Welcome to Germany
Willkommen auf Deutschland!
Let me guess…you and your family just arrived for a new job here in Germany and you have no clue where to begin. Trust me ~ I’ve been the newcomer on the block a time or two. Today, I’ve written a blog I hope will calm some fears, remove some myths and excite you about the wonders of Europe.
The mystique and curiosity of living in a foreign country can make some people gitty with joy, while others have a panic attack. I get it, I know. My friends are on both ends of the spectrum. Honestly, I was somewhere in the middle about three years ago. Adventure seeker-at-heart and pro-military spouse mover (15 times in 22 years) I considered myself a “go-with-the-flow” kinda gal. I quickly found out after landing I would be pushed outside my comfort zone and learned a few things too.
Here are a few things I will pass along after living three years in Germany. I hope I can help you too.
- Jetlag’s a real thing. For me, the flight to Europe tends to be better than traveling to the States. However, I’ve heard others say just the opposite. Here are a few things I do to prepare for long air travel
- Take a neck pillow/rest pillow for my head, I sleep on the way to Germany and stay awake on my way to the states. It seems to work
- Drink LOTS of water while I am on the plane (no alcohol)
- I pack my own meals for the plane or eat light. Airline food is loaded with sodium, you’ll need the water
- Walk around if you can a bit an hour before you land (splash water on your face – or use their little wet naps)
- When I arrive in Germany, I stay up until 3 p.m., I force myself to be very active (walking, hiking) and eat breakfast as soon as I arrive, sometimes in the airport
Learn some Language
- Language Barrier
- If you are not fluent in the German language it’s o.k. you’ll have time to learn some phrases and sign up for classes –
- Apps are great too ~ here are the ones I still use
- Google Translate – don’t tell my German teacher, she would flip (it helps in a bind)
- Duolingo – I like this little app because when you are idling somewhere (doctor’s office, vehicle registration, school registration) you can putz around on it while you are waiting
- Quizlet – once I learned some vocabulary I created some vocabulary games in this app to help me memorize and take with me. It’s been great.
- Sign up for classes – whether you sign up through the American community here in Germany through VHS (Volkshochschule) you’ll love learning the language more
- Getting organized
- Searching for a home
- Maybe you’ve decided to “live on the economy.” If you have, here are a few things to know before you arrive.
- Searching for a home
- Realtors who assist in finding and completing a “RENTAL agreement” in Germany usually receive a commission. Sometimes this is 10% of your rental contract.
- You may have to put a deposit down of up to three-months rent. First, last and another. This was a shocker for us ~ try to be prepared.
- Kitchens are much smaller than we have in America. In Germany, kitchens tend to be highly efficient and only newer homes typically have an “open-concept” unless renovated.
- Closet space is premium. Most people purchase or borrow “Shrunks/wardrobes” when you arrive as there is typically very little storage space for clothing other than the dressers you bring.
- Television is tricky. Unless you have a satellite or AppleTV with good internet, watching your favorite series is usually delayed a day or two.
The good news is with all the traveling you’ll be doing, you will rarely be home except to sleep, right. So “home is where you rest your head.”
- Register for schools – all important documents and transcripts
- Registering cars – your car will need to pass inspection, if you are arriving when it is peak season this could take a long time. Maybe a whole day of your time – making appointments ahead of time will cut this shorter.
- Internet – getting internet installed at your house is one of the longest processes here when you arrive. So my advice… when you are looking at your house to rent, make sure this is a question up front – most importantly, what is your internet speed? Also, what provider will I need? In Stuttgart, Germany we all don’t have the same and some houses are on a network from the town.
Finding a community
- Social media has made finding a community who shares your same interests and hobbies easier than ever. Make sure you do a search in your community – several have filters for safety (this is GREAT) to apply and/or limit the conversation to the Title’s topic, this is great. I have found everything from babysitting communities, yard sales, shopping and of course, traveling.
- Check what’s available locally ~ newspapers (yes, Germany still has newspapers) if you look them up on-line they’ll translate to English
- German Cuisine – I love German food. It’s in my blood and it’s meat and potatoes, what’s not to love? A few reasons I love it are the dishes are made fresh and in season, Germany tends to cook the seasons, so you’ll rarely see strawberries in December or squash in July. It’s just not done here. The menus change according to the seasons and that’s alright with me since I like change. Be sure to try it all –
Paying for the POTTY! 🚽
- Paying for potty – This is a tough one for some people. We don’t have to pay for using the toilets in America and it is quite convenient. But sometimes, you have to admit, they are quite nasty. Over here, toilets cost between €.50 and €1.00. However, they are usually very clean and you are giving someone a job. Sometimes when you stop at rest areas, you will receive a coupon or ticket. KEEP THEM you can turn them in for beverages or food. A nice little perk. Keep these receipts for a while and they add up.
- Paying for Water – WHAT!
- I know water here can be as expensive as wine, which is why most people just drink other beverages. This bugs a lot of people, but as an opportunity to make money presented itself, they hopped on it. You can ask for table water, however, most times you’ll be charged for this too.
- Traffic – in the Stuttgart area, daily traffic can be so bad it’s enough to make you insane and we’ve been stationed in D.C. I’ve heard everything from I’ve downloaded audio books to help to I’ve really learned to trust my navigation system/GPS to re-route.
- Be careful of speeding tickets ~ I could do a whole blog just on this! There are stationary cameras as well as tri-pod cameras set up to catch ya speeding just a little bit. The good news is if you are speeding just a little bit the tickets aren’t that bad – €15 to €20. However, if you are REALLY speeding, they are serious, they could suspend your license or if you keep violating the speed limit, just take it away. So watch the speed limits.
Bagging your own groceries – this one threw me for a loop when we first got here I just stood there wondering what was happening. I figured it out watching people, but even after three years I’m not great at it. If you would like to buy your groceries at the German grocery store, Edeka, Lidl, Rewe or Real~ but are a little intimated, it’s o.k. I teach a monthly class where you will learn all about about loyalty cards, weekly specials, how to spot similar American products and more!
Take the TRAIN or BUS!
- Public transportation in Germany is fantastic! With several train apps available, most people really enjoy taking the train around Germany. Sometimes there is delays or cancellations, these happen if you drive too, they are called traffic jams and accidents. For more information check out my How to take the Train Book!
Traveling around Europe
- Now the fun part! One of the best reasons for being stationed in Germany is the ability to travel and discover Europe. You have arrived at just the perfect time. Traveling around the EU is super easy and much more affordable than it ever has been before.
- First, when we arrived I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to begin. I wanted to see it all. In College, I majored in Travel & Tourism at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. The first year, I focused on the Baden-Württemberg-Black Forest-Swabia area. It helped that I got a job as a local travel writer too for MilitaryinGermany.com.
- Next, I began exploring Italy. France was close by as well, so off I went. Once I became familiar with those countries my travel really took off.
Don’t feel overwhelmed with travel planning I can help with that too. Don’t stress like I always say, it’s always an adventure, right? Living in Germany is definitely different than living in America. However, you may find out there are definite PERKS! I hope this blog has helped and I hope this the best tour ever!