My Observations of Germany, from an American Perspective

Words by:

Nyssa P. Chopra

ImageIt was a year-long journey in Deutschland, and here is a list of observations/differences that I noticed. If I stayed longer, I’m sure the list would have grown. Mind you, I lived in Berlin, but traveled throughout the country, so I got a pretty comprehensive sense of the country. I may not have loved everything, but I loved enough things to keep me there.

  • the main airport in Berlin (Tegel) is super efficient! customs point and baggage claim are at every arrival gate
  • contrary to popular belief, the entire autobahn is NOT limitless
  • pets are allowed in restaurants and other public places — gross!
  • immigration is a sticky subject for Germans. if you venture down that road, be prepared for a heated discussion!
  • food doesn’t last as long as the U.S. because they don’t use as many preservatives. most people will stop by at the grocery store almost every day.
  • you should carry cash at all times, as not many places take cards
  • Germans are extremely, extremely spirited people and that was mostly evident during the World Cup games!
  • if staring was a sport, Germany would win gold
  • you have to pay for 1-800 customer service numbers in Germany
  • Germans have no problem blowing their noses at the dinner table or in restaurants…I certainly have a problem with that!
  • Germany, and Europe in general, does not believe in toilet seat covers
  • Berlin is a prime hotspot for Americans to open bakeries and to share American desserts like brownies, chocolate chip cookies, cheesecake, etc…it’s a relatively new introduction here
  • you have to register with the mayor’s office whenever you move to another city or even within the same city; German authorities like to keep tabs on all of its inhabitants…and when you leave, you have to de-register.
  • alcohol is permitted on public transportation…welcome to fight central!
  • Berlin fashion is stuck in a bygone era: “80′s gone bad”, well some areas
  • Berlin is the party capital of Europe
  • the Japanese cuisine isn’t as exciting here and tends to stick to more traditional dishes; there’s no special crazy rolls
  • Germans answer the phone with their last name, not with “hallo”
  • it is not uncommon to see nudity floating around the city, at metro stations, parks, and other public areas. there’s a movement here called the FKK (frei koerper kultur, meaning free body culture)
  • credit cards are not very big here AT ALL. the average american has multiple credit cards, almost serving as unemployment insurance, but 1 is usually the grand total for Germans. it’s wise to ask a restaurant/store beforehand if they take cards instead of realizing it after your meal
  • ATMs are a rare commodity. you have to sear it in your mind when you see one.
  • people are die hard fans of recycling. the most impressive system i’ve seen by far. there’s a separate bin for just about everything.
  • Germans tend to keep more distance; they shake hands, as opposed to give flying kisses on the cheek when they meet each other.
  • microwaves shouldn’t be automatically expected in apartments
  • when Germans move apartments, they take everything, and i mean EVERYTHING with them, including the kitchen and light fixtures
  • when Germans speak really good English, their English tends to mimic a British accent, which almost makes me feel like they’re trivializing American English…das ist schlect!
  • no tipping culture, hence no concept of customer service.
  • Germans don’t believe in screen doors on windows and doors, so little critters come in to play a little more often than needed/wanted.
  • there is an overpopulation of bees/hornets/wasps and a grossly high number of accompanying stings.
  • German punctuality is a myth.
  • deodorant-wearers/shower-takers are not as abundant as they should be.
  • audis, bmws, VWs, mercedes are everywhere…even as taxis and trucks…and there are classes of all kinds.
  • everyone drinks sparkling water, or “mineralwasser mit gas” as they call it…yuck! still water (or regular water as we know it) is for peasants. in a restaurant, i was even told that no more “leitungswasser” (tap water) next time…wtf? you’re taking out your sink?
  • everything is closed on Sundays (shops, grocery stores, etc.) …quite annoying for someone who comes from such a capitalistic society.
  • tap water is drinkable, not the tastiest, but safe.
  • you have to pay for grocery bags. you even have to pay extra (the deposit) for glass and plastic bottles, so it forces you to recycle. go green!
  • skim milk is a rare commodity, so rare that i still haven’t found it — at least the fresh kind. they have 0.1%, but it’s either boxed or canned — i’ll take that over vollmilch (whole milk) ANY DAY!
  • air conditioning is hard to come by. not even in ATM places or some grocery stores!
  • smoking is wayyyyy more common here than the U.S.
  • Germans are very direct. you will never be wondering how they feel about you or a particular subject…a good thing, i guess?
  • education is virtually free. only recently was a tuition fee of 500EUR introduced in some states at some universities, which caused quite an uproar! i’d be doing the happy dance if someone told me all i’d have to pay for my degree is 1000EUR/year!