This edition of “Little Things” is mixture of both positives and… less positives. Don’t misunderstand – I love living here (you know, in the whole four months that we’ve been here), but there are some things that I miss from home – as well as absolutely baffle me about Germany. While there are things that have proven to drive me crazy, there are more things that I absolutely adore about the German culture.
And so here we go…
I haven’t nicked myself shaving since middle school. A few weeks ago, I sliced my calf open like I’d been attempting to flay it. My shower is so small that bending over to shave is rather uncomfortable and difficult. I cannot fully outstretch my arms, and my big butt bumps the handle, making for a rather suddenly cold (or burning hot) shower.
Washing my hair is a challenge as well. As someone with curly hair, I tend to wash, rinse, condition with my hair flipped over upside down (don’t ask; if you know, you know). My head bumps the walls, the water is all over my face… to say the least, I’ve reserved the shower for body washing only. Shaving and hair washing is strictly for the tub. I miss my big shower from home.
And to continue the shower bitching, the German water is so hard. My skin feels like a dried up desert. My curls have no idea what’s happening to them and my scalp itches like I have bloody cradle cap. I slather Aquaphor all over my body nightly or I’d be scratching my skin off. As for my hair – I’ve heard that using German products is the best, however I haven’t had much success in finding products that are compatible with the method I use. The search continues!
For a country that has helped revolutionize renewable energy by way of wind, solar, and biomass, it’s internet moves like friggin’ 1995. Driving down the road, there’s nearly not a mile that doesn’t include a windmill or solar panel. And you remember my inclusion of the German recycling system? More complex than the internet. Heated floors? Revolutionary! Internet? Stone age.
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why this sector is so lacking. I’ve heard it’s because the industry isn’t competitive, and so no reason to make it cutting-edge. Some villages are still without internet service – one of which I heard the residents banded together and paid to have a line brought in. Where you live determines the internet offerings. The area in which I live is fairly lucky as there are a few providers that service the area. But in some places, there might only be one provider available – and if you’re super unlucky, it’s a provider that takes weeks to come connect the internet for you. In this, I also lucked out as there was a provider that would ship a modem to me that I could set up myself. Even then, though, the internet wouldn’t work until someone was sent to replace a part to the complicated-looking set up in my utility room.
When the internet works, it often only works in one or two rooms without extenders or “webs”. German homes are made of concrete – all the walls, inside and out, are concrete. One learns quickly the borders of their internet. For instance, the internet extends to my room upstairs without difficulty. It’s a bit slower, but still there. In Tristan’s room, only slightly deeper into the house, the internet doesn’t fully extend.
Ah, and here we are at a positive. Recently, we took our pup, Lily, to the vet with a hurt leg. The veterinarian thoroughly assessed her, performed some xrays, and spent time explaining his diagnosis all for 85 euros. This equates to about $100, depending on what the exchange rate for the day is. She then had to have surgery on a torn ligament that cost only 900 euros. My exclamation at the cost provoked a nod from the receptionist. She remarked that it seemed almost pointless to have a pet in the States simply because of the cost! “How do they afford it?” she asked. Somehow, ma’am. Somehow.
Drive-thru’s/Delivery Service/Food Stands
If there’s a drive thru that isn’t McDonalds or Burger King, I have yet to find it. I suppose I am spoiled that I could get Chicken Fiesta and Starbucks on the run. It was easy to swing by an Arby’s for dinner before work or when I didn’t feel like cooking. I can do that here, but it’s always either the golden arch or the King. Everywhere else – put your bra on because you’ve got to walk inside.
Food delivery service does exist, before you ask. The variety, though, is rather lacking: Italian, döner, Chinese, Greek and a couple of American wings places are really all you’ve got to choose from. I have yet to see or find an authentic German restaurant in the area, but I also haven’t been looking the hardest.
But let me tell you about the food stands: they.are.everywhere. And I love it. It reminds me of Lowe’s when I was a kid: the pizza stand that sat outside in the parking lot. Most groceries will have one that serves rotisserie chicken, currywurst, schnitzel sandwhiches, pommes, and the like. There are others that will have sweet treats. I absolutely love this.
Laundering your clothes is quite different, but not wholly terrible. It just takes some getting used to. The washer and dryers are typically smaller, but that’s not the only difference. The water from the washer drains into the sink next to it, as shown in the photo. That said, there’s nothing that drains outside of the house like American laundry machines. The dryer basically steams the clothes within. After each cycle, theres a tub of water that gets emptied. Often, I have to run the dryer multiple times to get the clothes dry. And don’t even think about putting items in the dryer that you don’t want shrunk. Hang those suckers on a laundry line or rack!
Another thing I’ve noticed is the amount of static electricity – it’s insane! I get shocked on everything! Dryer sheets are not meant for these dryers which makes for some static-y clothing.
Just a random little thing I noticed when I bought paper for my new printer: the standard paper size is different. In the US, we most often use 8x11in paper when printing. Occasionally, a legal sized paper is used that I think measures 8x14in. As I browsed the shelves for printer paper, I was surprised to find only A4 sized paper, which measures 8.3×11.7in; so closer to the US legal sized paper. Personally, I kind of like larger size.
Milk. We go through gallons of it on a near weekly basis. Tristan drinks an insane amount of milk, as well as his 500000 bowls of cereal. And we are snobby about our milk. In the States, we would only drink organic, and only certain brands of organic. It was the one grocery item that I would not cut cost. So, as you can imagine, it was important to find an alternative here.
We began with the milk that’s stored on the shelf. My thought process was that I could buy numerous cartons and not have to worry about running out for some time. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s milk that is stored on the refrigerated shelf at the grocery store. This milk is ultra-pasteurized allowing for it to be stored for around 3 months. However, the process of pasteurization leaves the milk with a… weird taste. Of course, my child being the milk snob he is (ahem, me too), this was unacceptable.
Next, we started in on the refrigerated milk. We found that we enjoy landmilch, which I found to taste the most similar to the milk we drank in the states. The fat content is slightly different in 1.5-3.8%. The milk here usually isn’t fortified with vitamin D, either, so we just increased our supplement doses.
Another item that isn’t stored in the refrigerator: eggs. In the US, eggs are cleaned before they’re placed in their cartons, and so must be placed in a cool place to keep. However, here in Germany, eggs are not cleaned before they are put in the carton. You’ll often find feathers and poop stuck to your eggs from the grocery store, but this allows for the eggs to last longer on the shelf as the gunk on the outside protects the eggs.
As you browse the eggs at the store, you’ll also noticed what appears to be Easter eggs. You’ll recall the month and realize that it’s nowhere near Easter, so what on earth are these brightly colored eggs doing on the shelf?! These eggs are the hard boiled eggs. During the boiling process, all of the gunk that keeps the eggs fresh is boiled off. So, in order to maintain freshness, the eggs are sealed with a resin. I wasn’t able to find a reason why they are in different colors, but I would assume it’s marketing.
Bremsstreifen (skid marks)
I know what you’re thinking. I’m sorry, but I feel like this deserves a spot on the list.
There comes a time when, as an American, you noticed there’s not much water in the toilet bowl and as a result, there are more instances of bremsstreifen. I mean, shit happens right? Literally. However, it’s a faux pas to leave those marks, especially in a toilet outside of your home. At some point, you’ll also notice that in every bathroom, public or private, there are toilet brushes… and you better use it if you leave your mark.
Other helpful advice received was to flush before your business or lay down some toilet paper.
Is there anything you’ve been wondering about regarding the German way of life? Let me know in the comments!