Sunday, 7 June 2015

Lifestyle: 8 Reasons Why I Love Being German

Dresden Germany

Hi ladies, the weather is magnificent and whilst I walked to work today I saw a German car with my local area code parked in Cheltenham. Though I didn’t know its driver, it somehow made me happy. It’s nice to know when someone from home is so close. I was thinking about home and everyone enjoying the summer weather and got a bit homesick. Though I love the UK, my home country isn’t that bad actually. The idea for an expat blog post was born and here it is, why I think my country is an awesome place to live*.


1. The Weather


Summer

Thanks to our ruthless lifestyle that contributes actively to the global warming effect each year, Germany is blessed with hot and long summers. I speak of 35 degrees and above. It is always warm and sunny and you can be sure that air conditioners in public libraries and malls break down on a regular basis. Sometimes it gets so hot that people have to stay indoors, but at the same time, it is unbearable in your flat too so you face a conflict of where to go really. That’s why we have public swimming pools which are overrun by school children (there are reduced school hours or dismissed classes). In that case, you cycle to the nearest lake or beach (there’s always water around somewhere). When it’s less hot (we talk about 25 degrees) in the evening, we love a little bike ride around the countryside. If we go past a lake we jump in, as most Germans wear swimwear all summer long.

how germans dress in the summer

Winter

Hot summers, freezing cold winters. Luckily in the past 10 years, our winters have been regularly mild (minus 5) but as a teen, I faced temperatures of minus 17 in the morning and I had to cycle to school. Brrrr so cold. It still gets icy cold, but it is fun too as the lakes freeze and are perfect for ice-skating. Also, you can be sure that there’s snow for Christmas and we have the Christmas markets to get us into the festive mood.

2. Rent and Space


Unlike British people who face a housing crisis and are forced to live with their parents long after the age of 18, Germany has a very extensive renting system. We don't usually buy houses, we rent our flats, apartments or terraced houses at affordable prices. The rent takes up to 30-40% of our salaries and not 80-90% in the UK. For example, I lived in central Leipzig for four years in a grad II restored two bedroom flat and paid around £320 pm including heating and water. I'm used to having lots of space and a wardrobe that requires its own room. It would never occur to me in a million years to spend my life savings on a house. Why should I? A house means a big commitment to me plus it ties me down to one place. Whereas if I rent from a Housing Management service, I can stay for as long as I want (we have unlimited time contracts) with a three months period of notice if I like to move which means I can live wherever I want. No hassle and no random tenancy checks. Which brings me to the next point.

3. A Structured Life


Germans usually move out of their parents' home when they are 16 or 18 at the latest and do not return living with them. They go to uni, have kids and are married by 30 with a job they can execute for the rest of their lives. This may seem boring, but it's a very safe plan and I'd like to stick to it, too. When I'm in the UK, I sometimes feel 'lost' which is a stark contrast to my cultural upbringing. I'm suddenly faced with a housing crisis and I'm not allowed to rent unless I pay an entire year upfront (who can ?!). So it's back to living with parents which to me is a massive come down. Another issue is, that in the UK uni degrees are regarded as mere needs to an end and not as a profession. I feel this is short-term thinking and I'm offended when people in the UK refer to me as a graduate. I'm not. I'm a fully trained professional who is a ready-to-go worker. I've got no time for unpaid internships and I'd like to proceed with my life and my plan. As much as I love the UK but I can't deal with all these obstacles that in my view shouldn't really be an issue at all.

4. Cycling


I was three when I was given my first bike which became a loyal companion for the rest of my life. Everyone in Germany has a bike as it is the fastest way to get around. Our towns are cycle-friendly and in the countryside, you take the road (cars take care so no worries!). With a bike, you’re independent and go wherever you want. I cycled to school, to uni, to my local grocery store, or just in the summer down to Mc Donald’s for a Mc Flurry ice cream. There are no limits. It makes you feel free when it is summer and you can feel the warm wind playing around your bare feet. Time stops and you can truly relax and enjoy life. Something I miss a lot in the UK as everyone takes a car instead and is dependent on busses. 

cycling in germany

5. Independence 


My parents strictly prepared me to become an adult from the moment I was born. So from an early age on, I had to learn how to be independent and look after myself. My mum worked hard on her career and my dad worked in West Germany so they were barely around to muddle cuddle me all the time. No one picked me up after school and I had to stay in stupid after school for the entire day with the first graders. Hated that and I regularly escaped the supervisors and went off home or wandering around our little town! My parents complained to the school not looking properly after me and at the age of 7, after two years of urging my parents to give me a house key, they finally did. They had a lot of trust in me so they gave me the key and I had the entire day to myself. This was fun! I came home at noon, either binge watched Disney channel for 6h or got on my bike and cycled around town, to the zoo or to the adventure playground where all the kids from school were and we would play until dinner time. I had a very happy childhood and I'm grateful for the trust and respect my parents showed towards me. 

As a teen, I still had my bike so I was free to go wherever I wanted (or well as far as a bike can take you). I always wanted more though....I still felt trapped and I wanted to see the world so I did my driving license straight away when I turned 18. Ever since I got a car and I'm so grateful for it. There's nothing worse to me than being dependent on someone or the feeling when people tell me what to do. When I turned 18 my entire life changed. I was a fully acknowledged adult and finally, I did whatever I wanted without my parents interfering. I love being responsible for my life. I love running my own household or looking after my car, building my own furniture or sorting out my life. I have a British friend who constantly talks about herself and her 'feeling so grown up' which I find really bizarre. I've been an adult for more than 11 years and I don't have to constantly mention it :)

6. Safety


The British are obsessed with safety. It starts with windows that you can't open properly and ends with over-cuddled children taken on a lead. CCTV is everywhere and you literally have to ask for permission all the time if you can do this or that without listening to a long safety procedure. My country, on the other hand, is safe without all these overprotective precautions. We do have CCTV in public places and there are no-go areas in the big cities but in general no one has to fear for their lives or to get mugged or stabbed. When I lived in Germany at no point did I ever wasted a thought on crime, to be honest. I went to see friends or walked down back alleys without ever fearing anything. Since I live in the UK this has changed and I've become a lot more aware of and sensitive to crime. My partner Alex regularly has to remind me to not see certain situations too light-heartedly and naiively. And cycling? Forget about it. If there isn't a safety cycling-friendly zone somewhere and I'm wearing a helmet and full reflective kit (which make me look ridiculous) then there's no possibility I can go. I do understand the British oversensitivity to some extend but sometimes it is just very over the top.

7. New Year's Eve


Have you ever spent New Years in Germany? No? Well, you've missed a hell of a lot! It is mental. Fireworks everywhere and even our children are taught how to lit a rocket properly or throw China crackers to get the best and loudest sound out of them. You can buy the fireworks in the supermarket between Christmas and New Year's Eve only. People spent a lot of money on a good firework. You have to be super quick because fireworks are gone in an instant. There are rockets, buzzing bees which fly and rotate, China crackers which are earth-shattering loud, fountains, Roman lights which shot out of a stick and batteries, which you light once and then they go off for a good 5 minutes on their own.

On the day, people usually eat carp and keep the scales in their wallets (to bring financial luck in the new year). We have table fireworks which are similar to British Christmas crackers but we light ours so they pop and reveal some plastic gimmicks. We play lead casting, a fortune telling game were we melt lead figures and cast them into water. The liquid lead will solidify immediately revealing a bizarre new shape. With your imagination and a table, you can interpret what it is and what the new year has in store for you. As soon as it gets dark the first fireworks are thrown. There's noise all night. It feels like you're thrown back into the days of war. We'll watch the New Year's show live from Berlin and after the countdown all hell will break lose for at least 1h. People go out on the street wishing neighbours a happy new year and of course throw fireworks at them. It is usually really cold and there's snow so the firework won't go off so you have to be quick and skilled with a lighter. The excitement calms down at around 2/3am, this is when my family makes a 'New Year's walk' through the snow or in my case, I take friends back home if they came over for a party.

8. Food


Writing this makes me extremely hungry and I'm craving a German roast so badly right now. It is made of boiled potatoes instead of roasted with red cabbage (no Yorkies or broccoli) and a piece of rabbit, goose or duck meat. The thick and rich gravy is made from cooking the meat instead of instant gravy that comes with a British roast. Germans also invented quark, which is a very thick dairy (it's a side product when milk goes off) but it is so delicious and super healthy. I better get some dinner now!


Thank you so much for reading today's post. It has become a bit long but I hope you found the little insight into my expat life enjoyable. Have you ever lived abroad and felt torn in between worlds? I love the UK but sometimes I really miss the fantastic weather and the strict but organised lifestyle, instead of rushing and stressing about the horrendous living expenses in the UK. Let me know your thoughts!

Till next time,

xx Caz xx

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*All my experience is based on being born and raised in the east part of Germany.
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