10 Things that are different in Germany compared to the US

1) You can’t name your kid Blanket

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In Germany, the local Stadsamt can veto the name of your child if the proposed name doesn’t reflect the sex of the child or if it may endanger the well-being of the child. So sadly little Espn and his sister Yoga will probably not be getting their birth certificates in Germany. Then again, Helmut, Mechtchild and Waltraut will pass with flying colors, so maybe it’s better to skip the approval process entirely.

2) Animal sounds

In Germany, animals may look the same and even sound the same to you, but the “Ol’ McDonald had a farm” song sounds completely different. A rooster doesn’t say “Cockle a doodle doo”, to a German they say “kikiriki”. Whaaa? Oh and as a bonus, Germans don’t say “Ouch” or “Ow” when they get hurt, they say “Aua” (pronounced like “Ow-wah”). To an American, it’s very weird.

3) Time commitment to Hobbies

Germany is a land of regulation. It’s not so easy to just pick up a hobby like it is in the US. Want to play golf? You need to take lessons, get a handicap and join a club. Public courses are few and far between and most of them require a proof of handicap card anyways. You have to invest a lot of time in your hobby of choice, so it is my experience that Germans are usually very good at their free time diversions. Whether it be singing in a barber shop quartet, horseback riding or having an awesome mustache, the time commitment for your favorite hobby is no laughing matter.

4) American Pop culture references are not funny

Sadly, Miley Cyrus twerking jokes fall on deaf ears at the Cafe-Ecke (like the water-cooler except it’s a corner where you drink coffee). And when you actually try to demonstrate a twerk, people weirdly run from you like you have the plague. What’s that all about?

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Saumagen

5) Length of Meals

In Germany compared to the US, service is notoriously slow. I used to get upset every time I had to flag down a waiter because my Saumagen was taking forever. Now, I get a little weirded out by all the attention I receive from wait-staff in the US. Just chill out, I’m going to be here for a while. I gots things to discuss. Don’t bring me the bill and tell me “No rush”. If it’s no rush, then why the hell are you putting it on my table. We all know what you’re doing. You have tables to turn and profits to make, but let’s not be coy about it.

6) Friendship

There is a German saying “Friendship is a plant we must often water.” It takes a bit of effort before you gain their trust. You have to, like, listen to what they are saying, take an interest in their lives and actually follow through on what you say. What the hell? Are we in a relationship? Oh, yea, kind of. In my experience, Germans are less likely to throw the word friend around, but once you do establish a connection, they are really dependable. Also, you know where you stand with a German – if they don’t like you, it’s not going to be hard to figure out.

7) People actually follow the rules

Especially when the rule is not passing people on the right. It’s not just illegal, it’s dangerous. While driving 200 km per hour (over 65% of the highways have no speed limit) on the A6, the last thing you want is a surprise. Things must be predicatble. Seriously, “dipping” people left and right in your hatchback VW (everybody has a hatchback in Germany) is just stupid… Now if somebody could travel back in time and tell that to high school me, it would be much appreciated.

8) “Don’t be a Nazi” isn’t funny

In the US, it’s a punchline for anybody that is overly strict. In Germany, don’t, ever, under any circumstance, tell your coworker to “stop being such a Copy Nazi”. Trust me, he won’t think it’s funny.

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9) Riding a bike to work is not dorky

Businessmen in slacks and ties ride their bikes to work and not one person would ever think to call them a dork for it. It’s a valid form of transportation, even if its cherry red and only has one speed. Oh, and stay the hell out of bike lines. Seriously, they won’t stop.

10) Eye Contact

Getting off the tram, going to the market, buying a döner, getting back on the tram – people will stare at you. The normal time for eye contact may only be one or two seconds longer than in the US, but those fleeting moments seem to go on for eternity. I always end up feeling like I have a booger or some festering boil on my face that I didn’t notice when I looked in the mirror that morning. For the love of David Hasselhof, stop staring at me Waltraut!

 

Bonus:

German’s don’t really love David Hasselhof.

Or do they?

 

What has been your experience in Germany? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

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  • Darin E. Lewis

    Amen to number 5!

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Thanks for the comment Darin!

  • Evelyn

    I’m learning German and I’d love to travel someday! It’s seems like a really interesting country to me! Thanks for the tips :)

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Hi Evelyn, you are welcome. Just plan your travel out, do your research and you will be eating schnitzel and drinking hefeweizen in no time!

  • John Swoveland

    I spent two weeks in Bavaria. In a town near Ansbach. My wife and her family speak “Frankish Deutsch” I don’t know if you are teaching the same (or similar) dialect but I can say my German is TERRIBLE! I was completely enthralled by my experience there! The locals were so polite and the pace was much slower than my daily life. The food was magnificent! Even the lunches or the ‘budget meals’. The food was all natural and one didn’t have to spend extra for ‘organic’. The landscape was clean and I only saw one handicapped parking space in my entire time there! The younger Germans learn English in school so communication wasn’t as difficult as expected. Except in the evenings when we would get together and talk and drink wine. My wife (who hadn’t been home in 24 years and was having a tough time listening, conversing and translating all at the same time) finally told me to stop asking what they were saying all the time. All in all it was a treasured memory and I hope for the opportunity to return! For those learning… all my respect to you! As for me… I may end up being a single language person and that is ok because I did learn to communicate in other ways!

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      What a great experience to have John!

    • http://dare2go.com dare2gocom

      Don’t worry too much, John: I’m German born and raised and don’t understand the Franken!

  • Pedro Feijão

    I moved to Germany about 1 year ago, and my 4-year son goes to the Kindergarter, and now he started saying “Ouch” (we speak portuguese at home, so he didn’t learn from us), so I guess the new generation of germans is also saying “ouch”. Or maybe is one of those regional differences, we live in the north by the way.

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Hi Pedro, interesting to know! Maybe it has something to do with Hollywood movies?

  • Juli

    Drew seems like i missed something… i never saw you twerking :(

    • http://www.PassportChronicles.com Andrew

      Haha, you are lucky then :)