It has now been a month since I arrived in Germany. Many people have asked me how life in Germany compares to the United States and if there's anything I miss. Of course, life here is very different, although it's hard to explain why. It's not complete culture shock, but there are a lot of little things I've noticed that are unfamiliar to me.
These are my observations about the country so far:
(Note: These observations are based on my experiences in Munich and Regensburg and do not necessarily reflect all of Germany.)
1) Sparkling water is a big deal here. If you go to a restaurant and order water, they will bring you sparkling water, unless you specify otherwise. It seems to be more common for people to drink sparkling water in their homes, and the host family I stay with always has cases of sparkling water on hand for meals. Apparently, people believe that there are health benefits to drinking sparkling water, although studies have disproved this.
2) Speaking of water, the tap water here comes straight from the Alps, and it tastes amazing. I'm told that the water here is the most tested in the world. It seems odd to me, then, that people prefer sparkling water over the natural water.
3) There is assigned seating in movie theaters. The popcorn doesn't taste nearly as good.
4) I haven't seen a single front door knob that turns. They all have handles and lock automatically. I suppose this is more convenient for security purposes.
5) The streets are much narrower. I'm told that land has a high value in Germany, so they can't afford to waste space with so many two-lane streets. If two cars are coming down the same street at opposite directions, one will have to pull over onto the curb to let the other one pass. A resident told me that I shouldn't be afraid of driving in Munich, though, since everyone owns nice cars and drives carefully.
6) Come to think of it, everything in Germany is smaller -- the streets, the hotel rooms, the trash cans, the wallets.
7) Every toilet has two buttons. I'm not sure what the difference is, and I'm too embarrassed to ask.
8) The rule in every house I've been to is that shoes should be taken off at the door. My dad is the only one I know in the United States who has this rule.
9) The banks all look the same. They even have the same logo, but different names. They must be part of the same chain, or they all contracted the same graphic designer.
10) It is very common for people to travel by bicycle. I see almost as many people riding their bikes as driving.
11) I have heard the following songs most often on the radio (listed in order of frequency): "Take Me to Church" by Hozier, "I Hate You, I Love You" by Gnash, and "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson
12) Tips are not calculated based on a percentage of the bill. A customary tip is one euro, unless it is a nicer establishment. This is because Germany has a higher minimum wage.
13) Bees. So many bees.
14) Most of the escalators I've seen can go both up and down, and are triggered automatically by motion sensors. I find this both confusing and convenient.
15) The way people converse is different. I'm used to listening as others dominate a conversation, and I write off small talk as unnecessary and meaningless. But here, if someone asks how your day is, they genuinely want to know. My behaviors that I thought were polite may actually be considered rude here. People don't just want you to listen, but actively contribute. It seems like a basic rule of conversation, but the way it's perceived here is hard to explain. Overall, I think Germans are nice people.