Seven things I love about living in Germany, which you might not expect
Moving to Germany is quite a big step, especially if the country you’re from has vastly different customs than those here. Living in Franconia itself can also take some getting used to compared to other parts of Germany. We often hear and read about experiences expats either find shocking (what do you mean everything’s closed on Sundays?!), unsettling, or just plain unusual.
However, there are things I enjoy here beyond what is usually mentioned in the typical “things-I-love-about-Germany” blogs. As we all know, living here isn’t only about good beer or nice scenery – adjusting to a new culture typically evokes complex emotions and it’s human nature for us to put more weight on what we consider to be unfavourable.
That being said, I will be talking about the things I like having lived here for the last 5 years – and in fact, many might be things that most expats here even dislike! I’m from Canada, so don’t be alarmed when I mention Germany’s “warm” weather!
1) Speedy Supermarket lanes
I’ve heard many expats say that going to supermarkets in Germany can be a stressful experience – the cashier scans your food and you’re expected to pack your bags at top speed, or risk getting angry looks from the people behind you. Personally, I love this (the speed – not the angry looks). I’m not a fan of grocery shopping in general, so I’m pleased if I can be in and out of a supermarket in 20 minutes flat. Maybe I’m just a very impatient person – I hate waiting in line for anything, anywhere. The speed of supermarket lanes is something that I highly appreciate, so much so that whenever I’m back in Canada and need to do groceries, I get slightly irritated when others in front of me take their sweet time.
2) Cheap Groceries
While we’re on the subject – when I first moved to Germany, I was genuinely shocked at how cheap food at the supermarket is. I always wonder if locals and other expats realize it, but compared to one’s average income, food and even toiletries are insanely cheap here. A 500g packet of noodles can be as cheap as 40 cents, and you can get decent cheese for as little as 1 to 2 euros. Perhaps, as a Canadian, this is extra pronounced for me. It is quite common that a relatively big portion of our income goes to purchasing food. In Germany, I’ve noticed that there is almost always a “cheap” option for any food or toiletry item. You can get a big pack of toilet paper at Aldi for just under 2 euros. Will it be the best or softest kind of toilet paper? Probably not, but it’s there. Pre-packaged meat and cheese might not taste as good as what you get over the counter, but it’s a more affordable option.
3) International Crowd
This may be true of living in any country other than your own, but one of my favourite things about living in Germany is the people I meet who are unlike myself. Making friends with people from other countries and cultures is one of the most rewarding experiences of living abroad. Generally, people who move here from a different country have interesting stories to tell and different life experiences. It gives me a perspective I probably would not have acquired had I stayed in the city I grew up in.
4) German Friends
A common complaint of expats is that locals are difficult to befriend. In my experience, this is true, however – if you manage to successfully befriend a German, or even a Franconian(!), they will always be there for you. I’ve heard the expression that Germans are like Coconuts – hard to crack, but sweet on the inside. I’ve personally had the experience where I expected to lose touch with a couple of my German friends after the end of some life event – such as a job change, graduating from university, moving away, etc. as was typical when I lived in my home country – only to have them surprisingly make an effort to keep in touch with me! In turn, I now try to be more mindful of my relationships and make more of an effort to keep in touch, and genuinely mean it when I say, “we should meet up sometime”.
5) Work Life Balance – Holidays to Sick Days
At least in my personal experience working in Germany, there is a clear distinction between work and private life. I almost never exceed the 40-hour work week, nor am I expected to. If you’re sick, you stay home. Even my superiors have told me this on a few occasions – health comes first.
Photo by LauraElaine on Foter.com / CC BY-NC
I think this mentality is fantastic – I don’t know if the concept of a limited number of sick days is a North American construction, but it makes absolutely no sense to tell people how often they’re allowed to get sick. It only serves to punish those who tend to get sick more often, and oftentimes causes people to come to work when they shouldn’t and infect their coworkers.
Secondly – Especially in Bavaria, there are so many public holidays! Add that to the minimum 20 vacation days that are legally mandated – however, employers tend to offer more. Most people I know get at least 30 days a year!
Lastly, you’re not expected to be best friends with your coworkers. While I personally have a good working relationship with my coworkers and even discuss non work-related matters with them from time to time, there isn’t the expectation of having to spend every spare moment with them. I personally like this distinction, as well as having a separation of work and private life simply because it allows me more time to focus on the people and personal things in my life that are important to me outside of work.
6) Milder Weather
Since 95% of expats come from countries with winter weather conditions that are undeniably better than Germany’s, allow me to explain – German weather just isn’t that cold (yes, you read that correctly!). I guess you can call Germany’s winter of -5 degrees on a particularly cold week with a blanket of snow as thin as a sheet (which promptly melts a week later) a kind of an appetizer if compared to the robust Canadian winters of my youth (-15 to -30 degrees Celsius, 20 cm of snow that falls roughly every one to two weeks). Even the particularly “dramatic” winter and snow we’ve experienced this February in 2021 made me smirk. Some may argue that Canadian winters are at least sunny compared to the dreary, rainy German winters. Yes, that’s true – but so what? Sunny or not, I’m not going outside to enjoy it when the air physically hurts my face. Yes, that’s right – it is so cold that on top of being punched in the face by a gust of arctic wind, your legs will start to itch from the piercing cold, even in a pair of jeans. It’s not just the winter – it’s the extreme temperatures. If winter is unbearably cold, summers can be unbearably hot where I’m from. In Germany I get to wear clothes from a fall or spring collection for more than one month a year.
7) Cheap Travel and Easy Access to other cities and countries
Despite COVID, I couldn’t leave out the travel opportunities which living in Europe permits – hopefully we’ll be able to take advantage of these again soon. Living in Europe means cheap flights and all-around cheap travel. At least pre-COVID, you could book a flight from Germany to Italy for under 100€. I particularly like Nuremberg as well for its proximity to other German cities – whenever I miss the big city, I can hop on a direct train to Munich or Berlin. For anyone more into nature and outdoor sports, you can take a hike in the fränkischer Schweiz or travel down to the Alps! Sweet smaller towns also surround the region, such as Rothenburg and Bamberg. Austria and Switzerland are also within reach, and Nuremberg offers easy access to cities in Eastern Europe, such as Prague.
If I’ve missed anything, or if you agree or disagree with what I’ve mentioned above – leave me a comment and let me know!