The question “Why Germany?” appears to have a pretty obvious answer for me – I have a German husband. Yes, having a German husband is what has brought me to Germany and what has driven me to spend so many years learning the language & culture. But this is not the reason I have grown to love Germany and chosen it as my new home, which is not necessarily a given when you consider the difficulties I have had adjusting to life in Germany.
I find that no matter where I live, I inevitably compare it to other places I lived before and find it lacking – the cherries in the neighbor’s garden always taste sweeter, right? (die Kirschen in Nachbars Garten schmecken immer süßer). Sometimes it can be really easy as an expat to focus on things that are annoying, difficult or positively maddening about living in a new country. I am often guilty of this and that’s why I wanted to sit down and focus on the things that make me happy about Germany and the things that make me so excited to live there again.
Umweltfreundlich & Gesund
The lifestyle in Germany makes me feel like I am having less of a negative impact on the world than my lifestyle in the U.S. and forces me to adopt healthier habits in my daily routine. Yes, this often means living with fewer conveniences which can be irritating, but I think overall it’s a better way to live. How is the lifestyle more Umweltfreundlich & Gesund?
- Spargelzeit (asparagus season)- this is a time of year when Germany goes bananas over white asparagus because it is in season. I’m not kidding, they put it in everything. This is just one example, but Germans often eat things when they are in season. Living in the U.S. I actually have no awareness of when certain produce are in season because it is constantly available to me in the supermarket. But celebrating and enjoying a food when it’s in season means that we are enjoying something that is local, fresh and hasn’t had to be transported halfway across the world.
- Essen außer Haus (eating out)- on average Germans don’t eat out in restaurants as often as Americans do, instead they tend to prepare their own food at home. In my experience eating in a restaurant is a lot more expensive in Germany than it is back in the U.S. and this discourages people from considering it more than an occasional treat. There are many benefits to this lifestyle – it’s healthier, it saves you money and it promotes time together at home with the family.
- Einkaufen (shopping)- shopping in Germany is quite the experience for an American for many reasons. I could expound at length on this topic, as many others before me have, but I’ll just point out a few differences for now: in Germany you bring your own bags (in fact, many stores are no longer even selling plastic bags anymore for purchase at the check-out). There are typically smaller local shops such as bakeries and butchers in your neighborhood. Often times it’s possible to walk, bike or take public transport to do your shopping. This combined with the usually tiny size of German fridges encourages people to make more frequent & small shopping trips. This forces me to buy food from local & specialty stores, to waste fewer plastic bags and to get out more instead of driving everywhere like I do in the U.S.
- Öffentlicher Verkehr (public transportation)- unless you live in a tiny village in Germany, you probably have access to reliable public transportation in the form of buses, street cars, subways and trains. It’s very convenient to drive yourself everywhere in the U.S. and we usually have giant parking lots we can park in. Not the case in Germany where driving often feels very inconvenient with high costs, tiny streets and scarce parking. But this is another case of something inconvenient that I know is actually better, for both me and the environment. Besides getting more exercise and having a smaller footprint, when I walk through my city or ride public transportation I feel like I am a part of my community. Living in Phoenix where everyone drives around in their cars from one building to another I rarely feel connected to the people who live alongside me in my community.
- Sonnenschein (sunshine)- it’s true that Germany gets much less sunshine than where I’m from in Arizona. Most of the year living in Phoenix we do our best to avoid the sun, hurrying from one air-conditioned box to another. The sun shines most days and you begin to take it for granted. Not so in Germany, where people practically worship the sun when it comes out instead of taking it for granted. When the sun is shining you can find everyone and their mother outside enjoying it. The happy feelings radiating from Germans when it’s sunny are palpable and contagious.
Besides being environmentally- and waist-friendly, these are some of the other aspects of life in Germany that I respect and admire:
- Fachkenntnis (expertise) – Germany has a lot of experts (You can view that as a sarcastic comment on some of their other tendencies, but that’s a different post!) Germans have experts in every field – in order to become even a baker or a shoe salesperson you have to go through certain education or training to get there. I admire this because to me it indicates that Germany places more value on trades than we do in the U.S. It feels like in the states if you don’t go to college you are seen as failing somehow. This greatly devalues occupations that require skill and training but not a college education. This expertise also means that when you go to a place like Saturn (an electronics store in Germany) with a camera that is acting up, an employee on the sales floor will actually know what is wrong with your camera and adjust it for you then & there, even though you didn’t purchase it at their store! This also means that when you go looking for an electronic toothbrush, a knowledgeable employee will give you a ten-minute breakdown of the pros and cons of each type they sell. These are just two experiences I have had in Germany where I have received expert help when I didn’t expect it.
Debatte (debate) – Germans are eager to debate issues with you and as an American who has been taught that it is impolite to discuss religion & politics, this came as a shock. I would witness Germans having heated discussions about these topics, all the while thinking that it would end in destroyed friendships, but this is not the case. It seems that Germans are able to debate these kinds of things without getting too personal and I find this behavior healthier than in the U.S. where everything is so polarized that you can barely talk to someone on the “other side” of an issue. I admire this quality a lot in Germany even though sometimes I am intimidated by being challenged to defend my point of view more rigorously than I would have to among many Americans. Recent events in Germany have made me fear that Germany is also becoming more polarized. I really hope that it never reaches the level that it has in the U.S.
Geschichte (history) – Germany is full of fascinating history everywhere you look and it is so much more than WWII, which the Americans can sometimes fixate on. Even though Germany is a fairly new country it has a long and rich history. There’s nothing more intriguing than walking the cobble-stone streets of a German city and imagining the people who walked it before us and the things that happened there. My best recommendation is to take a guided tour of your city to learn more about its history. This helps you appreciate a city so much more than if you knew nothing about its past and it will also make you a better guide when your friends and family come to visit!
Schönheit (beauty) – Germany is simply beautiful! There are so many different facets to its beauty: from its nature to its architecture and its local traditions. No two regions are alike and every one of them has unique and interesting qualities such as local food, dialect and festivals that you can only find there. Germany is so much more than the Oktoberfest and Neuschwanstein! If you visit, I encourage you to stray from the typical tourist destinations and check out lesser-known regions to get a unique perspective on life in Germany.
So those are just a few of the reasons why I love Germany. What are your reasons? Let me know in the comments!