Culture Shock: Even More Things That Suck About Living in Germany

angela merkel get back to work sign
The vacation is over. — Photo by Duncan Hull (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dullhunk/)

As usual, I must begin by saying life in Germany is awesome and living here absolutely rules. I have, however, learned a thing or two about the harsh realities of life in this fine country. What follows is yet another list of discoveries, oddities and annoyances revealed as an expat American living in Hannover, Germany:

  1. No one cares that I’m American. When I first arrived in Germany, I thought I would stand out as a foreigner, like, obviously. I assumed my aura was a blinding fireworks display of stars and stripes.
    'MERICA patriotism funny american flag outfit
    “I’M HERE, GERMANY — LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED.” — Photo by Joseph Novak (http://www.flickr.com/photos/josephleenovak/)

    I thought I would be special here, and not just when I opened my yap and made with the Yankee talk, but also by my look, my clothes — hell, just the sweet nectar of freedom seeping from my pores — would be enough to out me as an American. I thought it would be so obvious I prepared myself for the inevitable barrage of love, hate and general fascination by refreshing my knowledge of American history and politics prior to my departure. I was counting on being challenged to conversational duels about politics, you see. “…actually, Herr Schniedersachsen, there are three branches of the American government. Guffaw, guffaw, *snort*” But it was around the third day after my arrival when reality took hold; I am American, goddammit, and these Germans just don’t give shit. For a few weeks after this revelation, I went out of my way to wear baseball caps and sneakers — flashing my perfectly straight, brilliantly white American teeth at everyone — just to score some kind of recognition. Nope. Nobody noticed, and nobody cared. Even when my nationality specifically came up in conversation, it had all the social clout of table salt.

  2. The squirrels are red and they have horns. Seriously, the squirrels here in Niedersachsen are red — like, bricks, rust and crayons all mashed together and trying to be adorable. Oh, and they have tufts of hair growing from the tips of their ears like little devil horns. Have you seen these little freaks? My wife thinks they’re cute. I think they look like flaming weasels.
    red squirrel in german
    “She said, ‘Hey, wanna talk?’ and I’m like, ‘Yo, what up, I’m all ears like Spock.'” — Photo by Tony Hisgett (http://www.flickr.com/photos/hisgett/)

    One even invaded our home during the summer of 2012; the kitchen door was open to let a refreshing breeze through (because German homes don’t have air conditioning, even though air conditioning is clearly a requirement for godly living — it says so in the Bible) and this clawed ginger comes hopping right on in like he owns the joint. I screamed and shagged-ass out of the room as my wife shooed him away. But before he left, his soulless, beady little eyes darted across every drawer and cupboard, and I just knew he would have stolen my precious walnuts. That’s right — I said it — I’ll punish a German squirrel for a crime he hasn’t committed… because criminal behavior is in his DNA.

  3. Germans aren’t real big on Jaywalking. Germans are known for their love of order. Of structure. Of all things systematic. Now, I’m not a real big fan of sweeping generalizations, so please understand the gravity of this statement when I go ahead and say, yes, Germans love rules. They love their rules, and they hate to break them. Even the silly ones, like those regarding traffic signals for pedestrians.
    couple crossing street on red light in germany don't walk sign
    “We’re not from around here!” — Photo by Niels Heidenreich (http://www.flickr.com/photos/schoschie/)

    Would you like to know how often I find myself at a crosswalk, standing amongst a gaggle of Germans who refuse to cross the street for no reason other than the signal telling them not to? Every day. Oh sure, I’ve seen a German or two cross on a red — it was probably the most exciting moment of their lives — but jaywalking is far from standard procedure here. And you’d think a people so concerned with speed and efficiency would be all about it, but they aren’t, and it’s because the power of rules wins over all other behavior patterns — even haste. I, on the other hand, am American; I am accustomed to a fiercely shyster society in which everyone tries to get away with as much fuckery as possible. So when I encounter a ‘don’t walk’ signal in Germany, I pull a Cartman and say, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” Now, I’m not crazy — I look left and right first (mostly to check for cops) — but when I see a bunch of Euro-nerds afraid to cross the street, I just gotta put on my cowboy hat and show ’em how it’s done.

  4. Germans don’t think in terms of compass points. Germany is an old country. Like, old as balls. Back when German cities were built, they obviously didn’t take automobiles into consideration; they made the streets just wide enough to accommodate filthy peasants and jerks on horseback. As a result, most German cities are laid out like connect-the-dot games played by someone having a seizure.
    munich map germany metro
    “Take your next right and then just give the hell up.” — Photo by Mike (http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccaffry/)

    The streets are all crazy, starting out of nowhere and ending just as abruptly. And if you ask a German for directions, you’ll likely get a series of empty street names and bizarre turns for an answer. Nevermind magnetic north or the constellations — they have no power here — north, south, east and west have nothing to do with navigating streets in Germany. “The post office? Yes. You must go straight ahead and then turn right at the batshit crazy intersection. After that, go left, right, and then straight ahead until you hit Poland.”

  5. Sitting with strangers means saying ‘Hello,’ ‘Goodbye’ and absolutely nothing else.
    Anytime Germans are forced to converge in a small space, they will greet each other with surprising politeness, and then just sit there in silence. Like, for hours.Have you ever gone to the doctor in Germany? When I’m sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office, sick people will shuffle in, cough, sneeze and say, “Hallo” or “Guten Tag,” and not a word more. And then, when someone is mercifully called up, they will say “Tchüs” and disappear forever. I am accustomed to huge waiting rooms in the States, like oceans full of sick people, where saying, “Good morning!” to everyone would be considered charmingly naive… or a surefire sign of emotional instability (“Well, I guess we know why that guy is here…”).

    private train car funny creepy guy
    “Dude, we’ve been sitting together for 8 hours. Let’s just share the juice box.” — Photo by Bonita de Boer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonitalabanane/)

    Have you ever ridden a train in Germany? Even if you take a train from Hamburg to the Bavarian Alps — an 8 hour ride on the IC train — you will hear exactly 2 words from your cabin mates during the journey: “Hello” and “Goodbye.” And don’t even think about making eye contact with a German stranger; it’s like riding beside a homunculus, but if you actually try and relate to this silent golem, the spell will be broken and it will explode, showering you in magic, liverwurst and finely crafted automobile components.

 

If you’d like to read more of our Things That Suck About Living in Germany lists, check out our previous posts:
Five Things That Suck About Living in Germany
Five (More) Things That Suck About Living in Germany
Even More Things That Suck About Living in Germany

 

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158 thoughts

  1. I love your page. I was stationed in Bavaria for 3 years and loved every second of it.I also have one of those crazy Germany wives that just make every day hilarious. We now live back in the states (which we both loathe) and the moment I get out of the army, we are making our way back to Germany.

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  2. Just a piece of info about jaywalking: Many people (I included) don’t do it because it sets a bad example for kids, and many people will scold you for jaywalking, esp. in the presence of kids. Since we can never be a 100% sure (but we like to be) about who sees us, we generally refrain from jaywalking. It also makes you look like a jerk ;)

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      1. I know that this is totaly stereotypical, but i can not resist. :D

        pedestrian fatalities in the usa, age 0-14: 390
        pedestrian fatalities in germany, age 0-14: 19

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    1. Ah, the typical German reply :) Tut mir Leid, but your kids are your responsibility, not mine, maybe you should teach them to not follow random strangers when they’re crossing the road :)

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    2. Such a German response!!! X’D See: point #1, Germans sounding like pricks when they coorect you and and say, “well ACTUALLY… Guffaw, guffaw, *snort*” ;) Happens to me all the time. ;) ;) ;) Also, conspicuous German winky face being like “well I know I just tried to make a jab at you, let’s make this easier by winking.” ;) ;) ;) ;) ;)

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  3. Sorry, you are absolutely mistaken about no. 5 – the bus-driver and I even whistled together – the torero march from “Carmen”.
    He whistled and I joined in – and we both smiled. BOTH being german.
    But try to talk to your fellow “inmates” in a NY subway … Oh, oh .. they are short of calling the police. Same but worse everywhere in England. For the English trying to talk to them is short of rape.
    WE are the most amicable nation compared to that ;) I keep meeting chatty elderly ladies all the time while waiting for public transport.

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    1. I agree with Frauen4u… I live in Dinslaken for like a year now, and Germans are pretty chatty chatty. Even when I tell them that I don’t know German, yet!

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      1. Oh my god, you live in Dinslaken ? that my home town and I miss it terribly, especially at Christmas, I am from Hiesfeld , now I live in Lewiston NY

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    2. Fully agree. Being from California and having lived in both Italy and South Korea, it seems to me like Germans are so ridiculously anti-scocial, cold, disinterested, and otherwise unfriendly. They DO think that being politely social on a train is considered sacrilege. (any wonder why I prefer to spend time w my Italian friends instead???)

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  4. Just recently discovered your blog, but I am really enjoying your posts. They are wonderfully hilarious! Am from Portland, OR myself, but am currently living in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, so your views on expat living are that much more entertaining. You mentioned driving around in downtown Beaverton, in one of your posts. Did you grow up there? I have family that live in Beaverton and Hillsboro. Went to Tigard High School myself. Were we rivals? :) Keep up the fantastically entertaining work!

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    1. also another portland native here loved the blog as i am going to live in germany soon thanks for the info and i went to madison highschool i miss oregon and not really fond of living in the UK had fun but glad im moving.. Also spain is awesome for visiting i want to go back sometime this year…

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    1. I wouldn’t live in the US as a european. I’m German and havn’t got a problem with that, but I could easily enjoy a live anywhere in europe. Maybe even outside of europe, but not in the US. Of course, some other countries are also out of the question, where war takes place, for example. I like the US as a vacationplace, but I don’t like its political system and some norms over there drive me crazy. It’s not too clever to have an opinion about a county just because you read a blog. I gained experience, I lived in the US with my family for two years.

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  5. Apparently, Hannoverians are different from Berliners when it comes to walking on a red light. Or maybe there are just more Americans here in Berlin. [I’m particularly diligent about paying attention to the signals when I’m walking or biking because I often have grandkids with me and they may never be allowed out with me if their parents found out I was dragging them across the street when the light was red. ]

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    1. Maybe Berlin is the only town in Germany where you feel free, not observed and controlled from others and where you don’t have to behave politically and ecologically correct but can just be individual.

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  6. I well recall the street light phenomenon….walking home in Berlin at 0245 we crossed an empty street and got all kinds of anger hurled at us by a patiently waiting German who would not cross against the brainless signal.

    I did love those little red squirrels, though. Oh…and just a warning, ok? They have red DEER, too. With antlers!

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  7. Reblogged this on Lenore Happenstance and commented:
    This was awesome. I’m going back to your ealier posts – this was spot on! My s.o. is from Geldern and some villages are like stepping into a Thomas Kincaide painting with sheep and geese on the front lawn and all trees exactly the same height. Then going indoors is like walking into an Ikea catalogue. Yet nobody believes in a screen window or door so horse flies eat me alive.

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    1. They’re mostly grey in the UK too these days, because they imported squirrels from the US back in the day, and they’re bigger and more aggressive than the native red squirrel – which is now an endangered species. :( Speaking of squirrels, though, we saw black-tailed ones in Germany (Heidelberg and Schwarzwald), and we didn’t know they existed. :)

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  8. I’m laughing at the last one, because I’ve heard it before. Had a German girlfriend for a while, here in the states, and she swore that that was the hardest thing for her to master when she moved here: small talk. Apparently, Germans just don’t do small talk or pleasantries. She said the question “How are you?” just killed her every time, because of course she would proceed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as if it were a literal question. I guess it cuts both ways! To be fair, though, she’s also one of the most social and friendly people I know (now that she’s gotten used to our strange habits here, that is).

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  9. I think #5 is what makes you (& me too) so American in Germany. I like small talk as well, and my gf tells me that the young female German clerk at H&M that I am harmlessly chatting up (e.g. practicing my Deutsch) while my gf is trying on clothes may interpret my chattiness as sincere flirting… sheesh. Can’t a guy have a conversation about the weather in Germany? :-)

    Also, I can’t tell you how many times my hand/elbow has been yanked back by my gf as I so casually began sauntering across the street completely ignoring the dreaded “no walking” sign.

    Great post! I feel your pain. :-)

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  10. I totally encountered the crosswalk thing in Austria. I have 75% German genes, but evidently the 25% of my gene pool that is taken over by other ethnicities is the part that is in charge of jaywalking. Those streets devoid of traffic–and also pedestrians because they were all converged across from a “do not walk” sign–drove me out of my mind.

    Also–New England streets and directions are similar to what you describe above.

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  11. Very typically German, haha. I laughed, especially at the jaywalking thing, I don’t think you’d see pedestrians waiting for the lights anywhere else in Europe (except maybe the UK or Scandinavia?)

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    1. No jaywalking in the Uk?? That is new to me.
      I lived there for 11 years and the don’t even look at the light. Thats why it makes it so hard for me to be back in Germany now …..oh dear :-(

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  12. I loved it…perfectly observed!! As a German who has lived most of her life abroad, this is how I see them, minus the aura of red/white and blue, of course!

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  13. Hahaha oh that was so funny to read. I am a native German but have lived 11 years in England, now I am back in Germany. It’s funny that you mentioned the crossing the street thing. It’s something that really gets on my nerves so much!!! Haha and I do not know how to deal with it…most of the time I stand well behaved with all the other guys on the traffic light waiting for it to get green. If I have my rebellious days like today I just cross (but do check for police upfront hahah).
    I never knew that squirrls have a different colour in the US lol.
    I thought about the hello and goodbye thing….and yes it is true for England too, you would not go inside a doctors waiting room and say hello and goodbye, they would think you are a nutter LOL

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  14. OMG, that is so funny, it made me laugh so hard. I am a native German but have lived 11 years in England. I am now back in Germany. It is funny that you meantioned the traffic light thing. It is something that gets on my nerves so much! I do not know how to handle it, most of the times I just stand well behaved on the red traffic light with the other guys….but on my rebellious days like today hahah I just cross the street (but check for a police car upfront) :-D.
    I thought about the hello and goodbye thing, yes same goes for England if you would say hello and goodbye in a doctors waiting room they would think you are a nutter LOL

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  15. “a flaming weasel”? hehe, never thought of it that way :D but they can’t be so much of a problem, can they?
    and i must agree with you on the “hello…goodbye” issue. i often sit down silently in the waiting room and wonder, why some people glare at me, almost insulted. when i get called up, i never know if i should say goodbye to them, so i mumble it as quietly as i can, attempting to both say it and not say it, at the same time.

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  16. I know. I said “Good morning” to the baker when I was buying donuts in my hometown in the US. The guy looked at me as though I were stark raving mad. Practically threw the jelly and honey glaze at me just to get me out of the store.

    Those ginger squirrels are something else. I got weasels in the back yard. You want to trade?

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  17. I wrote about Jaywalking (I didn’t know the word, thank you!) in Germany too. I actually got fined for doing it and when I tried to object to the police officer that I felt old enough to decide when and where to cross and to take the risk of dying in the process he looked at me and said with a certain gravity: “It’s not about you. You can’t set a wrong example for our German children”. They are AMAZING! Everytime I read you I thank myself for having escaped :-)

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  18. 1. Ginger squirrels are awesome.
    2. Man those Germans HATE jaywalkers. They love rules and they have a national talent for evil-eyeing rulebreakers. I loved seeing the German punks, all black and eye makeup and studded leather bracelets, nicely waiting for the crosswalk sign.
    3. I had great experience with talking to strangers on trains in Germany. I would say “do you speak English?” and they would say “no”, and I would say, in German, “my German sucks but here goes…” and get two words out before they said “my English is better!” and we’d have a conversation.
    4. I’m half German, so I love making lists.

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  19. Hilarious! Although, as usual, I have to objections to at least two items. #5 as a generalisation might be true but in the UK I have encountered the opposite (someone walks into a waiting room, doesn’t even mumble “hello” but instantly starts to tell everyone his life story, including his ailments) more often than I care to remember, and I seriously struggle to see how this can be less freaky than the Germans’ behaviour. As to #3, if you like to jaywalk, again, I can recommend the UK. Everyone does it there. All the time. I have always wondered why they even bother with pedestrian lights. In fact, back when I still lived there I wrote a rant about jaywalking (http://islandmonkeys.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/i-see-red-reloaded/?trashed=1&ids=459). However, you should not that in the UK you wouldn’t have to jaywalk because it’s not against the law. So no fun to be had, sorry.
    Other than that I’ll let you get away with your observations, mainly because they are true *grumble, grumble*

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  20. about the jaywalking .. if you want to know how it’s done come and visit us in Dublin … red is merely a suggestion, at times even to cars and indicators seem like Christmas lights … pretty but purely decorative … by the way I am half German half Irish… an inner battle that can be very confusing :-)

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  21. It’s as though you delved into my very own thoughts. As a fellow ex-pat, I think you could make this a regular feature. Don’t get me wrong, I also love living in Germany, but there are the inevitable things that just don’t jive with my somewhat coddled American sensibilities as well.

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  22. Ahahahaha! Absolutely love this one! You’re so right with “Sitting with strangers means saying ‘Hello,’ ‘Goodbye’ and absolutely nothing else.”. I’m Croatian and I live in Germany, and everytime I start a conversation with somebody I don’t know, people look at me as if I was crazy. I actually hate that, it makes everything so incredibly complicated. But, well, I thinks that’s just one of the German rules, to not talk to strangers, and you already proved what rules mean to out Teutonic friends here … ;-)

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  23. I love, love, love your blog. I love your toilet humor and foul language, and I can relate to everything you post — I lived in Dusseldorf for 5 years in the early 2000s. The rule-following drove my husband and me nuts, and the Germans had no problem yelling at us when we failed to conform. We were frequent jay-walkers, true renegades who dared to cross against the light with two children in a kinderwagen! We indulged in this radical pass-time purely for the pleasure of getting a rise out of the locals. Ahhh…the memories.

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  24. 1. In Belgium, no-one cares where I’m from either until you meet one that’s been there.
    2. Red squirrels live here too!
    3. Here, very few follow the pedestrian traffic lights – you’d like it.
    4. The amount of times I’ve gotten lost because I thought I was on a parallel-running road only to find it’d been veering off for miles back!
    5. Belgians don’t say hello, or goodbye, or much of anything in social communal settings. You place your butt down, look front and wait your turn. That’s it.

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  25. I always forget that they don’t smile! People in Oklahoma act like they’ve known each other for years and smile huge when they greet each other, a habit I’ve brought over here with me which isn’t too appreciated.

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  26. A crosswalk in Cologne. Parent: “Hey! You! It’s red! It says stop! You’re giving a bad example to my kid!” Jaywalker: “Hold it! I grew up in the city and I learned how to jaywalk once there are no cars or cops around! So can your kid!” I liked that.

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    1. As a German (but my father came from Pomerania and my mother was Sudeten German) I also like to behave like a rebel and when jaywalking (I always do it) enjoy to get a ticking-off or to collect rude instructions – maybe I am masochistic, is this German too? Haha! Love this blog and the comments! It proves true what I always feel here and the older I become the more I want to escape this country! I love France and the people there and their device ‘live and let live!’, I feel free there, love the sense of humour and the “esprit” which Germans lack cruelly. My (German) boyfriend lives there for many years and he never would come back.

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      1. :-)
        My French and English friends say that I am not a typical German, even some Germans think that I am not (because I don’t look like that at all)… I have English friends who say that they did not know before they met me that even Germans even can have a sense of humour… Particularly the British have many prejudices, some even believe that Hitler is still alive, sometimes it’s unfair…

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  27. THIS is absolutely hilarious. I laughed my butt off! Just out of curiosity… how much longer will you have to wander through this canyon of misery? LOL

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  28. Oh my god-this is fantastic. I just recently started to come to Germany for business and have been having the strangest time getting used to things! I am so glad I am not alone and this just made me feel so much more SANE! Thank you thank you thank you! Hilarious!

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  29. I really enjoy reading your blog. I am German currently living with my Spanish wife in Toronto, Canada. I have been away for 15 years now and it is funny to see Germany through the eyes of foreigner. This winter I am going back and I am already a little scared of the culture shock after having lived in The Netherlands, England, Spain and Canada. Being from Northern Germany (around Osnabrueck) I am curious how I will deal with the Franken (going to Nuremberg).
    However, the reason I wanted to comment on this blog is that sometimes the opposite of what you hate about Germany I hate about North America. Like giving instructions drive 2 blocks North and then go West. Drives me crazy! I have no idea where North is on a cloudy day.
    At least in Toronto people do not talk to strangers either. I have met a lot of more open minded people in Germany than in Toronto. Besides, nobody cares that I am German either. Everyone is from some place and has an accent. ;-)

    I will continue following and enjoying your blog. I have to get my wife starting one once we are back in Germany. She has started taking German classes over here.

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    1. Hey Bastian! Thank you for the great comment! I’m so glad you like our blog, and it makes perfect sense the opposite things would bother you about the States. If you ever start a blog of your own — or if your wife finally does — please let us know. We will follow it immediately.

      Thank you again and have a wonderful day over there in Toronto!

      BTW — How have you managed to live in so many places? Was it for work?

      Talk to you later!

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  30. LOL! Really amusing and I – german, having lived in Hannover for three years – and I agree with many of the things you noticed. Life isn’t easy here it has to be difficult, people make it difficult, first of all because of their rules, then they are all little teachers or policemen observing other people breaking their rules (as blockwarte and the Stasi – sorry but it seems to be in their genes). Whenever I cross the street when the signal is red, they look at me as if they want to kill me and sometimes they rebuke me. Germans are so rude and unpolite and sometimes really dump and intolerant, I miss a smile, a kind regard. I think I will leave this country one day and live in France. How can you stand living here? No one will ever ask you “honey, how are you” in the bakery…

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    1. Totally. I think the German standoffishness is about paper thin though. All I have to do is act a little bit like a dick back to them, and they fold. But I agree; it would be nice not to have my guard up. Like, ever.

      Thank you for the comment, Rotewelt!

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      1. Hope that all goes well with your German wife! ;-) Maye she is not that typically German… And we have something in common: I start screaming when I see spiders or millepedes!

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  31. PS: Live in Northern Germany is easier than where I live, in Freiburg near the Black Forest even though people (tourists!) say that everything is better here, the weather (true), the food (just in the best restaurants!), the atmosphere and mood (oh no, in “Green City” you will be even more observed from your neighbours and other consuments than in other regions because you have to be strictly bio and öko, wear ugly Birkenstock-shoes and ecologically fabricated woolen sweaters when you enter a bio-store, if not and if you even dare to wear high heels they will not greet you and will look daggers at you – for me live is unsupportable here, it’s absolutely bleak and drags me down.

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  32. For a native German like me it’s very funny to read your posts especially about “Culture Shock”.

    Squirrels are cute! Maybe it’s also because of their cute name “Eichhörnchen” (literally “little oak horns”). Hörnchen is also a term for bread rolls or croissants – so just think about “oak croissants” every time you see one of those red devilish squirrels :)

    It’s also great to learn new english words, like “Jaywalking”. I do it once a year – if at all. I think it’s very German, but when I’ve been to Sweden it was the same: People were standing at a red light for roughly 2 minutes and no one was Jaywalking – so it felt like home.

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  33. Really funny to read what you observed, for me as a german. And I swear, I hate myself for being so freaking unable oft doing Smalltalk… I’m a 40 year old man and I’m so shy, it hurts. Met an american co-worker lately and I knew I have to do Smalltalk so that he wouldnt find me to be unfriendly and typical german…and HELL it was so damned hard to break tension. Took him to a Restaurant and drank a beer to relax and in fact it him who broke the ice then (wich makes me even more ashamed of my social un-abilities). What is it exactly that makes us so cold and unfriendly? Maybe they should legalize Marihuana in Germany….? Could be a cure…Or make us even more silent :-D

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  34. I just found your blog and laughed so hard. I live in Obb in the country and geez it`s tough sometimes. Thank God for internet and BBC. I talk to my direct neighbours and that`s it. Noone gives a hoot. Don`t know how to integrate outsiders and don`t know much english.

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  35. Hello OhMyGodMyWifeIsGerman,
    unfortunately i couldn’t laugh much about your post. ImO Germany is a very sad country with a lot of sad people, sad weather and too many silly rules. I lived there for 32 years, so i’m not making up things. However, it’s nice to hear that someone is enjoying good old Germany. Someone has to live there, though :P
    The only things i will miss are: Beer, Bread and the proximity of the rest of Europe.
    I exchange it for: Prawns, Filet Steak, sunny Beaches, high paid jobs, friendly and less racist people, lots of ROCK music (if you like BumBum Techno, go to Germany!), orange juice, all kinds of fresh fish, functional and enforced no smoking rules(i’m a smoker), open wide spaces, did i mention food? and FREEDOM (my god they even have two words for it).

    Have a nice day

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  36. Why in the world would you expect to stand out for being American or even worse, be treated differently based on this premise? This way of thinking makes you stand out for the wrong reasons. The US is a great nation and I’m proud of being a citizen, but I must admit that we tend to lack respect for other cultures and to wrongly believe our ways superior.

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  37. Hi, first of all this shall be no critic. Its just a question what is more naturel. I mean the way of building streets. I (as a german) wouldn’t feel comfortable when every street (block) has the exatly same shape. For me its something complete anorganic and unhuman to have a city or just a neighborhood divided in blocks. You just lose the soul of a particular region. Cmon, we dont play citytetris, I can imagin that a block styled city is easyer to manage,but at which cost? You will lose living quality, induviduality and the charm of different areas. I think that it is realy important to have an individuality, as a person as well as a city.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen ;)

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      1. You should come to Sydney where it is believed that most of the streets began life as tracks made through the bush by kangaroos being chased by dogs.

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  38. I`d probably do well in Germany! I don`t usually say more than Hello or Goodbye to strangers as well … just uncomfortable unless we have something in common.

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  39. Hallo
    No, Americans are not exotic. We have TVs ;)
    And red squirrels ARE cute
    You can’t go when it’s red!!! *cries*
    If there’s no street going straight to the north, it wouldn’t help to say go north… so you have to tell where to go left and right….
    I don’t want to talk to strangers
    Tschüß
    ;-)

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  40. Found this post the other day and couldn’t stop laughing. I’ve only spent a little bit of time in Germany, and always thought it was absurd when my fella and I would stand and wait for a sign to tell us to walk when NO cars were in sight. Yesterday I discussed the jaywalking thing with my rule-loving German and it actually made him lose is typically-relaxed persona and he got mad. I was in stitches and he was telling me to stop laughing. He said, “You know why we don’t jaywalk? Because WE care about our children! If children see adults doing this, they might cross the street and die!” His reaction tickled me even more and I cackled. Finally he said, “Honey! Don’t laugh! This is NOT funny! It’s very serious. Jaywalking is the absolute worst thing in the world you can do!” I never expected such a dramatic reaction from a discussion about jaywalking.

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  41. Right on! haha I also live in Niedersachsen (after living in America for 6 years and originally from Brazil). The Germans DO love their rules and even after 3 years here there’s culture shock every freaking day!!! haha

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  42. Being German, I’d like to mention another aspect of not jaywalking, apart from the children.
    A driver’s license here is EXPENSIVE, and it takes lots of time and theory lessons and what not. Now if you jaywalk and are caught, you might lose your license. I’m not going to risk 2000something € just to get somewhere a minute or two quicker. ;)

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  43. Man these were some of my favorite things about living in Germany I dunno what your malfunction is (except for the baffling city layout, that was terrible but I’m from southern california so I’m used to shit public planning).

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  44. Great! At my workplace in the U.S., no one cares that I’m German. :) And I now jaywalk in Germany when I visit since I do that here, and I get yelled at. Das macht man nicht, someone said to me. Don’t mess with ze Germans!

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  45. Just got back from 6 weeks in germany with my half german half arab wife. Oh man we have been howling reading these. Spot on. My daughter was detained and cited at the airport for having a folding knife in her suitcase she bought at a flea market with her oma. I could write a short story about that one….

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  46. Hello!! I came across your blog yesterday, and I can’t stop reading. Every post I laugh out loud. I love it! I’m planning a trip to Germany in a couple months and really enjoy the insight! Thanks for sharing your candid stories.

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  47. Hello!! I came across your blog yesterday, and I can’t stop reading. Every post I laugh out loud. I love it! I’m planning a trip to Germany in a couple months and really enjoy the insight! Thanks for sharing your candid stories.

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  48. “hell, just the sweet nectar of freedom seeping from my pores ” yes. Just.. yes. I teach english with the fulbright program, and the only people who ever care that I’m american are the one in a million students who plan on studying abroad in america.

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  49. Couldn’t stop reading your comments and all the responses, VERY FUNNY, I am from Bielefeld and have lived in the US many years. I now have a legit explanation for some of my “oddities”…it’s in my DNA of course!!!!!

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  50. Are those red squirrels for real? They look like they ran into a can of red spray paint. Love ’em! And the hello and goodbye thing with strangers is the same in France. I tried to make small talk a couple of times but the concept doesn’t really exist here. Thank goodness I have an accent because at least they know I’m not from France originally so I get a pass with a lot of stuff (totally take advantage of that). I kind of miss small talk.

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  51. not quite sure about the jaywalking part… my German friend jaywalks all the time. When he sees someone waiting for the traffic light, he felt confused and asked me why are these people waiting. So this gave me an impression that Germans love to jaywalk LOL i guess my friend is an exception then :-)

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  52. Germans are pretty disciplined. It starts already in the Kindergarten’, where impressive policemen teach the children traffic rules. In class and on the streets. The first time I saw it, I could not believe my eyes, a full class of youngsters underway to the ‘Eisdiele’ under supervision of two policemen.

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    1. But they still have more freedom. Overprotective parenting is the norm in the US. Maybe if they would be diciplined in America like we do it here, you know, teach them traffic rules, parents in America wouldn’t have to worry so much all the time. Really they’re so paranoid it’s abnormal

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  53. The difference is, in Germany are actually children at the streets. You know: *children* are the small ones, looking very nearly human. From age six they lurk around everywhere in cities and towns and adopt dangerous habits from strange visitors from more rebellious cultures. Nevertheless we try to tolerate them here and don’t want to lock them away in their cages until they can handle their freedom to jaywalk on their own.

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  54. Nice blog, but I would like you to know that we have more freedom in many ways here than you Americans do. It is not something “totally American” to me. I’m referring to your statement: ‘…nectar of freedom just seeping out from my pores’ . Don’t get me wrong, I like America, I’ve been there and enjoyed it. It was probably meant to be humorous, but I still wanted to point out that most European countries put more Emphasis on freedom than the US does, also Germany.

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  55. Love your blog! I am looking at accepting a job Germany and would be working in Landstuhl. We would prefer to live in a small southern town surrounded by locals versus living where most of the Americans live. (Only to truly become submerged in the culture.) We have an 8 year old daughter and I am very excited to show her life outside of the States. (Very proud American though) I speak a muddled mix of different dialects of German (raised Amish) and am very excited for our daughter to be fluent in speaking German. Would be hesitant in speaking my dialect. I am a bit apprehensive, but wanted to thank you for your blog because if it does happen that I accept the position reading this has made me less so. Thank you again.

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  56. Brilliant! This report of Germany was definitely the best I’ve ever read! I am myself German and you made me think about so many funny habits which I’ve never noticed since my birth in my home country ;)

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  57. I am so confused right now.
    My question is, about what exactly are you talking to strangers in the states? what are those ‘small talks’ about?

    and you do have a word only to describe crossing the street on a red light? that seems to be very common :D i am shocked.
    but seriously, i have no idea why exactly i am always waiting for the green light. i do it also on my way to work on saturday mornings. when no car or living thing can be seen xD

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  58. This is the first post I have read by you, and I don’t know your name or your wife’s name. Therefore, seeing the photo credit told me nothing re. if that is actually you in the photo.

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      1. I did not take from the photo credit that your name is Niels Heidenreich. Perhaps Niels Heidenreich was actually taking a photo of you. As you have seen fit to create a blog and share so many details of your life, why not share a photo with us. Are you an American secret agent working undercover? Perhaps you are in Germany to steal the secret marzipan recipe from JG Niederegger… ;->

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-12-18/secret-marzipan-recipe-key-to-german-candymaker-s-profit

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  59. No wonder they don’t like you. You sound like the average “better than everyone” inbred redneck American who want to go show the world why your prison population is the largest.

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  60. Sorry you hate new cultures. So it goes. I am an immigrant, and consider myself a world citizen. You are not. Go back to wherever you came from, and you will be happier. You are just not ready for the world.

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  61. Unless, of course, you are indulging in the fine art of American sarcasm. That is a totally USA genre, so please do not try to aggravate numerous non-USA folks, just for your amusement.

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  62. Dude! What the fuck! You are a godamn genius! I really like the way you write; I laughed my ass off. You remind me of the book “Shit my dad says”.

    My wife is german too. I am a Psychiatrist, from Panama, and we have made the decision to move out there. Man, I don´t even speak Deutsch hahaha.

    Please, let´s be in contact when I get there. Just to have you like a guiding American Joda.

    Keep up the good work.

    Thanx.

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  63. This was hilarious!!! I just found your blog on expatblogs.com and am so happy I did. :-) I also live in Germany (Heidelberg) and started blogging about it last year. Everything you said had me nodding my head in agreement. I love the stop lights! It can be 3 a.m. and there’s literally not a car in sight…and yet we all wait! I will say that I saw a woman jaywalk once and there just happened to be police nearby and they saw her do it. These cops literally CHASED HER DOWN and gave her a ticket. I tell you what–I won’t be attempting it any time soon! :-)

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  64. This is why Americans are stereotyped so much in other countries. Other than the Jaywalking you are describing every other country in europe. Most europeans have polish, italians, british, czech etc, why would people care if you’re american? And again most towns and cities in europe are have messy layouts because they were built as the population grew so there was no planning before they were built they just spread out from a single point, unlike america which was planned more as the settlement is completly different. As with conversations most europeans don’t have too in depth conversations with complete strangers. That and the fact that apart from other expats or when in britiain, english isnt their first language so some might not feel confident when using it even if they speak it.

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  65. I guess now ya all know why not to go to Germany.
    The OP’s list of German annoyances isn’t complete but 100 percent accurate and polite.
    On the cultural and commercial side I might ad that the Germans think they are just it in just about anything you can imagine, however reality on a global scale shows a bubble burst of their abilities into thin air. Examples are: software development, music, performing arts, talk shows, games, motion pictures and a con man of 1930’s Chicago looks lame compared what you encounter in the national and international business with Germans; it would fill encyclopedias.

    I live in Germany under similar circumstances like the OP since 2012.

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