Once again, let me begin by saying life in Germany is awesome. I absolutely love it here! I have, however, learned a thing or two about the realities of life abroad. What follows is the next list of discoveries, oddities and annoyances revealed in my first months as an expat American living in Hannover, Germany:
- Shameful public artwork is everywhere. It seems like every corner is home to a bronze sculpture featuring a pair of naked Germans, heads hanging in shame, mumbling to one another, “God we suck.” Yes, I understand the travesties of the world wars. I totally get the need to remember, to learn and to honor the dead, but I’d like to take at least one leisurely stroll around town without feeling like I just took a shower in dog poop and shame sprinkles.
- Soccer fans are scary. There are few things I enjoy less than being surrounded by drunken soccer fans, hooting and hollering as they stumble through the train station after the big game. Hell, any game. I’m not convinced the fans I’m seeing even go to the games; I think some of these guys just put on their team jerseys and scarves and go watch whichever team happens to be playing on TV at their favorite watering hole. And there’s something about a big German man wearing a scarf striped with his local team’s colors, swaying as he walks toward me with an empty beer bottle about to tumble from his fingers, which I find — on an instinctual level — absolutely terrifying.
- Germans are downers. This may have something to do with point #1, but a great many of the Germans I’ve encountered are depressing as hell. Nothing is ever awesome. Even if something is mostly awesome, like having a job as a wealthy, internationally respected beer taster, the average German will focus on the one part of that job which blows, and feel the need to tell me all about it. “Yes, I have a good job as a beer taster, but there is only one electric car charger at the brewery; it is indicative of a larger problem within our educational system and our government as a whole, and demonstrates the fact that our entire country is about to implode in a morbidly depressing vacuum of apocalypse.” I mean, sure, Germans have been through some crazy ups and downs throughout history, so maybe even now they’re afraid to get their hopes up, but Jesus; let’s turn those frowns upside down, Deutschland! Look, you have dirndls and beer all around you! Dirndls and beer, God damn you.
- Everybody is tall as hell. I’m sure someone out there can explain the correlation between height and colder climates, but all I know is here in Germany, I’m like Frodo Baggins in the land of the Silvan Elves. I’m about 5′ 10″ (or 5′ 11″ — when I’m totally lying), and I always thought my height was pretty average. Not here. In Lower Saxony, I’m surrounded by these elongated, angelic beings with wonderfully straight hair and wings sewn of Jack Wolfskin polyurethane.
- Even in Germany, there are assholes. Of course I am aware there are jerks in every country, but I’d hoped Germany would be different. Yes, this was my own cultural bias, but I didn’t want to let it go. Not even at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde), full of snorting pencil pushers, who calmly lost my residence application and then told me not to worry about it. Or that sad little beer tent at Oktoberfest, where the waitress shut down my attempts to order in German, advising me, “Just speak English, it is the language of business.” Or those drunken soccer fans on Georgstraße, who passed my wife and I, asking, “Is this your boyfriend? No? He’s your husband? Are you sure?” But finally, reluctantly, I had to admit there are a few jackpipes in my beloved Germany. Luckily, for each one I meet, there seem to be 10 warm and wonderful Germans just waiting to brighten my day here in Deutschland.
Click here to learn more about the term “Culture Shock.”
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