Okay technically the fat cat and I’s two year anniversary in Munich is February 7 but it’s been a month since I last posted so we’re celebrating early.
When I was back home for Christmas, I was often asked some variation of “So what’s it like living in Germany? What’s different?” For starters, yins should be reading this blog sooo yins should know (I’m from Pittsburgh all of a sudden). But I actually struggled to answer this question because in reality, day-to-day life isn’t drastically different. This is why there is not a steady stream of blog posts on here about weird things…it’s just not that weird. Sure, the language is different and you can’t get ready access to canned enchilada sauce but it’s not like we are living in a third world country.
That being said, I spent most of January in a plane and had lots of time to ponder this question in more detail. The result is the following list of the biggest differences I have seen in our lives since moving here (excluding the more frequent trips to Italy, the increased consumption of schnitzel, etc):
We are used to tight living quarters: Before we moved here, we lived in a reasonably sized apartment. It was ~1200ft²/~120m² with 2 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, and plenty of parking. Since arriving, we have lived in a fraction of that space or less, with only 1 bathroom, and a parking space for a clown car. In the smallest apartment we lived in (500ft²/46m²), only one person could fit in the kitchen at a time and you could literally reach your arms out and touch both walls. It was cramped to say the least but it was okay. Yes, it was frustrating some days but we made it work by only buying food we absolutely needed and making meals in the toaster oven (college style wuddup). And I think we are all the better for doing that because we realized there is so much we thought we needed but can actually do without.
I must always have a scarf: I can probably count on two hands the number of times I wore a scarf back in the states. Maybe to add a little flair or color to my outfit, but never really for warmth, even in the winter. Since moving here, I am all scarves all the time. I think I have just drank the German kool-aid that dictates you must have a scarf on if there is the slightest chance a gust of wind may occur. Jerry scoffs at this but he’s been sick for the entire month of January and I haven’t. Coincidence? I think not.
We are prepared to sweat profusely every time we go inside: The only time the scarf becomes a nuisance is when you need to go inside anywhere. Many Germans are uncomfortable if their body temperature dips below boiling so any time you enter a train or bus or restaurant or store, you will literally feel like you stepped on the surface of the sun. I understand it’s cold outside but I don’t need to feel like I entered the seventh circle of hell when I go and buy some milk.
We are uncomfortable with people being super nice: I don’t think this is a Germany thing…it’s more of a city thing. In most cities, people tend to mind their own business. We were in Pennsylvania and we were just wandering around and a lady came up to us and said, “Do you need help figuring out where to go?” She was genuinely trying to help us and we were both so taken aback that it took us a awkward amount of time to respond that we were just aimlessly strolling.
I thought that may have been an isolated incident but the next day, I was in the drugstore picking up some things and the cashier lady got super chatty with me… “Oh my! This water is so cold! I don’t like when it’s so frigid. Carl (man behind me), you know you want that candy bar! Just get the Twix! (back to me) So, what’s your New Year’s resolution? I love this time of year… blah blah blah.” You get the idea. She was lovely but I definitely was not ready for this level of engagement. In Munich, you are often too busy bagging your goods as fast as humanely possible to chat it up with the cashier.
We say good-bye for an average of 10 minutes: One thing I will always find amusing about living here is that no conversation ends until each person has said at least three versions of good-bye. “Ciao!” “Tshüss!” “Bis bald!” “Schönen Tag!” “Dir auch!” “Bis morgen!” “Wiederschauen!” etc… It’s adorable and I love it. Don’t ever change.
We have great exposure to different cultures: One of the coolest things about living here has been meeting people from all over the world. In our friend group alone, we have at least 8 different countries represented and at work…I stopped counting after 12. It ranges from Brazil to France to Egypt to India to New Zealand and most countries in between. I think it’s easy to get trapped in our own little bubbles so it’s been the best learning experience to understand perspectives of others from a wide array of backgrounds. If you can’t move to another country, I highly recommend traveling more or simply talking with people different from yourself. You would be amazed at some of the differences but more importantly, the vast amount of similarities.
We have affordable and accessible healthcare: I am not trying to be political here (that’s what I use my twitter for) but I do want to express this one sentiment. If I had been in the states last April when I had my pulmonary embolism, the procedure/hospital stay would have put me into so much debt that it would have been a struggle to dig out…even with health insurance covering a portion. When I was in the ambulance and later in intensive care, I was legitimately concerned about how I was going to pay for everything… until I remembered I was in Germany and I was going to be okay (it ultimately only cost me €40). Granted, we do pay a lot of taxes but having affordable and accessible healthcare for everyone contributes to a high quality of life and I think it’s worth the cost.
Leave a comment: Have you moved away from home? What changes have you seen in your day-to-day life? Munich people, what have I missed?