Living in Germany: What to Expect

As someone who was born and raised in tropical-full-of-smile country, I have to admit that living in Germany was an interesting experience with full of contradiction.

I liked to be in a country where everything runs smoothly, but also kept wondering why is it so difficult for people there to be… happy? I already visited Germany before I decided to move there for a while, so I generally didn’t encounter any culture shock. But still, there were some surprises which I found interesting and worth to tell about living in Deutschland.


Note: This is based on my very personal experiences and keep in mind that I truly enjoyed living there, where I met thousands of lovely people and got enormous amount of nice memories 🙂

1. As Indonesian (or citizen from any country with delicious cuisines), you will most likely lose your weight

I don’t know how to put this modestly, but Germans don’t seem to know how to make food. The most popular dish in the whole country is Currywurst, a Wurst (sausage) with tomato sauce and curry powder, plus a small bread or Pommes (fries) as side dish. The arguably second one is Doner Kebab, a pita bread with sliced chicken or beef, vegetables, and Turkish sauce dressing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Currywurst and Doner, but I just can’t count it as a meal.

German ‘main course’ usually contains meat (chicken, beef, sausage, etc.), potatoes, vegetables, and cheese. They can eat bread three times a day (with thousand kinds of fresh-cut meats, cheeses, or jams), and eat pizza and pasta everyday for one week long.

Christmas dinner leftover: Knoedel (boiled dumplings), duck, and Rosenkohl

In my country, bread is only counted as snack. We normally eat rice three times per day (yes, also for breakfast) and there will be at least two different kinds of dishes, one rich of protein and the other is based on vegetables. And well, we cook. Not only combine all the ingredients together and put it in our mouth, but we cook for real. We invest our time, sometimes more than one hour, to prepare our warm meal.

During my stay there, I tried to cook as much as possible and but I didn’t always have time. So, at the end of my stay I lost around 3 kg of my weight. But that’s also because I ate more healthy food such as salad, lots of berries and raw vegetables which are easily accessed in Germany.

2. Get used to ‘direct-communication’

Most of Germans are self-proclaimed polite, but as person with indirect culture of communication, I sometimes found them kind of rude. However, it changed over the time because I got used to it.

My first shock-therapy regarding this issue happened long time ago, when I visited Germany for the first time. Back then I was a young girl with lacked of travel experiences and simply lost in confusingly big train station. I was surprised when I came to the information centre: the lady did not able to speak English at all and most importantly did not show any willingness to help me. She snapped at me because ‘I cut the line’ but nobody told me there was a line, even the security who was leisurely standing in front of the door. But, I understood the problem was partly because I didn’t speak German.

My ex often teased me about my ‘indirectness’, because I usually kept quiet and refused to talk when I was annoyed or angry. He could ask “what’s wrong” thousands of times, and I would answer “Nothing, it’s fine” for each of the time.

One night, I asked him about the plan to meet my friend the next day and he answered, “It’s your appointment, not my appointment.” I was shocked by the ‘rude’ answer because I actually wanted to involve him in the plan-making, but after cold-headed discussion I understood that he didn’t meant to be rude, he just wanted to remind me that I could plan the appointment as I like.

So the conclusion is, Germans never have any tendency to be rude, but they prefer to say things honestly and directly, without intending to hurt you personally. Be strong.

3. Everybody speaks English, except people who you wish are able to English

I moved to Germany mainly because I wanted to learn German. But since I lived in big city, it was nearly impossible to force myself talk German on daily basis, except in my German class and with the kids. Most of people speak English and they preferred to speak English with me because well… their English is better than my German. It was nice, but also not very helpful to improve my German.

BUT, there are some places where speaking English is like a sin you should never do, such as in banks and immigration office. Yes, people refused to speak English in immigration office (or to put it fairly, the staffs understood nothing in English). It was very strange for me. I was able to speak German for normal daily conversation, but of course it was not easy to talk about banking issues or my visa in German. I tried my best to communicate with my limited German and managed to get through, though.

4. Get ready to obey millions of rules

Germans love rules and expect everybody else has the same idea of obeying their rules.

Still have to wait…

When you want to cross any street, you have to wait until the pedestrian crossing light turns green. Even when there is no car passing by. Even when it is late at night and literally nobody is around. Even if it is only 5 steps to get to the other side of the road. If you dare to violate this rule, be prepare to face public humiliation or even fine to pay. One time I missed my bus because I was waiting for the pedestrian traffic light to turn green. And I had to wait 20 minutes for the next bus.

People are also very concern about drink-and-drive rule. Germans usually decline to drink alcohol at all if they have to drive later. Not even a single beer which only has 5% of alcohol (why bother to drink one beer if you feel nothing anyway, they said). Quite surprising yet impressive for population who are well known for their addiction of beers.

Oh, and when you drink together with someone or bunch of people, you have to say ‘Prost’ when clinking your glass with other, and make direct eye contact with that person. Otherwise, you will get 7 years of bad sex. I bet nobody is ignorant enough to violate this rule.

Another rule which I found funny is about Youtube videos. We can’t watch most of music videos from VEVO, because ‘Germany doesn’t pay for the copyright to the artists’, so the government blocked the video to avoid violating copyright. If you dare to download anything illegally, such as movie, songs, albums, even books, there is probability the law enforcer would find out and then you have to pay fine. Rumor said, one movie could cost you 800 Euros. Yes, it is expensive to break rules in Germany.

5. Be on-time, but don’t expect the public transport is always on-time

Clearly, the stereotype of Germans and their punctuality is not made up. You should be on-time, punkt. Being late for 5 minutes can be a big deal. People can get very annoyed because their schedule is ruined. Yep, they are crazy about making schedule. I should explain more in other article.

When someone invites you to a party, for example, don’t come too early because you probably will disturb the host’s preparation, but also don’t come too late because it’s rude.

As in public transportation, it’s generally reliable but not always. Bus schedule can betray you, often. The bus can come way earlier than the schedule and just leaves you even when the bus driver’s seeing you running and trying to catch it at your best, or it also can be late like really really really late (13 minutes, my worst experience, ruined my schedule because then I missed my train connection and had to wait for the next train and I would definitely late for my class or appointment. And then just like that, my day was officially ruined).

I also had several unpleasant experiences with Deutsche Bahn. For example, one morning I had to get to Bremen from my city and I already booked my train ticket in advance, confident that I would get there on time without any problem. When I arrived at the train station, the big screen told me that my train got canceled and I had to take the next one with one hour difference. God, I had to catch my flight to Stockholm from Bremen (Ryan Air doesn’t have airport in my city) and I started to get panic because then I had very tight schedule. Fortunately I made it, but still it was quite traumatic experience.

But anyhow, I love the time I spent in Germany. In the next article I will share more experiences during my stay. Partying (it was fun!), places (amazing!), relationship (nice but messy at the end), and many others. So, let’s wish that I’ll manage to make time and willingness to write more.

Auf Wiedersehen! 😉

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