How We’ve Changed Since We Moved to Germany

9 May 2017

The huge brezeln are a big hit with kids.

We’ve been living here in Deutschland for nine months now, and we have definitely changed a bit. I’m not a fan of clinging to my old country ways, but there were a few things I never would have guessed we could have adjusted to. Yet, here I am, eating cabbage all the time and driving very fast. Who knew.

Local shop opening hours, must plan ahead in the Germany!
Local shop opening hours this week, must plan ahead!

I plan more

With all shops closed on Sundays and holidays, and services like doctors and municipal offices closed at unpredictable times (Wednesday afternoons! Obviously!) – I have to plan our shopping a few days further out than I would before. I mean, I usually meal planned and did a big shop, but if I forgot something it wasn’t a big deal. Now, it’s not unusual to have two days in a row with no grocery stores open if there’s a holiday… if you run out of something, bad luck! I have made milk from powder for coffee in desperation.

So many cabbages.
So many cabbages.

I eat more cabbage – okay, a lot of cabbage

Kale? What’s kale? We’re savoy cabbage all the way now. So much cabbage. Broccoli is trucked up from Italy, and goes off within a day, so I don’t rely on it the way I did in the UK and Canada. Those big clamshells of baby spinach? Also not happening. Bags of romaine? Very expensive. Cabbage. Get used to the cabbage.

I know everyone’s last names

It was not uncommon for me, in Canada and the UK, to know a neighbour enough to chat to, but not to know their surname. In Germany, oh no. I don’t know any of my neighbours first names because I call them all Frau Müller, Herr Schmidtt, etc. Most of the people at my son’s school are surname only, and when I write emails to the woman arranging my liability insurance, it’s Frau. I feel like I have to go back to my elementary school letter writing skills just to write an email sometimes. Even email newsletters address me as Frau McGann, which cracks me up.

You have to walk to one of these, and then throw all your glass in, sorted by colour.
You have to walk to one of these, and then throw all your glass in, sorted by colour.
When there's no room for your recycling on the narrow German streets, plop the bag on top of a car.
When there’s no room for your recycling on the narrow German streets, plop the bag on top of a car.

I avoid buying things in glass

This sounds odd, in a country so keen on recycling. Surely this is the easiest recycling option? We have curb-side pick-up for all plastics, bio waste, paper and the regular rubbish. But I have to walk nearly eight minutes hauling all my glass recyclables which I have to sort by colour. This is such a pain that I have a giant bag of wine bottles that makes me look like I have a serious Problem because I wait nearly three months before I get myself over to the Altglass containers. And you can’t use the containers after 7pm or on Sundays, because it’s insanely loud throwing them in there. But of course it’s always Sunday when I have time to do it so… it never gets done. I’m staring at a giant bag of bottles right now.

I have a running tally in my head of how much cash I have on me

In Canada and the UK, I would use my debit cards for everything. Three dollar coffee? Yep, sure. I didn’t even think about it. Now, I feel a bit panicky if I have less than €20 on me. Oh Germany, so technologically advanced, yet so paranoid. It’s cash everywhere, and woe betide the hapless person from somewhere else that would like to use their debit card on a purchase less than €20. Not only will the cashier roll their eyes, everyone in the queue behind them will start getting huffy.

Cramming the shopping into my bike baskets, along with my son's school bag.
Cramming the shopping into my bike baskets, along with my son’s school bag.

I can pack groceries super fast

I maintain that there must be a grocery cashier speed Olympics somewhere. They award special medals for the cashier who can scan and toss the most items down a short conveyor belt in a short amount of time. I have my reusable bags out and lined up in my cart so I can toss as quickly as the cashier can. I’m still sweaty and flummoxed at the other end, but I wait until I’m outside to let go the breath I was holding. And then I can pack them onto my bike.

I’m fluent in Denglish

This is a particularly hilarious mashup of words I know in Deutsch crammed into English sentences. We’re super good at this in texts, like recently: ‘I’m zu Hause, mit adaptor thingie’. Also helpful when speaking with non-English speakers about topics well out of my German knowledge, like the time the radiator maintenance guy came. I don’t know the terms for radiator parts in English, so I’m really not going to know them in German. That conversation involved a lot of made-up sign language. Our actual functional German is getting much better, thankfully.

Lovely walk in the forest on Sundays, as nothing else is open in Germany!
Lovely walk in the forest on Sundays, as nothing else is open in Germany!

We go for brisk walks on Sundays

As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention before, nothing is open on Sundays. So we go with the German flow, gear up (no, not in matching Jack Wolfskin jackets, we haven’t gone that German) and go for a walk. When we’re really organized, we pack a lunch too. We nod and exchange Hallos with other families out to experience the nature.

I’m happy driving 160km/hr on the autobahn

If you had asked me before I moved if I was going to go super fast on the unlimited sections of autobahn, I would have said no no no. But really, once you get used to it, it feels quite normal. I find driving here very reasonable and straightforward. Now when we drive in Switzerland or France, it feels so very very s l o w.

So, my friends living abroad, how have you changed in your new home?

PS – did you see my list of things not to do when you visit Germany?

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