Germany: First Impressions

Ah, first impressions. They can make or break a relationship. So far, Germany has been kind to us. We’ve been here for two weeks, so I thought I’d put on paper (on screen?) our first impressions of living in our newly adopted country.

Learning German is a must.

Ok – so we could probably get by without learning German, but our quality of life and feeling of integration will certainly improve by speaking the language at a basic level. In the Netherlands, everyone was willing to speak English. In the beginning, multiple (Dutch) people told us not to even bother trying to learn Dutch. This was good for us as first-time expats, it took a lot of pressure off, but it was also bad because it removed the feeling of necessity. We knew we could get around without it. Here, plenty of people speak English, but I feel a much bigger pull to learn German. For me, it’s part guilt – I’m in their country, I should speak their language – and part “do-over”. I get a second chance at becoming fluent in a language! So, for now, I’m particularly motivated to learn. I’ll report back on my attitude in a few month. 😜

So far, learning German has been much easier because it’s so close to Dutch (I could understand just about everything, I was just sh*t at speaking…). On the other hand, learning German has been hard because it’s so close to Dutch!

For now, Meatball and I are having a lot of one sided conversations in German (“Es tut mir leid, Meatball, aber ich habe kein essen für Sie!”). My favorite word so far? Schmutzig (dirty).

Recycling / trash collection is serious business.

Grey bins (trash). Blue bins (paper). Brown bins (compost). Yellow bins with sub-bins for white, brown, and green glass, for plastic, and for aluminum.

It’s a lot.

A “trash island”.

Maybe other places have this kind of trash and recycling system, but Groningen surely didn’t! You can find the grey, blue, and brown bins at your house. As for the yellow bins, you have to find die Wertstoffinseln (recycling islands – pictured above). BUT THERE’S MORE! If your glass or plastic bottle has a pfand (deposit) – indicated sometimes by the word, sometimes by a symbol – then those bottles have to be returned to a store to have the deposit refunded.

We did have bottle deposits in the Netherlands, but it was much more straightforward. The magic word was statsiegeld, and it was either there or it wasn’t. No deciphering required.

Don’t get me wrong, I like all the recycling, especially that we now have the ability for composting, but we did literally double the number of trash cans in our house. So, some adjustment was required! If you’re new to Germany, I found this website to be incredibly helpful.

Food Costs are lower, but not at the markets.

If you’re new to the blog, then check out my ‘Dear Holland‘ post. For everyone else, it goes without saying that we LOVED our market in Groningen. I am sad to report that while our new local market is very cute, it can’t compete. Less variety, higher prices. Sigh. So, we’re back to shopping at grocery stores.

Plus side. The grocery stores are very nice with varieties comparable to that of an American grocery store. It’s honestly, kind of overwhelming. The one exception being produce… We’ve had a tough time finding things like fresh broccoli, cauliflower. Another missing item? Canned salmon. Tuna, anchovies, herring? Yes. Salmon? No. We have noticed that a lot of the produce originates in Germany, some even Bavaria – which is fantastic! – and might be the reason why we’re not finding certain items. They just aren’t in season! Relatedly, with our market in the Netherlands we were able to shop ~80% waste-free with re-useable bags, re-useable egg cartons, etc. So far, that’s not possible here, but all the plastic is recyclable (so they say). So, while I would prefer to be as waste-free as possible, until we nail-down our stores-of-choice at least there’s comfort in the fact that it’s not all going in the landfill.

We’ve shopped for two weeks now, and both weeks we’ve been under our normal food budget. Let’s hope that sticks!

Munich has a nice biking culture.

It’s common knowledge that we’ve adopted the biking lifestyle. Shane heard during his interview that the biking culture in Munich was really good – maybe not Holland good – but good, nonetheless. We moved here with the intention of buying bikes, and we did just that during the first week (and both struggled through a one-way English – German conversation… please refer to point #1). Similar to the Netherlands, there are several bike paths that keep cars and cyclists separated. Unlike the Netherlands, about 40% of people wear helmets.

Soon, we will be going on our first real biking adventure into the city center (~30 min away by bike). For now, we are in the helmet-less crowd since that’s what we’re used to, but if there are a lot of interactions with cars then maybe we will join the helmet-people.

An upgrade from his old bike. It has 21 gears!
My new bike needs a name. I’m open to suggestions!

Beer gardens are everywhere!

Shane and I always joke about the fact that, as an American, there is this mystic of the autobahn. THE AUTOBAAAHHHNNN (said like “the claaawwww” in Toy Story) – this magical road where you can drive any speed you want and not get a speeding ticket! Then you drive in Germany and you realize that autobahn literally translates to “highway” and the glass shatters. It’s just like driving on the interstate in America. I’m sorry if I just shattered your glass.

Well let me do it again, folks, ’cause the famous Bavarian biergartens are well… just terraces!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love it. In no way am I sad to see a beer garden at every turn. It was just one of those lightbulb moments.

I am under the impression that if a restaurant has outside space, then that space is called a biergarten. I am also under the impression that each biergarten exclusively serves one of the six main Munich brand beers: Löwenbräu, Spaten, Hofbräu (from the famous Hofbräuhaus), Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Paulaner.

Just for you, lovely readers, I promise to dedicate some time to properly research beer gardens and Münchner biers. You can expect a full write up later.😁

Overall first impression? We like it, and it’s not so far off from living in the Netherlands. We’re still working on transitioning life (gym, phone number, bank accounts, etc.), but for now, Germany, and Munich in particular, seem like they have a lot to offer. I’m excited to start exploring!

I’ve also learned that auf weidersehen does not mean goodbye, but literally translates to “to see you again”. Seems strange to sign off a blog this way. Instead, I defer to the more informal and commonly used…

Tschüss (bye!),

Whitney

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Shane + Whitney = The Shwits. Cheesy? Yes. Is our cat ashamed of us? Probably. We're an American couple that has lived abroad for 6+ years. The Shwits is our diary of expat life, travel, and occasionally science. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Germany: First Impressions

  1. Hello.

    Great post. Well, I do not speak German, but understand it. This due to our TV, because we have seen during 20 years German crime series. We have also made few road trips there.

    Happy and safe travels!

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