Let me begin by saying life in Germany is awesome. I love it here! I have, however, learned a thing or two about the realities of life abroad. What follows is a list of discoveries, oddities and annoyances revealed in my first months as an expat American living in Hannover, Germany:
- The common American advice, “Don’t worry about the language barrier in Germany; everybody speaks English,” is false. Everybody speaks a little English in Hannover, and they are terribly self-conscious about using it. Younger Germans are more likely to speak English, and I’ve met several who are fluent. However, if they aren’t fluent, and you desperately need to locate the nearest restroom, you’ll soon find yourself gesticulating wildly as you try not to make pickles in your pants.
- There are pharmacies on every goddamn block. Seriously. They’re called “Apotheken,” and they are everywhere in this city. You can go to the nearest Apotheke and get your prescription filled. You can also purchase a wide variety of over-the-counter medications which do absolutely nothing. It goes like this: you must convince the pharmacist you have a cold and then intimately describe your most disgusting symptoms, after which time, if they believe you, they hand you a box of herbal tea. “Thank you Sir! I was going to drown my symptoms in a near-lethal dose of NyQuil, but this lemon-flavored tea should prove just as effective!”
- Germans are impatient. They have zero tolerance for delays, lines or traffic of any kind. They operate at top speed, which is why, in the cashier line at the grocery store, you better pay for your items and get the hell out of the way, because Dieter von Shufflestein is right on your ass. The first time I tried to put my change away before taking my groceries from the counter, my items were suddenly overrun with those belonging to the person behind me. His pickled herring and canned hotdogs were all up in my situation, and he didn’t even care a bit. I wanted so desperately to turn to him and scream, “Bitch, I am going to throw your nasty shit all over the floor if you do not get off my Kool-Aid!”
- Craft beers and dark beers have yet to really catch on in Germany. I’m from Portland, Oregon, so I’m accustomed to an amazing variety of beer, but over here, I mostly see pilsner and hefeweizen. I’m not complaining, mind you; the pilsner here is rather strong, and my wife can always tell when I have, as she puts it, “a pilsner-buzz” on. Oh, and liquor is super cheap here. Like, $7 for a fifth of rum, type cheap. I mean, hell, that’s not just cheap, that’s cheap as balls.
- Recycling is a monumental pain in the ass. (I’m only speaking of apartment living with this one, and specifically, apartment living in the city of Hannover.) Glass can only be returned in these round tanks on the sidewalk, which look like giant metal boobies. And just like real boobies, they’re nowhere to be found when you need them. Recycling makes absolutely no sense to me here. You have to put your organic compost, or “Bio” garbage into plastic bags — yes, plastic bags — and take them down to the dumpster. Random items (like cotton swabs, tissue paper and tampons) go into clear plastic bags and are taken to an entirely different dumpster. Regular paper goes into blue plastic bags, while metal and plastic go into yellow bags; both of which are picked up from the street once per week… by different companies. Oh, and if you buy a bottle of water at a certain grocery store, and you want to recycle it and get your deposit back, you have to take it back to that exact same grocery store. So, with all of these convoluted rules and the counterproductive use of plastic in the recycling process, I kind of want to make a German flag out of rubber tires and hairspray bottles in the middle of a busy street and set that shit on fire.
Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”
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