I moved to Germany in January 2015.
From San Francisco.
Actually Alameda, but a distinction with little difference.
I moved form the most expensive place in the U.S. to the second most expensive place in Germany. The Bay Area is still two and a half times more expensive.
Comparing prices is not the point. The point is to share a few things I have learned after a little over a year of living in Germany.
I am now gainfully employed with a Startup that is doing big things for the speed of the Internet, as well as enjoying the European lifestyle.
Germany is in the Western World, which means the lifestyle and cultural differences are not too great. The biggest difference is language.
Here are 10 things I have learned after living a year in Germany.
Go for long walks
Walking is very European, and the cities in Germany are designed to make walking to destinations easy. Also, parking is difficult.
More importantly, going for a stroll is important for health and relaxation. Sunday’s, everybody goes for a “Spaziergang”. The direct translation is to go for a relaxing stroll. The English word would be a “promenade”, but I think this is a bit pretentious.
I enjoy my Sunday Spaziergang.
Don’t be so sensitive
Sensitive in the German language, according to my German teacher, is a negative word. You are encouraged to be direct, so you need thick skin.
Don’t be offended so easily.
Pay with cash
When I lived in America I never carried cash. Always payed with a credit card. I treated this as cash, as I lived within my means. I know that this is not the norm for most Americans. But for Germans, the only reason to have a credit card is to make purchases online. Credit card rewards programs are uncommon.
The result is people do not have credit card debt, and if they do not have the money, they do not buy things. I think the byproduct of this is prices stay significantly lower. Making the standard of living a bit more affordable.
Take time for lunch
Regularly I worked and ate lunch at the same time. This was done either through a working lunch while in trainings, or eating while driving. Currently, I take time for lunch. This is sitting in the kitchen and eating. The view is this is an important break during the day.
A side note to this is multitasking. It is viewed to be more productive to do one thing at a time, and lunch is no exception. There is evidence to suggest that people cannot multitask.
We are not so busy or important that we cannot take 30 minutes for lunch.
Don’t work too late
When you continually stay late at the office, Germans view this negatively. This is viewed as not having a good home life.
The question asked: why would you not want to go home and see your family?
Make communication easier for your listener
In America we do not learn languages. Although more of the world does not speak English than does, there is an expectation that people should try to communicate with us. Not the other way around.
When your language is not a world language, this perception is very different. It is normal to speak multiple languages to better communicate with people. The view of communication is to make an effort to communicate in a way that is easier for the person you’re speaking with.
Enjoy long dinners
Dinner at a restaurant in Germany is an affair. It regularly takes 3 hours to have dinner at a restaurant. The reason is nobody is there to rush you. The point of dinner is to sit and have nice conversation with those you are with.
Otherwise, why would you go?
You can want what you want
Just because you want something does not mean you are going to get it. There’s not much I can say about this statement. It speaks for itself.
Don’t make quick decisions
When purchasing a car, my wife and I wanted to sign the paperwork that day. This is normal to us, as in America you are not allowed to walk off the lot without purchasing something.
This was not possible in Germany. We looked at a car on Friday night and were forced to call back Monday to confirm we still wanted the car. We had to take the weekend to think about it.
Do not make quick decisions. It is better to sleep on it.
There is a different way, be open to consideration
Food is different in Germany. Two examples:
Eggs do not have to be refrigerated. Why? They are not washed. When you wash eggs, you remove a microbial layer on the eggs that protects them from salmonella. Without the protective layer, you need to put eggs in the refrigerator to prevent salmonella. In order to not wash eggs, you can no longer cage the chickens. The result is cage free eggs you do not need to refrigerate.
Pork can be eaten raw. There is a meal called “Mett”, which is raw pork. We believe in America that pork has to be cooked, and over cooked at that. But Mett proves this is not so. I have tried Mett, did not get sick, and it isn’t bad.
There might be better approaches to things, especially food. We just have to be open to try.
Your urgency is not my problem
In the American business environment, everything is urgent. It is not easy to be proactive, as most of the day is reactionary.
Ignoring the urgency of others might be something worth emulating.
kein Stress, kein Angst
This is the German phrase for “no stress, no anxiety”. Stress and anxiety are viewed negatively, which results in a more peaceful and zen-like environment. I still have the inherent American anxiety, which living in the Bay Area puts this feeling on steroids.
It is difficult to suppress these feelings with the number of top 30 under 30 lists being produced. The feeling of inadequacy when you have not made your first billion by 25 is tough to overcome.
Maybe kein Stress, kein Angst is better for our health?
I know I said 10, but there is too much I have learned over the past year that I felt compelled to share. Although, this is not a complete list.
There are things I find better in Germany, but America has a business appeal the world envies. It is not that one Country is better, just different.