enjoy your lunch” or “have a good meal.” 

“Servus” is the common greeting here in Bavaria and is used to say both “Hello” and “Goodbye.” The town I live in is quite small, and generally, you will find that most people greet each other with “Servus” in the streets even if you don’t know each other – even kids will say it to you! It’s the given greeting when you go anyway informal e.g. work canteen, gym etc.

This was particularly weird for me because where I’m from in England if you don’t know each other, you don’t talk to each other.

The Autobahn:

…is not that fast. It can be pretty fast at times, and god help you if you pull out in front of an AMG Merc flying up behind you at 180mph, BUT, to be completely honest, most people tend to sit at around 70-80mph and it’s not that exciting.

Littering:

Or lack thereof. Because recycling is such a huge deal here and the fact that you get money back for recycling plastic & glass bottles, it is a rare sight to see litter on the streets. 

Just the other day, Zac and I saw a Burger King bag and cup laying in the road and it shocked us because it was the first time we had seen litter like that in our town. Whereas driving through Hereford it was a daily sight at several points in any given journey. 

This is the start of a very long list that I am keeping about differences between the UK and Germany. The list keeps growing from week to week so I will definitely be sharing more of these with you as time goes on.

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