Living in Germany: Here are the Good, the Bad, and the Praktisch
Is Germany a good place to live? - Overall, Germany is a great place to live. It has a high standard of living, a strong economy, and plenty of cultural and entertainment options for a good work-life balance. The cost of living can be high in the major cities, but there are also many benefits to living in Germany.
When your life is filled with beer, hearty food, and plenty of opportunities to be active, it's hard to find reasons to dislike living in Germany.
However, Germany could use a few more sunny days and improved banking services. Since the beginning of this year, I have been considered a legal resident of Germany.
That's right – the first anniversary of living in Düsseldorf quietly passed over the weekend, which means that I've been fortunate enough to call this lovely country home for an entire year. Living in Germany for a whole year.
The paradox of being an expatriate is, of course, that even though I adore every aspect of my life as an ex-pat in Germany and have no desire to go back to the UK at the moment, I spend a significant portion of my time griping about insignificant matters and longing for the conveniences that are available in the UK. Because of this, I have decided to classify the positives and negatives of my life as an ex-pat in Dusseldorf and Germany into three categories: the good, the bad, and the praktisch.
The advantages of making your home in Germany
In point of fact, the vast majority of expat life in Germany can be classified as good; however, the following is some specific information regarding some of the most positive aspects of life in Germany and Dusseldorf.
The cuisine in Germany is without a doubt the highlight of life in this country. The food in Germany is delicious. To be fair, if you don't like the combination of meat and carbs, you might have a little bit of trouble with it, but once you get used to it, all I can say is nom nom nom.
Don't believe me? Currywurst is worth a try. Eat Schnitzl. Then eat Jägerschnitzl (Schnitzl with a creamy mushroom sauce) (Schnitzl with a creamy mushroom sauce). Order a side salad (they are huge). Visit any of the German bakeries. Visit one of these restaurants specializing in burgers. Take a bite out of literally one hundred distinct kinds of sausage. Take a bite out of the best kebab you've ever had. You are going to adore it.
The active German lifestyle
The level of activity that everyone in Dusseldorf and Germany in general displays is one of my favorite aspects of both countries. If you go to the park on a sunny day, you won't find hordes of people lying around sunbathing; instead, everyone will be engaged in some sort of activity, such as running, jogging, cycling, football, or Frisbee. And it's not just for people who are incredibly fit—everyone runs around here.
My impression is that most people in the UK categorize themselves as either sporty or non-sporty, and if you're non-sporty, you consider any activity to be off limits. I'm not trying to give the impression that life in Germany is perfect when I say this, but participation in sports is truly considered a prerequisite for citizenship here. For example, the typical cost of a membership to a gym like FitX, which I use, is 14.99 Euros per month. In Germany, participating in sports is not considered a luxury but rather a requirement.
Cost of living in Düsseldorf
The cost of living in this city, Düsseldorf, is exceptionally low. Although it's possible that this is due to the fact that taxes are so incredibly high, let's try to look on the bright side of things. On the other hand, it is possible to lead a comfortable life in Düsseldorf on the standard wage.
To begin, let's talk about food and drink. The cost of eating out in Düsseldorf is surprisingly low. In most cases, the cost of the main course will range between 10 and 12 euros. You can pick up a decent bottle of white wine for the same price as a glass of white wine, which is typically around €4, at any supermarket you visit. That's right—you can get a bottle of wine for less than 5 euros.
However, rent is the true winner here. Only twenty percent of each paycheck goes toward the rent. That's not too bad, is it, eh?
I've said it quite a few times, but now that spring has finally arrived, I find myself thinking about it all over again: Düsseldorf is such a lovely and green city. You're never far from a park here.
International expat life
Another significant advantage of settling in Düsseldorf is the city's location in close proximity to the capitals of other countries and cities: Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam can all be reached by train in a matter of hours. In point of fact, you could reach the Netherlands in under half an hour if you drove there.
Because of the city's location and the large number of multinational corporations that have their headquarters here (L'Oreal, Henkel, and trivago, to name a few), the atmosphere in this city is very international.
The downside of expat life in Germany
Now, in spite of all of those wonderful and significant things, life as an expat from the United Kingdom in Germany can still be quite challenging. Because I feel obligated to show both sides of the story, even though I don't want to cause anyone offense, let's move on to the negative aspects of living in Germany now.
When living in Germany, it is helpful to keep in mind that there are other countries in the world that are on the cutting edge of technology and where it is possible to make purchases using contactless payment. In the meantime, Germany is still carrying on as if it were 1979: it is nearly impossible to pay with a credit card anywhere, and even in the few locations where it is possible, the majority of retailers will insist that you sign instead of using the innovative 'chip and pin' system.
It gets even worse: if you have an account with Deutsche Bank, you can only withdraw money from a Deutsche Bank cash machine (and a small list of others), and if you do so from any other cash machine, you will be charged a fee of at least €4.75 for doing so.
You may be wondering, "And what about payments made online?" Because the back of German standard bank cards does not feature a security code consisting of three letters, it is impossible to shop at many online stores using these cards. Instead, the majority of German businesses will request payment in the form of an online bank transfer, also known as direct debit.
I've even heard that writing a check instead of using a credit card to pay for something is still a common practice. Ridiculous.
Airports in Germany
My biggest annoyance is having to deal with airports in Germany. Airports are a specialty here in the United Kingdom, and we have perfected the art. Manchester Airport is a picture of elegance and efficiency.
At this location, you'll find that the side of the building opposite the security checkpoint contains all of the desirable items. On each conveyor belt, there are at least five people just standing around doing absolutely nothing. Amateurs.
English Breakfast Tea
The fact that British expats living in other countries often find themselves unable to procure a drinkable cup of tea is, without a doubt, one of the most distressing challenges they face. On the other hand, the problem in Germany is a little bit different: Germans believe they know everything there is to know about tea. And perhaps most importantly, they believe that they are familiar with English Breakfast Tea.
In Germany, tea is abundant. Tea is cherished by all. On the other hand, Germans prefer their tea to be fruity, herbal, green, mint, or peppermint-flavored.
Anything that isn't, they tend to assume is English tea. This means that if you order yourself a lovely English Breakfast Tea – as advertised – you'll end up with a pot of Earl Grey that you can't even bring yourself to look at. This is because they like to assume that everything that isn't is English tea. The suffering.
Shopping in Germany
H&M is causing a great deal of fear among the German people. Send assistance with the shopping.
Food in Germany
The issue of food is like a sword with two edges. The following is a list of the foods native to the United Kingdom that I find myself longing for the most: I actually do miss fish and chips, which is embarrassing to admit, as well as Sunday roast dinners, Full English breakfasts, proper bacon, Yorkshire puddings, Terry's chocolate oranges, decent Chinese food, decent Indian food, and Wagamama.
The weather in Germany
Let's face it, the climate in the UK isn't exactly ideal, shall we? The weather is pleasant for the majority of the year, and while it does rain frequently, the average annual rainfall is significantly higher here than in other locations. But do you have any idea where you might find a climate that is comparable to this one? Dusseldorf.
Now, if you spoke to your typical resident of Düsseldorf about the weather, you might be led to believe that the city is actually located in the Caribbean. This is because of the enormous amount of surprise that they muster whenever it rains, despite the fact that it rains quite frequently. They will even go out of their way to engage in conversation with you about the "English weather" that the city is currently experiencing, which refers to the occurrence of precipitation in the form of rain.
Once, I didn't even make it to 9 o'clock in the morning before someone felt the need to inform me that it was raining, as if I were in some way responsible for it. They will even talk about how gray London is, rather than how gray the sky is most days when they look out the window of their office.
Trains in Germany
Why the British people have this preconceived notion that trains in Germany are so well-organized and reliable is beyond my comprehension. Every single one of Deutsche Bahn's trains that I've traveled on has been running a little bit behind schedule, and the tickets are not cheap either.
The praktisch about German life
Now that we've covered both the positive and negative aspects of life in Germany, it's time to talk about the praktisch, or the everyday particulars of life in this country that are so quintessentially, well, German.
To provide some background, the German word "praktisch" literally translates to "practical," but it is also frequently used to mean "good" or "great." As a result, hearing someone describe your purchase as "praktisch," whether it be a jacket, a car, or a bar of chocolate, can feel like receiving some kind of recognition or accolade.
Crossing the road
This absolutely has to come in at number one on the list of things that are quintessentially German. In Germany, it is considered a grave transgression to cross the street when the pedestrian light is red. Even if there are no cars on the road at all or it has been years since you've seen a motorized vehicle, you still have to wait for the traffic light to turn green.
If you don't, people will whisper behind your back or even scold you for it. And for some reason, doing so in the presence of a child is pure blasphemy; the Germans I lived with in Leipzig wouldn't even joke about it when I brought it up.
However, this is also the pattern of behavior that you are most likely to bring back with you to your home without even being aware of it.
On Sundays, all businesses in Germany are closed. Period. Everything. At first, I detested this, but after some time, I became accustomed to it, and now that summer is here, I find that being compelled to engage in some form of physical activity is actually quite invigorating.
The notion that Germans are rule-followers is one of the few that is entirely accurate. I was just about to leave the Filmmuseum and go to another that was directly in front of the building when I remembered that I was there for the recent festival celebrating the city's Night of the Museums. The door located in the front was acting as an impromptu entrance, while the door located in the back was functioning as an exit.
I noticed that there was no one entering the museum, and I was able to make out the next museum from where I was standing, so I asked the security guard if I could sneak in through the back door and save myself about 500 meters of walking. As I should have anticipated, he responded negatively by stating that "that's not how it works."
It’s always time for a beer
And last but not least, the great love of everyone: German beer. It's not just about getting smashed in Germany; rather, the culture centers on an authentic appreciation for beer. Germany has a fantastic beer culture. In Germany, alcohol-free beer is a common choice for alcoholic beverage, and bottled Radler, which is essentially a shandy, is just as common as any full-strength alcoholic beverage. Beer should be consumed at the appropriate time, regardless of the event.
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I’ve officially been living in Germany for more than a year now. That’s right – the first anniversary of living in Düsseldorf quietly slipped by over the weekend, meaning I’ve called this beautiful country home for a whole year. One year living in Germany. Good Luck!
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