At the end of this month I will be marking seven years since I moved to Germany. Sometimes it feels like yesterday when I was trying to fit my life in a 20 kilo suitcase to move to another country for the first time in my life. I did not intend to stay long, yet seven years, two cities, six apartments, (almost) two education degrees, a marriage, and a baby later I am still here.
In these seven years there are some German habits that I have come to learn, accept, and even embrace. Here’s one for each year that I’ve spent in this country.
The Sunday morning bakery run
I’m starting with this because going out to get some fresh Brötchen for our weekend breakfast sparked the idea of making this list. Germans are perhaps not world renown for their breakfasts but, given the choice, I’ll take a German breakfast over an English breakfast any day of the week. After all, who can say no to a selection of cheeses, meats, smoked fish, boiled eggs, jams, and honey, as well as vegetables and fruit. In this country where life stands still on Sundays it is not uncommon to see people queuing up by a bakery that has opened its doors for a couple of hours to provide for that very important part of a proper German breakfast: freshly baked rolls.
Relying on public transport
In my first couple of years in Germany I had exactly one friend who owned a car. And, indeed, in most cities cars are completely unnecessary. Well, perhaps except for that one time a year when you want to do some IKEA shopping. For the most part public transport is available, safe, and (almost always) on time. I got so used to tram and bus schedules here in Germany that I also started checking them in my native Riga and was a little surprised to discover that they actually run on schedule as well. Who knew.
If you are familiar with the stereotype of Germans as super efficient at waste disposal, it may surprise you that not all Germans have to sort their trash. Yet, even though the house we live in does not provide separate bins, I still put paper and glass aside and use the communal trash bins instead. It simply feels so wrong not to do it, you know?
Grilling in public parks
Coming from a country where sometimes even sitting in grass is forbidden in public parks, the German habit of packing a pick-nick basket, a portable grill and heading to the local park to grill some Würstchen with friends was a bit unusual at first. But hey, what’s not to enjoy: plenty of sunshine and fresh air, the company of good friends and nice food!
Drinking beer (and liking it)
Before moving to Germany, I was not much into beer. I would drink my mandatory midsummer night’s beer (it’s sort of tradition in Latvia) but that was about it. A few years of German student life and plenty of Irish pub evenings later, it still is not my Nr. 1 choice of a drink but I have definitely learned to enjoy a good beer.
Back home red traffic light at a pedestrian crossing is often considered to be more of a recommendation. Not so in Germany where people will wait at the traffic light at 3 am on an empty street. Social responsibility, people! I had not realized how “integrated” I had become until a few years back while visiting London with a friend. When we were the only ones left standing at the red light every single time, all we could do was laugh: yep, we’ve lived in Germany for too long!
Enjoying the sun
I have yet to meet people who enjoy the sun more than the North Germans. Especially after the mild but endlessly cloudy and damp winters the Germans flock to street cafes and beer gardens with the first rays of sunshine. I will probably never join the people who take their coffee outside at +10 C just to sit in the sunshine, but I have learned to appreciate it.
There are some German things that I will never understand. But that’s a topic for another post.