How has it already been 6 months? 6 months ago, we were being driven to the airport by our family, working our way through multiple security checkpoints, two different airplanes, a long layover and two flights to arrive in Germany and start our international living. We had no idea what would come or how our lives would change, but we were ready for that adventure.
It’s safe to say that 6 months in, this move has been nothing short of an adventure. We’ve made the most of almost 5 months of hotel living, made the most of learning the culture (still learning!), attempting to begin to learn the language (have a long way to go on this one), and are homing in on what travel looks like for our family. We’ve almost finally gotten settled in our house, made some new friends, and are embracing that “European” lifestyle.
When we got off that plane we jumped right in to our new adventure, choosing to travel as much as we could – 7 countries already!- and be out of our hotel, and later house, as possible. This isn’t a place that we wanted to choose to stay home, as we would normally, but one where we wanted to experience everything possible.
I figured something that would be fun today, 6 months in, would be to reflect on some of the things that I’ve learned or that have surprised me at this stage of our move. Living in Germany is just similar enough to our westernized culture, but still different enough that there is a little shock to the system of moving here. I will say though; I don’t think I really experienced a true “culture shock” until I tried to do a full grocery shop on the local economy. I’m getting better and better the more I go, but those first couple trips were rough.
Before we get into the “surprises”, I just quickly want to say that I didn’t entirely expect how beautiful it is here. It is absolutely gorgeous just about anywhere you go and we cannot get enough of getting outside and exploring even just the little towns near us. The area is full of country roads, with little towns, and fields of crops all around. The agriculture scene is huge in our area and we also have a fair share of animals around as well. We love it here and can’t stress that enough.
To start this off, we are going to chat about Water Closets…or restrooms. Yep, something I don’t typically talk about, but it’s a bodily function and something we all need. You pay to use public restrooms here. Not necessarily all of them (for example a lot of stores and restaurants will often times have a restroom for the guests), but if you stop at a service stop off the Autobahn chances are you’ll have to pay the .70Euro charge to use the restroom. The nice thing is, at least for the service stations, you pay the .70 and you’ll get a .50Euro voucher to use in the station itself. The bathrooms are also very well maintained, so I don’t mind paying the slight fee for them.
*I will say- the one exception to the “paying for the bathroom” bit is changing rooms. A lot of service stations will have an entirely separate room for changing babies that can be used free of charge. Don’t think you can get away with using it as an adult, often times they are locked so an attendant is needed, or they don’t have a toilet, just the changing station. But also, just don’t be that person. From a mom, please don’t be that person.*
Another thing that is, I think, unique to Europe is the no rush eating out. When you go out to eat here, the emphasis is placed on company and quality of time spent at the restaurant, rather than hurrying you through the ordering and eating process. Often times dinner lasts several hours, and you only see your waiter intermittently to serve you the food and drinks. It’s a very relaxed feel and you could sit at your table for as long as you’d like. It’s something we have gotten used to very quickly and something that we really actually enjoy. You get a chance to enjoy your meal, your company, and it just makes it so much more pleasant. I don’t know how we are going to go back to the states and back to being rushed through our meals.
Also- in regard to eating out, be prepared to pay for water and to find that in most cases ordering alcohol is cheaper than water (or even soda in some cases)! The beer is, obviously, very good here, and sometimes even getting a glass of wine or prosecco can be less costly than having a bottle of water. Also, at your typical German restaurants expect to find meat and potato’s to be the brunt of your menu and dining experience. One final dining experience, your portion size will be quite large. While we were in the hotel, when dining in the hotel restaurant, often times I would simply order the main meat portion, no side and they would put together a miniscule side salad for me (because they thought there was no way I was only eating a giant portion of Wiener Schnitzel).
It’s a real blast to eat out here because of the experience (and the food IS delicious), but just be aware of what you are really getting yourself into J
In Europe, Germany especially from what I’ve been seeing and hearing in travelling, there is a high emphasis on recycling and taking care of our planet. Germany is actually a very very clean place. You don’t see a lot of litter about, trash cans are cleared out frequently, and you can tell that it is very well maintained. The cleanliness aside, Germany is very focused on sustainability and what is best for our planet and environment. A perfect example of this is the windmills, solar panel farms, and recycling program. We recycle EVERYTHING. Just about the only bits that go into the trash are food waste and Kleenex/dirty paper towels (rare in our house) and such. There isn’t a lot that actually goes in to the trash and subsequently the trash only gets picked up twice a month! Think about that for a minute. We have a total of 5 recycling bins (that’s what our family uses the most of, some families can have upwards of 7 or more if need be) and we run to our sort center every couple weeks. It’s been a real good lesson in learning what we may be don’t need to waste and where we can do better in our own home with re-usable goods.
Europe is very much a family friendly, outside adventure style country. There are a lot of walking areas, parks and pools for full families are in an abundance, and everyone, in Germany in particular, have really loved the kids. There is always some sort of a hike, cruise, bike, athletic event going on in the good weather and even if there isn’t something going on, there are plenty of places that you can explore outdoors for yourself. I’ve been really surprised at not only how many there are, but how many are actually family friendly and have activities for old and young alike. We’ve found so many options that we can do with the kids, where they can also be kids instead of being told to shush all the time.
Something else that Germany in particular is famous for is its festivals. There is a festival of some sort always going on it seems, and they celebrate everything from the German American partnerships, to religious holidays, to random just because days, to Octoberfest (in September). The festivals are great ways to jump right in to their culture as food and alcohol are a big part of life out here (not the only part, just a big one). The festivals will be anything from a little food festival with different vendors, to full on carnivals with rides, food, drinks, and music. It all depends, and it is quite a lot. We’ve loved the couple that we have attended and look forward to going to many over the next couple years.
I know there are so many other bits that I want to touch on, but I think I’ll have to save those for another post! In our short 6 months here, we’ve already managed to do so much, and we still have so much more that we want to do.