Living in Germany
So, I had a number of people ask to hear about what life in Germany was like, so I thought I’d briefly talk about it. My husband (who is half-French, half-German) and I lived there from 2009 to 2012.
We were actually in Bayern (a.k.a. Bavaria) right beside the borders with Austria and Switzerland. That part of Germany is quite a different animal from the rest of the country. Just like the Southern US is in no way comparable to the north, you will find a different way of speaking, different foods, different prominent religions (a lot of Catholicism in Bayern versus more Lutheran/Protestant elsewhere), and different ways of living.
I’ll be honest: I never got too strong with the German language. I could get by, certainly, but I was always too shy to be very good at speaking it. I also didn’t leave our house much (that’s just part of being a full-time writer), and so I never really practiced/got over my shyness as much as I perhaps should have. But such is life.
At least, while we lived in Germany, I got to see a lot of Europe. I went to England, France, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, and Croatia–plus all over Germany as well. It was pretty cool to be able to reach Berlin in the same time it now takes me to fly to Atlanta. Or to reach Egypt in the same time it takes me to get to L.A.
Plus, there’s no denying that Germany–and Austria and Switzerland–in the summertime is one of the most beautiful places EVER. Where we lived was especially stunning. In the foothills of the Alps and right beside the Bodensee, it felt like I was constantly in The Sound of Music.
(It should come as no surprise that my heroine’s homeland in my current fantasy WIP is based 100% on where we used to live. Or that I have a middle grade WIP in southern Germany near Munich.)
And the food–oh goodness, the food. That is the number one thing I miss most about Germany. From Flammkuchen to Wurst, from the dense, whole grain breads to delicious pastries, from the best kebabs ever (there’s a huge Turkish population in Germany, and subsequently, the kebabs are amazing) to deliciously authentic Italian food…
Mmmmmmm. I am actually salivating and feeling dizzy with hunger as I type this. I really miss the food from Germany. And the beer. 😉
Something else I miss (but that used to annoy me) is the slower way of life and the real focus on family-time. At first, it blew my mind that everything would close at 6:00. How was anyone ever supposed to get a hair cut? (Admittedly, we were in a rural/touristy area–I’m sure things were open later in big cities like Munich.) And why was EVERYTHING closed on Sundays?
But then I got used to it–and I came to value Sundays because there was literally nothing to do but enjoy the day.
It was also great for writing. Every morning, because of the 6-hour time difference, I had uninterrupted time to write and focus on my books. Then, by the mid-afternoon, the US would wake up. Emails, tweets, and phone calls would start to roll in, so I would shift gears to the more “administrative” side of writing.
But eventually, that time difference became something of a curse. Sure, I had that distraction-free morning to write, but then my evenings–evenings I ought to be enjoying with the Frenchman–were swallowed up. Even when I wanted to turn the internet off, I couldn’t seem to keep myself from constantly checking emails/answering tweets/etc.
And as time passed, the Frenchman’s job grew more and more stressful. He was working all the time, and honestly, I thought his company was taking major advantage of him. So, when a much smaller American company offered him a job that would bring us both back to the US…he took it.
Now we live in a new area that’s also beautiful (but there are no castles :(), have finally bought our own home (to which we are moving to right now!), and have settled into the low-stress life of rural America. I’ve learned to carve out distraction-free writing time (usually in the early mornings and late at night) and to enjoy evenings/weekends with my husband.
All in all, I’m happy to be in the US and closer to my family (I really missed my parents while I was in Germany), but I wouldn’t rule out living there again. 😉
So that was life in Germany.
Also, I discovered some amazing music, but I have to say that Peter Fox remains one of my absolute faves. This song, “Haus am See”, is just…awesome.
You tell me: Have you ever visited Germany/Europe? Do you have any specific questions about life there?
March 22, 2013 @ 2:07 pm
I live in Germany, not in Bayern though 🙂 but in Mainz and while there are a lot of things I really enjoy, I also miss France and the US. The area where you lived looks very pretty and I’ve never been to the Oktoberfest even though I’ve been living in Germany now for more than 5 years 😀
March 22, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
Oktoberfest is fun, but it’s a LOT of obnoxious Americans. I was actually really embarrassed by how badly behaved my countrymen were…but it’s still fun. You’ve got to get a Dirndl, though. 😉
March 22, 2013 @ 2:10 pm
Ah!!! Yes…I know all of the things you speak of. 🙂 <3
I miss the food the most. Well, the food and my family. (Because they are in Switzerland, and I'm not.)
And can I just say? I love love love Haus am See. It will be stuck in my head all day now. "Hier bin ich geboren, und laufe durch die Strassen…". At work I listen to Radio 7 on my Tune In app. It covers Southern Germany and the northern parts of Switzerland.
Stuff is closed Sunday's in Switzerland, too. Except there are shopping centers at the airport and the main trainstations (in big cities) that are allowed to be open on Sunday's now, but for the most part it's not allowed.
I'm from a small town in the country side, we had a grocery store…it closed around 6 or 7, too. 🙂
That picture of you guys is SO cute. <3 So cute! I love the other pics also, and am now officially homesick.
Thanks for sharing. <3
March 22, 2013 @ 2:52 pm
Ahhhh, yes. I think Haus am See and Alles Neu are my favorites on that album, but really they’re all kinda spectacular. Also, even though half his face doesn’t work, I think Peter Fox is totally hot.
So where in Switzerland are you from? I drove through a number of times (on the way to Provence) and also did a bit of sight-seeing in the northeastern parts.
March 25, 2013 @ 7:09 pm
Weird…I never got an email about this comment, so this is old, but I just have to say LMAO at the Peter Fox comment…and I agree. 🙂
I’m from a tiny town in the canton of Aargau. The next biggest town was Bremgarten, which is also not that well known. A lot of hills, forests, and the coolest fields (some of them had fairy mounds in the middle of them, with a forest on top…like mini islands/hills with mini forests just out in the middle of a field…it is THE coolest thing).
You must have been to St. Gallen or maybe Appenzell, if you did northeastern sight seeing. 🙂
A few times we went to Provence to visit friends who had a vacation home there. I never appreciated how beautiful even the drive was until now that most my drives go past ugly stripmalls and fast food chains. :/
Also, I don’t know if you know him, but Tim Bendzko has a song called “Nur noch kurz die Welt retten”, that I keep wanting to recommend to people, but they don’t speak any German…and it’s such a cool song (from the perspective of a super hero…always makes me feel like one). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BAKb2p450Q
March 22, 2013 @ 2:33 pm
I will definitely be hitting you up for more info on Germany soon. We’ve already decided our next family trip will involve Bavaria, but it probably won’t be until next year when the little one is a bit older. I’ve always ALWAYS wanted to do Oktoberfest, but that will have to be a kid-free trip. 😉
I think a slower way of life would be a refreshing change from the go-go-go you can’t escape in America. I could get used to that!
March 22, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
Oh my gosh, yes! Please hit us up! You will love it, and we can tell you all places to go/foods to eat. Definitely go in the summer (May through September are the prettiest times of year).
March 22, 2013 @ 2:46 pm
Hey there! 🙂 Glad that you liked Germany. Do you happen to have visited Frankonia as well??? (<– I'm living there) And YAAAAY Haus am See! It has been my summer term theme for 3 years in a row, rally love it. You have a very good taste 😉 And your husband looks very very nice. You look so cute together (if saying so is not too personal)
March 22, 2013 @ 2:48 pm
ehem… I mean FranConia *blush*
March 22, 2013 @ 2:59 pm
Yes!! I went to Nürnberg and Rothenberg! My husband actually almost took a job in Nürnberg, but we decided that Lindau and the Bodensee were just too beautiful to give up.
And ha! I’m glad you think we look cute–that is definitely one of my favorite pictures of the two of us (though not necessarily the most flattering. ;)).
March 22, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
I live in Europe, in the small country of Belgium. I’ve passed through Germany, but have never really visited yet. I’ve visited several other countries in Europe, but outside Europe I’ve only been to Morocco and South Africa, but I’m dying to travel to the US.
So, my question would be:
What habits in the US would totally baffle us Europeans? 🙂
March 22, 2013 @ 2:56 pm
Um, American food would baffle the hell out of you. So many things that Americans eat regularly have been banned in the EU because they’re SO BAD for you. It’s shocking and horrible.
I know my husband gets just downright FURIOUS with how complex our taxes, insurance, and retirement plans are. Everything was so simple and easy in France & Germany (and Canada too).
Also, Americans are literally the WORST drivers on the planet. I miss German drivers, who are seriously the BEST drivers on the planet. Even the Italians (who I thought drove kinda cray-cray) still knew what they were doing. I only ever saw 3 wrecks my ENTIRE time in Germany (and that includes driving through France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland, and Croatia). I see 3 wrecks a day here in the US….
March 22, 2013 @ 4:09 pm
I am jealous of you living in Germany. I love Central Europe. You know how some white people have an affinity for Asian culture? I’ve always felt that way about German culture, as well as the language. I dream of a day when I can live abroad again (I lived in England), but I don’t foresee that happening any time soon…
(Also, I love Peter Fox! I like Schwarz und Blau–I listen to it at the gym!)
March 22, 2013 @ 7:59 pm
Yesss! Scwarz am Blau is SO dark (I mean, duh, with a name like that) and wicked. Have you ever seen the video?
March 22, 2013 @ 9:14 pm
Yes, I’ve seen the video! <3
March 22, 2013 @ 4:09 pm
I’ve only ever been out of the U.S. to go to Canada (but since I live 30 min from the border I don’t usually count that…), but as soon as I can save up money I’m planning to go to Europe. Germany is definitely on my list…and England, Italy, Ireland (I have a friend living there right now so that’s probably where I’ll end up first), France, Spain…I studied medieval history in college so I’d love to go see all the places I spent four years reading about!
My friend who lives in Ireland told me a lot of the same things when she came back to the States over Christmas. She said the first time she got on the freeway to drive, she completely freaked out for the reasons you mentioned. The other major thing she mentioned was how BIG the portion sizes in restaurants here are.
March 22, 2013 @ 8:01 pm
YES. PORTION SIZES. Oh my gosh, I am STILL not used to this, and we’ve been in the US now for months. I will order a salad and meal…and then get the salad and it’s, like, five times larger than a full meal in Europe. It’s also usually the lowest quality food–and not to sound like a snob, but I got used to REAL food in APPROPRIATE portion sizes. 😛
And omg, if you studied medieval history then you HAVE to see Europe one day. You will be in heaven with every single town you go through!
March 22, 2013 @ 4:22 pm
Thanks for sharing, I loved reading this! I lived in Bayern too, for three years. I was in Munich–it’s where I met my husband. Love that city so much! We still go back to visit friends and get our fill of Helles and Schweinebraten almost every year, and moving back some day is our pipe dream.
March 22, 2013 @ 8:02 pm
Munich was ~2 hours northeast of us, so we went there all the time. I think it might be one of my all time favorite cities on the planet. It’s just SO clean and active and fun–gah, I loved it. Especially in the summer. Oh, and during the Christmas season…
March 22, 2013 @ 7:26 pm
One of my dreams is to visit Germany/Europe in general. I always get a tiny bit (… okay, maybe more than a tiny bit) annoyed that people from the US/Japan/etc can go there whenever while us in the not-so-rich countries have to prove we can afford staying there for however long period of time (and can pay for our trip back), apply for a Visa, and other things like that. It’s so unfair 🙁 Ahh, I’ve always wondered, do the people in Germany speak English well? And have you ever been to the Black Forest? And can I ask why the Frenchman is called the Frenchman and not the Ger…man? German-man? Haha!
March 22, 2013 @ 8:04 pm
He’s the Frenchman because he grew up in France (in a suburb of Paris), so he considers himself French. But his mother is German, so that side of his family still lives in Germany–and he grew up speaking the language and spending summers there. But, he’s still a Frenchman at heart. 😉
And yeah, it IS unfair about countries like that. If it makes you feel any better, I wasn’t allowed to be in Germany for more than 3 months if my husband and I weren’t married. At that time, we were just engaged, so we ditched having a wedding (not that we really wanted one anyway–I’m not that kind of person) and just eloped before our 3 months were up. 🙂
March 22, 2013 @ 7:55 pm
my high school had a sister school in germany, and so my family hosted several lovely german students. we hosted the first one when i was really little (5? 6?) and she became a part of our family. she came back and visited us multiple times, as did her boyfriend (now husband), her brother, etc. my family did a tour of europe when i was 9, and we stayed with her family for a bit and i fell in love with them–they were such gentle souls, so so kind and open. and i decided that i would learn german so i could speak to them better. so i did. in high school, i did a goethe institut summer program in salem (…right by the bodensee. those pictures look *awfully* familiar), and then i spent a semester in freiburg when i was in college.
and i miss it so desperately. i miss the turkish food (oh god, what i would do for a yufka), the flammkuchen, the wurst, the neuer suesse in the fall…and i found germans (especially those in southern germany) to be incredibly friendly. i miss speaking german (sometimes i just do it in my head, so that i don’t lose it entirely)–and it kills me that it’s been 6 years now that i’ve been over. alas–grad school does bad things to funding and travel time.
March 22, 2013 @ 8:07 pm
Ah, I know what you mean about losing the language. I was never all that great, but I could at least comprehend really well–and I’m definitely losing that. I talked to my mother-in-law on the phone a few weeks ago (she’s from Saarbrücken), and it was WAY harder than it should have been.
And yay! Freiburg!! That’s one really pretty city (and apparently the sunniest city in all of Germany–or so they claim ;)).
March 22, 2013 @ 8:00 pm
Oh my god it’s so pretty! One of the things I miss most about Scotland is the lack of castles in London. Never enough castles!
I always feel really bad about living in London and never visiting the rest of Europe when it’s SO CLOSE. I guess it’s a bit like never doing anything touristy in your own town, you start thinking, eh, I’ll go whenever, it’s easy to get to. Then you never do. Must rectify.
March 22, 2013 @ 8:10 pm
Dude, I know that feeling–you never see what’s around. I’m guilty of that with the US. There are SO many places in the south (where I grew up) that I never visited…despite being near. And now there are so many places in the midwest I could easily see, but haven’t yet done. Heck, even in our TOWN there’s a ton to do that I haven’t. 😛
March 23, 2013 @ 12:51 am
I’ve always wanted to go to Germany, but I’ve never traveled outside the US. One of my closest friends is German. She was an exchange student during our senior year of high school and we’ve been close friends since then. She’s from Northern Germany, a small village called Niendorf (the pictures I’ve seen are lovely. It’s a great fishing village. Her hubby gets fresh fish all the time.) It’s funny how you mentioned the differences in cultures. When she first came here, I learned so much, like how Germans (at least the area she’s from) do not like ice in their drinks. She used to think it was so weird that we drank drinks so cold here and would take ice out of a drink in a restaurant. Also, she thought it was weird that we put ketchup on so much and would giggle when she’d see one of us eat a burger from McD’s or wherever with ketchup on it. Did you notice any of that in southern Germany? She’s been to Bavaria before, but this post here is the most I’ve heard about it. And she’s told me a lot about the focus on families there. She has a 2-yr old son and she’s told me about the very long maternity leaves there (like, she was able to take off from work for his first YEAR! And some can take as long as 2 years off!) She was appalled when my best friend here had her 2 girls and could only take the typical 6-wk. leave each time. And when she found out that a lot of places don’t even pay you during a maternity leave, that you have to save up your “sick days”, she was glad that she didn’t make a permanent move here (although she loves to visit the US, she would never want to leave German life.)
Oh, but you’re so right about the foods from there! She’s visited me 3 times since we graduated and she always brings great things. I LOVE their chocolates (my favorites are the Kinder chocolates!) The breads…THE BREADS! She’d always buy fresh breads and wrap them up right before her flight here. I’d be devouring some on our way back to my house and most was gone within a day or so! LOL! There were some things I wasn’t very keen on, like some of the dried meats (but oh gosh, they’re nothing like the dried squid or octopus my best friend has sent to me from Hong Kong! YUCK!!) I’ve never tried German beer (I can’t stomach alcohol), but she’d always bring some for the guys and they always loved it. I can definitely see why you’d miss living in Germany, but at the same time, I’m sure you really, really missed living here, especially your family! As much as I enjoy German culture, I’d love to visit there, but I’d have to come back here. Actually, whenever I’ve traveled to other states, even if for only a few days or a week, when I see that “Welcome to Kentucky!” sign, my heart leaps and I’m so happy because (I’m very partial to this) but KY is my favorite place in the world to be.
(Oh, and I’m glad you and the Frenchman have found a much better place here to live and for him to work. There’s not much worse than a job that takes advantage of you. It’s best to get out while the gettin’s good, huh? 🙂 )
March 23, 2013 @ 2:10 pm
Okay, ice in a drink–YES. I am now so German about it, and I HATE ice in a drink. It’s way more satisfying and hurts my teeth less if it’s just a *cool* drink instead of cold.
Ketchup: yes, yes, YES! It costs a euro to get ketchup at McDonalds (or maybe even 1.50 euro? For EACH packet!), so you realize how much ketchup we waste in the US–and how much you really don’t need it on EVERY bite of your food.
As for maternity leave, it is pretty much amazing in every country EXCEPT the US. I think down in Bavaria, the law was 1 year off (and husbands also got 3 months off??)–or I might be mixing that up with Canada (which was *definitely* a year off). Either way, it was way more than the US. 😛
As for the dried meats, I definitely *love* some of them–the dried sausages, especially. The French eat a LOT of dried meats, so that became kind of a staple in our diet–a meal of sliced dried sausages, stinky cheese, and tiny pickles. That is, like, the most French snack ever. And delicious. 😉
March 23, 2013 @ 3:48 am
Hi Sooz, nice post! I’m actually a French girl living in Australia. So I visited quite a lot of Europe and Germany and really loved it 😀 I completely understand what you mean with shops closing early. I still get shocked in Australia where EVERYTHING closes at 5pm!! And I live in Brisbane, it’s the 3rd city of the country! But I definitely enjoy living in a different country. Next stop I dream about is the US since one of my BFF is from Baltimore 😀
PS: You and your husband look really lovely!
March 23, 2013 @ 2:13 pm
Oh, thanks. Shucks. 🙂
Australia–that’s one of the places we really want to visit! My husband’s sister (also French, obviously) is living in Sydney. She LOVES it! And my friend (and fellow author) Amie Kaufman is in Melbourne, so I hope we can make time/$$ to visit sometime in the not too distant future…
I am also SHOCKED stuff would close so early in such a big city! Here in the US, our town is really tiny and things close super early…but it’s only a 20 minute drive to get to somewhere with more reasonable hours! I have definitely forgotten how to live around those early closing hours…
March 23, 2013 @ 5:23 pm
Such an interesting read! And that photo of you two is so cute!
I just celebrated my 6-year anniversary living in the UK (SW England and Scotland). I go “home” to Western NY state about 2-3x a year, except in the last 16 months, I visited my family once, and that was hard. It’s always amazing to spend time with them in my most familiar surroundings, ease of driving on the right side of the road, etc. though I’m always homesick for Britain when I’m away.
This month, however, my husband and I flew to Northern California, where I lived for 4 years prior to moving to the UK. I haven’t been there in 6 years. I realised how MUCH I miss the sun and endless blue skies. But also things like ease of being able to pull into a parking lot for ANY business, rock up, buy your stuff or mail your letter, and get back in the car. It’s so easy, and you don’t even see it as a THING until you live where you can’t do that. In the UK, that does NOT happen. You have to parallel park on the road 5 miles away (I exaggerate… some times) to do ONE errand, then you have to go do it again elsewhere to get to the next errand. It’s a real (as they say) faff.
I miss wide open spaces, HUGE parking spaces, huge stores, so much selection on groceries…even driving in San Francisco, which used to scare me, seemed like cake after driving here. I know the UK and Germany aren’t very similar, but did you find the transition back made a lot of everyday things easier to do? The only thing we found lacking back in CA was… er.. the attitude. Most people from CA were not very friendly, as opposed to what we’re used to here, and that one thing stuck out a LOT. (Another big plus: we get so many more holidays here. My husband gets about 35, in *addition* to Bank Holidays, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do this trip 😉
Anyhow, CONGRATS on your new home! 🙂
March 24, 2013 @ 2:04 am
Yeah–parallel parking killed me in Europe (I am terrible at it–TERRIBLE). But I actually found I had some serious reverse culture shock moving back. The stores are just SO HUGE, the selection is border-line ridiculous (when you’re used to not having it, at least), and I can’t believe how much people shop-shop-shop all the time! BUT, it is undoubtedly way more convenient and easy.
And oh yes–the holidays. That’s something we’re not used to either. The Frenchman got 35 days of vacation plus all the Catholic holidays and national holidays. It was AMAZING. Here, the norm is 2 weeks (or less) I think. Boohoo. 🙁
March 24, 2013 @ 12:42 pm
France, Germany and then the States. Good god, from one power to the next:P
I must admit, when people say good things about Germany, I didn’t it’d be about food.
March 25, 2013 @ 7:00 am
I think it’s so darn cool that you lived in Germany. I’ve never been to Europe, but visiting it, particularly London and Paris, is a big dream of mine. And I just know that it’s going to happen one day. But the place you lived in looks gorgeous, like something out of a fairytale. It must’ve been heavenly!