Moving to a new country is always an adventure. No matter if you move for a new job, to study, to work as a digital nomad, or because of a relationship, you will undoubtedly learn that your new home has some unexpected traits. This can make travelling and moving to new countries so exciting!
This month we asked expats in the Digital Nomad Girls community what they wish they’d known before moving to Germany.
There were definitely a few surprises among their answers:
- Nicole, who writes about her life in Berlin in Unsettled Down, had a few golden nuggets to share with us. After living in her adopted home for 5 years she’s collected a whole host of knowledge about living in Germany. “At the Kneipe (pub), knocking on peoples’ tables is a form of greeting. One knock means hello, two knocks mean goodbye.
- “Also, from an American perspective, if you ask, “how are you?”, expect the entire brutally honest answer. I learned this the hard way in the beginning!”
- “In terms of work, it’s continually weird to me that on your birthday you bring cake to the office for everyone instead of the other way around.”
- Jemma Porter from Scotland, a blogger at Portugalist, said “I wish I’d known about “Ruhezeit” (the quiet hours between 1-3pm and 10pm-7am, all-day Sunday, and on German bank holidays). I got in trouble with my neighbours during a vigorous lunchtime Nike+ session (oops ?)”
- Irina Harau from Romania had some great tips for those moving to Germany for a new job. “Taxes are very high and depend on a variety of things (how high your salary is, married/not married, kids/not kids). You are usually told the “before tax” salary by the employer and you’re left to research the “after tax” amount yourself. If you have a full-time job and you’re smart about tax declaration, you can get some cash back at the end of the year. But you have to declare ALL your income and possessions, not just what you have in Germany, but in your home country as well.”
- “On the quirky side: Germans LOVE to mix their juice (be it apple, orange, passionfruit, multi fruit) with sparkling water. It’s called Schorle.” This is an absolute must-try, especially the classic apple version, Apfelschorle. Tasty like juice, refreshing like water.
- Yoga teacher Marjolaine Savoie from French Canada had a whole arsenal of things she wished she’d known. “You have to carry money on you because so many places won’t accept cards and I’m still not used to that. You also have to pay for water at restaurants because there is no such thing as free water.”
- Germany is renowned for its beer, sausage and bread. “Germans love their bread, and you can always drop by a bakery and buy a delicious pretzel or pastry. But I didn’t know they made sandwiches with just one single slice of meat and usually they don’t have bread on top.”
- “Germans really follow the rules and take punctuality to a whole new level. “When a shop closes at 9, it means that at 9, everyone is out of the store and the shopkeeper is counting the money. For late shoppers like me this is really inconvenient because even if I only want to buy a bottle of water and I walk in 10 minutes before the shop closes, they will tell you to hurry and come earlier next time with a grumpy face on and follow you around to make sure you get out on time” says Marjolaine.
- Sarah from Belgium gave us a good language tip. “When the weather is hot, you don’t say: ich bin heiss, but instead say, mir ist heiss.” A subtle but important difference, one means I’m a hottie, the other one means it is hot.
- Sarah Kraynick from Amsterdam shared some of her experiences making friends in Germany. “Germans don’t warm up to strangers and make friends easily. You could be waiting for a year or so until you might get a “come over for tea” invite. But if you do get that invite to a German’s home, you have made it to “friend status”, and it can be an awesome thing. It feels like winning the lottery. You’ll be good friends for a long time”
- Nives from Linz in Austria pointed out how diverse and varied Germany is. “Germany is not Germany. Southern Germany is so different to Northern Germany and Eastern Germany is also different. The culture, mentality, dialect, cost of living, and the amount of money you can earn is very different depending on the part of Germany. Even the bank holidays and work ethics are different” she shared with us. Insider tip: if you want to maximise your bank holidays, move to Bavaria, where they have the most public holidays in Germany.
Ranging from the practical to the peculiar, there are definitely a few things any expat moving to Germany will be surprised to learn. Hopefully this post will prepare you a little for the culture shock ahead.