Culture Shock- Germany vs. USA

expat, travel

Thinking of moving to Germany? Whether you’re moving abroad or simply looking to get informed before your next visit to Germany, there are a few cultural differences to you should know in order to be prepared. Here are some of the most interesting/surprising differences I’ve noticed while living abroad as an American expat in Germany:

Closing times – Depending on where you live, stores in Germany (esp. grocery stores) tend to close much earlier than American ones. Particularly in Bavaria, be prepared to deal with closing times as early as 8pm. Oh, and shopping for groceries on a Sunday? You can forget about that.

Grocery stores – Want to know another hilarious fun fact about German grocery stores? Self-bagging. Americans can consider themselves lucky to have someone bagging their groceries at the cashier. In Germany, it’s a race against the cashier to see if you can manage to bag your stuff as quickly as they scan it! Beware- I’ve had my fair share of angry stares when I didn’t bag my groceries fast enough. And god forbid you need to try and go back for an item you forgot! Most stores have a single pathway from entrance to exit- so don’t try going the wrong way or you’ll face the wrath of the Almans!

Strict rules – Speaking of doing things the wrong way- good luck trying NOT break any rules when you’re in Germany. From walking on the wrong side of the street to speaking too loudly on public transportation and/or asking too many questions about the menu at a restaurant, you can expect to see some raised eyebrows if you stick to your American habits while in Germany. Most Germans are not accustomed to the overly-friendly, inquisitive, chatty nature of Americans. Furthermore, if you walk into a restaurant expecting anything remotely similar to American service where “the customer is always right,” you might want to get a reality check. Germans may have a reputation for being “rude” in Americans eyes, but have you ever thought that maybe Americans are just a bit spoiled by our waiters’ forced smiles/getting custom orders every time we go out eat? (I’ll have one Venti-Skinny-Decaf-Soy-Cinammon-Dolce-Latte with 2 pumps of Vanilla and just a little bit of whipped cream, please)

Pharmacies – For Americans, pharmacies are gigantic- offering an assortment of medication but also groceries, alcohol, makeup, and more. The local German “Apotheke” offers only the essentials for medication, and would certainly surprise any American walking in and trying to grab their painkillers off the shelves. Here, you must request pretty much everything from your pharmacist and face some pretty skeptical stares if you order anything stronger than 400 mg of painkiller meds.

Paying in cash – I never thought this would be an issue when I moved here, but it’s very important to carry cash when you live in Germany! This is especially true when living in Bavaria, where many restaurants only accept cash. That can make for an awkward date when the bill arrives!

Beer – Need I say more? If you’re moving to Germany, be prepared to encounter a very heavy beer culture. Know the differences between Hell, Pils, Weizen, and more. If you’re not a fan of strong beer, try a Radler (that’s what it’s called in Bavaria)- it’s a refreshing mix of Sprite (or some kind of lemon soda) and beer. Not into alcohol? Stick to a delicious Apfelschorle- apple juice mixed with sparkling water. Prost!

Here’s a selfie of Florian and I enjoying some Augustiner beer at our local fair!

Weather – It shouldn’t be a huge shocker to anyone coming from states with seasons, but the weather in Germany gets cold. For someone like me coming from sunny California, the weather in Germany was surprising, to say the least. If you don’t have the stomach for the long, harsh winter months starting January and ending around mid-April (sometimes end of April! As the Germans say, “April, der macht was er will,” meaning “April does what it wants”), than you might want to think carefully before moving here. Most days tend to be cloudy, rainy, and snowy in the winter months. The best time to travel to Germany? Late April, early May, or even in September/October (Oktoberfest, anyone?).

Here’s a photo I took in Bamberg on a rainy day, just outside of a Birkenstock store!

Education – Are you also carrying around a good chunk of student debt? *Laughs in European.* Tuition is basically free in Germany, aside from the basic cost of like 100-200 euros just to cover university administrative fees as well as your semester ticket to use the buses/transportation. FYI- this is worth the price and actually an incredible deal, considering you’d typically pay 2-3 euros for a 10-15 minute bus/train ride.

Insurance/Public Benefits – Did someone say universal healthcare? Americans are quaking. Looks like someone is doing it right- Germany ensure everyone has basic human rights by covering their citizens’ healthcare and avoiding the chaos/anxiety/stress that many Americans face every day. Deutschland 1, USA 0 (because Americans are still dying due to lack of health coverage / starvation / homelessness / more).

Religion – We already touched on a bit of politics, now let’s cover religion! Overall, Germany is a pretty openly religious country, with predominately Catholic and Protestant influence, and (like most places in Europe) churches everywhere you look. Regardless of your opinion on religion, there’s one thing anyone who has been to Germany in December would agree makes it the most wonderful time of the year, and that’s the Christmas markets! Filled with various wooden booths selling candy, snacks, trinkets, and that oh-so-glorious Glühwein, the German Weinachtsmarkt / Chriskindlesmarkt is a must-see for anyone thinking of traveling to Germany.

What are some of the cultural differences you’ve noticed while in Germany?

Comment below if you felt like you could relate to this post, and follow my blog for more expat content!

What I Learned After 6 Months at Adidas

career, expat

Working for one of the biggest global players in the sports/fashion industry alongside an epic international team- how can you top that?

I had come to the end of one of the best chapters of my life. After 6 months of working the job of my dreams flew by, one big question was on my mind: What’s next?

This uncomfortable realisation reminded me of two previous adventures- when I studied abroad in Sydney, Australia (4 months) and later when I lived with my boyfriend in Hannover, Germany (6 months). These seemingly tiny increments of time were actually long enough to where I could make the most out of my adventure, but could also feel like my adventure was cut short- just when I had started settling in and feeling like I was on a roll.

At the beginning of my internship, I certainly did not expect to get along so well with my team- and was pleasantly surprised when they became pretty much like extended family for me. I also didn’t know how intimately tied I would become with the Adidas brand. It became much more than just a sports brand. I quickly realized that for me, Adidas (both as an employee at the headquarters and as a loyal consumer) is a lifestyle. Diving deep into the company history, I learned that the brand represents a passion for staying active, consistent innovation, and pushing the boundaries of the present by leading with the future.

Although I still can’t fully answer the question of what is next in my career, I am confident that my time at Adidas and all of the hard work I put in will pay off. If this experience taught me anything, it’s that anyone can achieve their dreams if they continue to persevere. This means, not only believing that you will get your dream job, but also matching that mindset with clear actions.

Here are a few tricks I use to stand out as a candidate during my job search:

  1. Maintain a great profile online so that when people see you, they immediately want to work with you (LinkedIn, social media, etc.)
  2. Ensure your resume AND cover letters align with the job description and the company branding.
    • Ask yourself, do they want to see a super creative CV?
    • Or, is a clear, detailed list of your certificates/skills more important?
  3. Networking is key! Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends, and previous colleagues to get some help during your application process.
    • One great way is to use LinkedIn to connect with people/companies you want to work with- but just make sure to be polite and not spam anyone!
  4. Apply, apply, and keep on applying!
    • As exhausting (and sometimes degrading) as the job search can be, you have to keep your options open, and don’t count on getting exactly the job you want- at least not right away.
    • Try creating an excel sheet or some kind of document to keep track of where you’ve applied, the status of the application, etc. This will help as interviews start coming around!
  5. Be realistic!!!
    • Keeping tip #4 in mind, you have to also make sure you are honest with yourself about whether or not you REALLY want to work at the places you’ve applied.
    • No matter where you end up working, make sure that it’s doing something you enjoy! There’s nothing worse than working somewhere you don’t even want to be.

The hard truth is, you may not be able to “top” these epic experiences of your life. But you have something to look forward to- you will always hold these adventures as reference points to help drive you forward in your quest for the next best thing.

Have you ever felt this way while living abroad as an expat, participating in a study abroad program, or during an internship/part-time role at a company you love? What were some of the ways you coped afterwards, and where are you now?

Leave a comment below to let others know about your experience!

Eating Giant Pretzels at the Erlangen Bergkirchweih

Uncategorized

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Bergkirchweih in Erlangen. This is a festival similar to Oktoberfest, where beer is sold everywhere in large tents and people gather for music, traditional food, and fun carnival rides. People often dress in the classic lederhosen or dirndl clothing and participate in several beer-drinking traditions. One of these traditions is called the Kastenlauf, or crate walk, where festival attendees buy a crate of beer (around 20 bottles, 1/2 liter each) on their walk to the festival. Much like American “pre-gaming,” this tradition typically requires that participants finish the entire crate of beers before arriving to the festival.

While the Kastenlauf was one tradition I did not participate in, I was fascinated to see several people lugging a case of beers and chugging their beers as fast as possible. Perplexed but not at all surprised by this behavior, I jokingly told my boyfriend, “They’ll probably have to finish all of those before they can get into the festival, right?” As per usual German rules, you are normally not allowed to bring any sort of drinks with you into restaurants or fairs (though I’ve gotten away with the occasional water bottle). So when my boyfriend outlined the rules of the Kastenlauf, I was rather astonished that the rules of this tradition also require that only 2 people carry and must finish the case of beers prior to entering the festival.

In any case, I was happy to walk around these brave souls and make my way into the excitement and beauty of the festival. With beautifully decorated Lebkuchen hearts, the smell of sausages cooking, and people hauling their giant mugs of beer everywhere, I couldn’t wait to join the party.

As the afternoon went on and my giant pretzel and Obatzda arrived, I was pleased to have something in my stomach to accompany the giant Radler (beer mixed with lemonade) sitting in front of me. But the later it got, the more crowded our giant tent became… and the festival attendees grew even more rowdy with the help of endless alcohol and Schlager music. For a person who hasn’t had enough to drink and doesn’t feel particularly comfortable in a crowd, this became a little too much and made me increasingly uncomfortable with this new cultural experience.

Finally, my boyfriend and I decided to get away from the noise and check out the rides and activities sprinkled across the “Berg” (which means “mountain or hill” in German). According to a classmate at my university here in Erlangen, of the most iconic and well-known aspects of the Bergkirchweih is the giant ferris wheel. Naturally, we had to take a look and after short deliberation we decided to bite the bullet, pay for two 7 euro tickets, and jump on.

It was the perfect way to end the evening and left us with a stunning view of the entire festival. Overall, the experience was not at all something I would have expected- and it is certainly something I’d try again (on a less crowded day). Now, I’m looking forward to attending Oktoberfest this fall and experiencing what is basically the Coachella of Germany.