I love living in Europe, more specifically Germany. It’s a beautiful country with a great location, central to so much of Europe. It’s quite perfect for travel. A great aspect of living in another country is discovering the quirks that make it unique; and then realizing that you have adapted to these differences and have discovered a new normal for yourself. I think every place has its own unique quirks and Germany is no different. Here are a few quirks that I have experienced in my first four months.
Blowtorch Lawn Maintenance
Yes, you read that correctly. It’s true. In Germany, you cannot use weed killer like Round Up for fear of harming the ground water supply. So, what better way to kill weeds in your driveway and along the sidewalk than with a blowtorch? I first observed this common practice one evening while taking my trash out to the bin. I heard a strange noise and looked over at my 70-year-old neighbor lighting up his driveway. I thought he must have lost his marbles. I have since witnessed this practice several times – to include my landlord lighting up my own driveway.
Trash is Serious Business
Germans do not take their trash lightly. Almost everything is recycled. Which is great because I absolutely believe in recycling, but I had a love hate relationship with this when we first moved to Germany because I wasn’t quite sure what went where. It’s not as simple as the US process. I have six separate bins in my house – bio waste, residual waste, packaging materials, glass, paper/cardboard, and plastic and glass that can be turned in for store credit. This picture explains it pretty well and was a lifesaver when I had to start this process. You can be fined for incorrectly sorting your trash. I haven’t personally witnessed anyone getting fined, but everyone says it can happen. Germany’s recycling rate leads Europe.
Germany has quiet hours every day. It’s true. Fines are given out if you do not adhere to the quiet hours. This was hard for my family and I to adjust to when we first arrived. On Sundays and German holidays, excessive noise is prohibited from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays. During that time, noise levels must be kept down as much as possible. The use of lawn mowers or other noisy equipment is only permissible from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, and is not permitted Sundays or holidays. As you can imagine, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is prime outside play time for children and my daughter is loud when she’s at play. She has learned to keep it down during quiet hours. It’s nice to witness her practicing self-control. I noticed this rule was followed more during our short stay in Kaiserslautern, but is a little less stringent in my village. Thank goodness.
Tiny Swim Shorts
So, I’ve discovered that it is extremely easy to tell the difference between American men and European men at the public pool. American men are usually the ones wearing board shorts as swim trunks, whereas the European men wear tiny swim suits. Imagine just a touch more coverage than a Speedo. This style suit is worn by the young males all the way to the geriatric ones. I’m sure the tiny suits are more comfortable for swimming and they honestly makes more sense. It was unusual to witness at first because in America only a small minority of men are willing to venture into the tiny swim suit fashion.
In Germany, police do not have to worry themselves with traffic stops for speeding motorists because there are strategically placed traffic cameras that dole out speeding tickets to the offending parties. If you’re going more than three kilometers over the speed limit, then you get a ticket in the mail. My husband, who I must mention never gets speeding tickets in the states, has racked up a whopping seven tickets in the four months that we’ve lived here. I haven’t received any…yet (knock on wood), but I have managed to blow out two tires. That’s a whole different story.
Visiting a German grocery store is quite the culture shock. The first time I visited one was a few hours after landing in the country. I needed to stock up on some items for the temporary apartment and there was a grocery store right around the corner. First of all, I was extremely jet lagged. I think I ended up purchasing beer, bread, milk, peanut butter, popcorn and Nutella. I’m blaming the jet lag on my unusual purchases and the layout of the store. It was all quite differently organized than what I was accustomed to in the states. And although I had been studying Deutsch, I was having difficulty with reading the packages.
I have to admit something that is quite embarrassing. I could not find the eggs. I went up and down that store searching for eggs. I was too jet lagged and not confident in my Deutsch speaking skills at the time to ask. Eggs should be by the milk, butter and cheese, right? I never did find the eggs on that first trip. What I later discovered is that eggs don’t have to be kept cold if they haven’t been washed. I guess I should’ve known that, but I didn’t at the time. The eggs were in the middle of an aisle, not in the cold section. Other things you should know before visiting a German grocery store: Bring your own bags because they don’t have any plastic bags and you have to bag your own groceries. Also, be sure to weigh your produce before you get to the checkout. They do not weigh it for you.
Living abroad is fun and forces you out of your comfort zone. I feel fortunate to have this opportunity to embrace the quirks even when I find it difficult. Have you noticed any quirks on your travels to different countries? Please share in the comments below.