German living: The good, the bad and the Praktisch

German living: The good, the bad and the Praktisch

For many years, Germany has always been seen as a great place to head to for Expats from all over. However, as with most great places, there are the Cons that stand beside the pros. If you are caught up in a dream to go get Germanized, its best to make sure you have a well-rounded look beforehand. To help you get more informed, below are the most common Pros and Cons associated with building a new life in Germany.

Working in Germany

Pro: Work-life balance and job security

Germany can be a great option to work for multiple reasons. Firstly, the employee has much more personal protection and rights in comparison to other countries. The amount of work you are contracted for is very important. Your annual paid vacation allowance is a minimum of 20 days (based on a 5 day work week) however most employers offer 25 or more days. And, they are mandatory. Secondly, you have 6 full weeks of paid sick leave and if you face a longer-term injury or illness, your health insurance will cover a percentage of your normal income amount after. I find this aspect very nice. As an American, I was always used to pushing and going into work sick because I would either face losing pay or my employer letting me go for taking a sick day, but in Germany, it is very encouraged to take the time if your health is on the line.

Con: Climbing the ladder

Heading up through the ranks can be a challenge due to the fact there are a very large amount of qualified people next to you. Competition alone is pretty fierce for Germans, and as a foreigner, it can be even more so. Germans tend to focus a lot on scrutinizing your experience history and educational background, often this can be the big difference between being chosen for an opportunity against a German.

Cost of living 

Pro: Lower cost of living 

In general, the cost of living is pretty low in Germany (keep in mind I’m excluding certain cities like Munich and Frankfurt). When it comes to your basic needs such as food, electricity, and transportation, they are quite affordable. One of my favorites being the price of groceries. Germans focus a lot on this topic and when it comes to buying food you can even purchase only organic produce for an incredibly small cost. This all being in comparison to my previous home in Hawaii, US coastal cities, and major European cities.

Con: Steep income tax

This topic is typically one of the biggest gripes for locals as the income tax deduction can be quite high, sometimes as much as 40% of one’s income. It is however important to keep in mind that this is not a general statement, German income tax is individually based, it is dependent on the individual’s earning bracket. Even if your income tax is in the higher range, it is good to keep in mind that this tax system helps to support other aspects that improve the German lifestyle such as free education and the public healthcare system.

Health and personal insurance 

Pro: Great health care system and the general mindset

One of my favorite parts of life in Germany (and even an industry I studied and worked in for some time) would be its great insurance industry. Granted I worked in the health insurance sector, which is a two-part system I highly admire, but it is not the specific insurances I want to highlight but the whole mentality. Germans are very adamant about their rights to maintaining good health and security, this is an aspect we Americans do not believe in. Whether it is physical or mental health versus personal security or liability, Germans view this as essential.

Con: Too many options and too much German

Unfortunately, the cliches about German insurance are true. Germans do LOVE insurances and have A LOT of them. From health insurance, personal liability, legal, household, bike theft, and even dog insurances (yes multiple insurances for your dogs exist and are sometimes required!). It can be difficult figuring out which you need, what the best offer is, even understanding the German concepts can be quite tricky but often most the difficult getting support in English. Luckily the last years many companies have realized the large number of Expats in Germany who need support and thus adjusted their services. One of these I would recommend to any interested Expats is Coya. Coya is an insurance company for expats by expats. They offer many great options for liability insurances (home insurance, dog insurance, theft insurances…) but also they offer great English support as well as a super helpful blog full of free information for new Expats in Germany.

Transportation

Pro: Many great options

Coming from Hawaii, I have to say I’m pretty biased about this Pro of living in Germany because the transportation options here always amaze me. Everywhere I’ve been in Germany they tend to have a wonderful transportation system that is not just affordable but varied. Recently in Munich, we have had updates to our MVG app (the public transportation system) that shows you a multitude of connection options, options for the type of transportation (bus, tram, train, or even bike rentals), and you can purchase all tickets digitally. Additionally, most cities are very bicyclist friendly.

Con: Driving is a bit more tedious

The catch for having such a great public transportation system is that owning a car, driving and even getting a license is a lot more costly. The German drivers license alone comes in at a hefty price of around 2000€ (although can be less depending on if you have a preexisting license that can be transferred or you do not need all the exams/ required courses). Next to that, the cost of gas can range from 50€-over over 100€ to fill up one tank and in certain cities, (like Munich) parking is also an additional cost but can also just be very frustrating since it can be so tricky to find a place.

Lifestyle 

Pro: Great location for those who like to travel

One of my personal favorites to my life in Germany is how close I am to many other European countries and the easy travel options. Weekend city trips are a great option and can be quite inexpensive as well. The German culture is also very travel-oriented so with all of your mandatory days off per year this is a great match!

Con: Lackluster cuisine

*Unpopular opinion alert* I hate to say this…but the tough fact is that German food is not the most exciting. I have found that it has nice comfort food quality to it but after many years, it has really become something where I have noticed there is not much variety or even innovation…but luckily many neighboring countries bring in their influence to help spice up your life in Germany.

Culture Shock

Pro: Structure and standard of living

Now, I am not going to say the cliche of German efficiency is 100%, but I will admit that Germans and their general social practices and habits do go towards the higher standard of living in the country. Standard of living in reference to daily life in general. People in Germany really like their structure, set habits, rituals, and practices. There is a lot of discipline in the working culture and a refreshing push on always having some good quiet time to rejuvenate. Take Sundays for example. In many places in Germany, Sundays are for taking it easy. Most shops are closed and work is discouraged (both by neighbors who expect silence in your building and most companies are not legally allowed to have employees work on this day). For some, these cultural differences may be frustrating at first but a lot of expats come to enjoy them once acclimatized.

Con: Socializing can be cold

Germans tend to not be known for their warm, welcoming culture, but this does not mean they are cold-hearted. As an American, when I first arrived (and even many years later) this difference in socializing was a bit rough for me. People here are very reserved and it takes time for them to build more personal relationships. In American we are polar opposite to the point where a lot of times the friendliness is too surface level, as that has never been a preference of mine, I have actually grown to admire its contrast in the Germans more. It may take a very long time to find your people or feel you are ‘in’, but once you do breakthrough you know that your German counterparts are there for you. If you want to hear a bit more on this topic, you can also familiarize yourself with the Coconut vs. Peach analogy.

Pro / Con: Language barrier

The German language to me is a real love/hate relationship. It is incredibly hard to jump into at the start and feels like you will never fully be able to get a grasp on it. Then throw in connecting with your new city, environment, and peers, and it drives you a bit bananas. However, I love the language and the way it never stops challenging you. There are so many fun parts within the language to learn and there is always some form of it you will need to adapt to. I would say the real issues with the language barrier lies in the fact that once you live in Germany, most people will rush to speak any other language with you than German-especially English.

What do you feel about these? Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed below!

xxA

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You can Du me; the formal or informal guide

Many European languages make linguistic distinctions based on interpersonal relationships. For example, a language can have two forms of the word “you”, and a speaker would use one or the other version depending on how well they know someone. In German this is the case with “Sie” and “Du” (“Sie” being formal and “Du” being informal).

This split leads to a chronic question for many native-English-speaking expats learning (or who have just learned) German: which form should one use, and when?  This, unfortunate confusion happens because these distinctions once existed in older forms of English, but they’ve since lost their place in modern English.

We expats learning the German language and culture are frequently struggling with this question, Sie vs. Du…so much envy for those lucky suckers learning English…

It’s hard when you are thrown into a new (and sometimes strange) culture. You are not just constantly out of your comfort zone but it seems that any faux pas, slight or not, somehow becomes this huge mistake in your head.

Sometimes improperly using sie/du can lead us into a downward spiral of self-doubt and we undermine our abilities of acclimation, but honestly let me tell you first things first, that’s nonsense. Get out of your head!

We, as expats can start to think and feel that we are alone when we make tiny mistakes like this.

Plot twist: we aren’t!

Most Germans make grammatical mistakes just like we do. In my experience it seems they just go by personal rules that work out unless corrected (sort of like guessing “Der”, “Die”, or “Das” for us–wing it until you’re told otherwise). Just think on the bright side, try your best and you will always succeed, or find the right answer. Germans are definitely not shy when a correction needs to be made.

But for those not so convinced..here is a little cheat sheet of suggestions i’ve found that will help you decide what to Sie and Du. (Or, rather, when to “Sie” or “Du”.)

  1. If both people are dressed casual, go informal.

  2. If both people are in an informal environment (chit-chat in line at the supermarket, or in the park) go informal.

  3. If one person is wearing a uniform in the place of employment (restaurant, café, shop, etc….) go formal.

  4. If there is more than 20 years difference between the people, go formal.

  5. In a work setting if both people are under 40 and wearing casual clothes go informal, otherwise go formal in the work environment.

Really though, these are just loose guidelines. Often they won’t exactly be the case. Usage of “Sie” or “Du” can be based on comfort levels or personal preference and how well you know a person. Just don’t fret, people won’t be offended when it is obvious you are not a native speaker. I myself have been here over half a decade and still fail once in a while.

The German language itself is extremely difficult and takes a lot of work to master. Most of the time trial by error when speaking. Just think of that great American motto of ours,  “Fake it till you make it”. I live by this when speaking German. The biggest road block you will find is lacking the confidence and getting trapped in your head. As long as you go out and give it all you’ve got, don’t sweat the little things and even ask to be corrected. In no time you’ll be Deutsch Sprechen wie ein Profi.

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10 things Americans learn when they move to Germany

For an American, traveling away from home can be scary. Especially when it’s abroad.

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But, truth be told, there is not much to fear, I have here for you  the top 10 things us expats must encounter when we enter Deutschland.

1. Personal lives are meant to be personal

Coming from America, the land of excess, personal information sharing is a big subject that’s always coming in plenty. You randomly open up to strangers waiting in line at the grocery store, you start discussing your family life with a bank teller or let your local barista know all the gossip on your recent break up. No no no my friend, not here in Germany. The people here tend to believe in keeping the small talk to a null and sharing is only reserved for family members and certain inner circles.

 

2. Life has three genders

Get ready to make your dictionary your best friend. In Germany the lovely and simple gender neutral english “the” is replaced by three other articles, der-die-das. Why? because artichokes are feminine, water is definitely neutral and boxes are of course masculine. And the fun doesn’t end there, depending on grammatical situation articles can even change genders. how fun is that??

 

3. Convience is but a concept

The German lifestyle is one of regulation, routine and leaves not much room for spontaneity. Want to go out with friends? you better plan ahead. Thinking about doing your laundry on a sunday? How dare you. Want a great career?cool, go and get a degree for that specific area and don’t move anywhere else. Everything is very well-organized and there is always a respected place or time. Gone are the days of shopping after 8pm or getting nearly anything done on a sunday.

 

4.Silence is golden

If Germans were American they would have only one amendment that really matters; the fifth. There is nothing more important than exercising your right to remain silent. While Americans find it a gosh darn shame to waste a perfectly good small talk opportunity, the Germans are more than relieved when you decide to keep a nice stuffy silence going in the local transportation on your morning commute. Be sensible my dears, excessive noise is but a luxury.

 

5. Everything can be recycled

As I have previously mentioned, Germans love their order. And this trickles down to even the smaller things such as waste. Well, to be honest, in Germany not much is waste because the majority of items can be recycled ( yeehoo!) Glass is organized by colour, plastics are separated, organic waste has a bin of its own, paper, electronics  all have their respected areas. Not to mention in every grocery store there is machine where you can exchange your bottles for cash. Recycling is not just a choice but a way of life.

 

6. Cash is King

Start learning to carry more notes around with you. Most places wont accept cards, regardless if its a debit or credit card. Sometimes the minimums are also a bit high. You cant always rely on cafes, shops or even the ticket machine to take your card. Unlike America, cash is your best bet when out and about.

7. Sparkling drinks are fabulous

The mystery of German fixation on carbonated beverages will always be there. They love it in everything. Water is always bubbly and juice is mixed half and half with this water. If you don’t like the carbonation you must always specify you want still water otherwise you will get sparkling. And sometimes on the occasion there wont be any still water available.

8. Bikes are best friends

Most city infrastructures in Germany are build with their avid cycling citizens in mind. Separate bike lanes and streets are a very popular integration. Opposed to America where our streets are massive and the automotist and cyclists are always in a power struggle. Here there is a leveled order between drivers of all kinds.

 

9. There is no one stop shop

Grocery store, pharmacy, butcher, baker, candle stick maker. Thats right. Over here along with the rest, everything has its place. Gone are the days of super walmart or Costco. If you want to get your shopping, you must hop around. True you can get a couple standard  or prepackaged options at a grocery store.

 

10. Always test stereotypes

With all of that being said. Germany can come off a certain way, but it does not mean every person you encounter will be the extra replica of your expectations or anything I have written here. In my experience I have been surprised once and a while by the variety. Granted stereotypes exist for a reason, but I can guarantee you there are a lot of very Americanesk Germans out there and very Germanian Americans. In the end its about personal preference I believe. Be open, be yourself and embrace something new.

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16 Signs you’ve been Germanized

Started from the bottom now we German.

It feel so short, but really its been some years now, and as I take a step back and look at myself I can see how much I have changed as a person from my time in this counry. Most of all I can see the habits I have exchanged..which honestly, I’ve been told is no suprise.

Here are my top 16 identified signs of Germanization

    1. You are confused when a stranger asks “how are you?” ( Like, who is this person? why are they asking, we are not yet on familiar aquaintance terms”
    2. Sprüdelwasser is life
    3. You’re becoming fluent in Denglisch. So good, its practically your mother tongue.
    4. Youve began writting the number “1” the German way, whichused to confuse you as it looked more like a “7”, but now you understand it simply cant be done any other way.
    5. You’ve mastered all the ways to use bitte in everyday interactions. It is not simply please but also pardon, here you are, not at all, youre welcome, and go ahead. SImaltaniously youve also achieved the ability to hold full conversations merely with the word  doch.
    6. You no longer need an extended period of time to go through all those previously seeming extensive variety of  euro coins
    7. You have dreams in German and sometimes recall memories of people back home speaking in German
    8. Sometimes you forget wörter in English and begin to question who you are anymore
    9. In wintertime, you have a special relationship with Hausschuhe
    10. Next to that you now understand the full range of seasons; Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring and Spargelzeit
    11. You get withdrawls from going too long without eating bread
    12. You drink only juice in  Schorle form..goodness forbid you dare drink straight up saft
    13. You can sort through plastic, paper, compost, and Restmüll in your sleep
    14. You make plans with friends a well week ahead and are shocked and slightly taken aback when some asks to spontaneously meet for dinner or hang out
    15. Sundays are for doing nothing, and you wouldnt want to spend them any other way.
    16. Brot is life and Brezn is love

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Going to the Hairdresser in Germany

Going to the Hairdresser in Germany

Pre-PS– *If you’re keen for more details, a little story or additional visuals, check out the Youtube video I’ve linked at the bottom of this post*

A big topic not alot of people adress in expat life is the day to day routines, this including lifestyle routines and today I am talking about hair. For me this has been a big point of stress and not only is it tricky to avoid the wrong cut while trying to communicate in a second language but if youre one for reular colourings, this can be verrryyy hazardous.

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I have had my fair share of german hairdresser horror stories ( both appearence and wallet related) so please let me give you a hand with some tips to avoid disaster.

First things first, if you have not found your dream hairdresser who can assist you in english, here is some basic vocabulary to help you manage the perfekt cut:

  • schneiden (cut), waschen (wash), föhnen (blow-dry)
  • lang (long) – kurz (short)
  • länger (longer) – kürzer (shorter)
  • vorn, vorne (at the front) – hinten (at the back, also, in the neck)
  • am Hals (in the neck)
  • an der Stirn (at the forehead)
  • an den Seiten (at the sides)
  • rechts (right) – links (left)
  • über die Ohren (over the ears), hinter die Ohren (behind the ears)
  • ins Gesicht (into the face)
  • gleich lang (the same length)
  • glatt (straight)
  • stufig (cut in layers)
  • fransig (fringy)
  • der Scheitel (the parting)
  • der Pony (the fringe)
  • der Schnitt (the cut)
  • die Frisur (the hairdo)

If you are looking for some colour assistance, refer this vocab:

  • Farben (to colour/dye)
  • heller (lighter) – dunkler (darker)
  • Strähnen (Highlights)
  • Blondieren (bleach dont confuse with blonde highlights!)

*note on blondieren, this is essentialy a full bleach wash. Worst idea ever if you dont want to look like a platinum blonde mess. Would not recommend, also can easily be mistaken. so heeaaaddd my warning fellow bottle blondies

Choosing a salon and what to expect

I like to think of myself as a bit of a salong expert as the things I to my hair are pretty tedious and extreme…now in the past four years I have popped around to many salons in Munich-high end to low end- and let me tell you, times are tricky. In the lower end casual salons most likely youll get a decent price but the customer service is not the best and of course they ask if you want to blow dry your own hair ( what?!) even in the more bougie salons this can happen oddly enough ( German things oder was?) compared to the states there is not so much a full service aspect to it. Dont expect to automatically get your cut/colour and then a blowout with styling included. Often times this costs extra to have your hair dryed and styled after. And when it comes to the hairdresser, small talk usually wont happen. Like most in the German service industry, its a get in and get out transaction. In all honesty, youre best bet is to get a recomendation.

Luckily for me I found a fabelhaft hairdresser here. Her name is Buba and she is a wizard with the ways of hair. She works at a salon here in Munich called Kazu . I have recommended so many people to her as; 1. she speaks fabulous english 2. super friendly and chatty 3. has never let me down.

If you are in Munich definitly book a slot with her and tell her Aspen sent you (;

If you’re in another part of Germany, then my dear I wish you the best! If ever you need some more specified vocab help or hair advce in this glorious country, write your girl a little note

xxA

( If you’re interested in how tipping for hair in Germany works, I mention it in this video below )