I feel like it wouldn’t be a true “ex-pat” experience if I didn’t have at least one post chronocling the differences between our new home and the US, right? Needless to say, this post certainly won’t be the first (or the best) of its kind. But, here it goes, nonetheless.
We’ve only been in Nuremberg for two weeks, but it took us all of a couple of hours to observe some real differences when compared to life in the US. While we certainly already miss things about our life in the US (a dishwasher that works, a non-communal washer and dryer, Chik Fil A, news in English, foods and brands we’re familiar with, the list goes on), there are some differrences here which are really refreshing, I must say. Those are the things I’m focusing on in this post.
(1) Germans (and Europeans, really, for that matter) are serious about their trash. And by that, I mean sorting their trash and an intense focus on recycling efforts. This was one of the very first things we were told – here you sort your trash into one of five categories: plastic/metal, glass (and then you sub-sort by color), “organic” (i.e. food scraps), cardboard/paper and all-other trash that doesn’t fit into those categories. Confession: I love sorting the trash! The goal and focus is, it seems, on recycling efforts and we have heard (and read) from many that that the Germans in particuar are a very “green” country. I was glad that our US city encouraged recycling and was proud of our family when we were focusing on it as a priority. Now, not only do I have the opportunity to be more intentional about it now we have incentives too (you get money credited back at some grocery stores and restaurants for returning your recyclables)!
(2) They are serious about observing the Sabbath. Significantly more businesses shut down (including most grocery stores!) on Saturday evening and do not re-open until Monday. While some restaurants do still open, there seem to be far fewer open than we’ve seen in the US. I have to admit how restful it was, our first Sunday here when we were forced to slow down some and rest since there wasn’t much we could “do”! Praise the Rest-Giver for such an opportunity.
(3) Children are much more “present” here. And by that, I mean men, women and their respective children are out everywhere together. Doing everything together. Eating at restaurants, walking, bike riding, sight-seeing, everything. Many restaurants and shops cater to the littlest of customers (i.e. Kids’ tables, toys readily available, kid-sized shopping carts), and are much more accepting than I experienced in the US. Even the bank we chose to open our German account had an entire little kids corner – a bank! Can you believe it? I guess what I’m saying, is people don’t seem to apologize as much for their kids’ presence, messes, etc., here. I think we are often guilty in the US of too often apologizing for, “shushing”, or otherwise removing our kids from daily experiences. Here, kids are a part of life and go everywhere just like everyone else does. This feels so refreshing. And, frankly, I think it actually facilitates better behavior in the kids themselves as they are not only more exposed to being ” in public” and therefore more comfortable with the social norms of what’s expected, but their parents are more relaxed too, which in turn, makes everyone else more relaxed.
(4) Many things are smaller here. Cars, fridges (that’s been an adjustment), doorways (tough in a double stroller!), food portions in stores. An exception, of course, is the beer size! With respect to the fridge and the food, here, it seems people typically buy for only short periods of time (i.e. a few meals, or a few days). This seems to be due (so I’m told and based on what we’ve observed) to fewer preservatives (hooray!) so food may not last forever, and a different eating culture altogether. I love the concept of stopping by the baker, butcher and vegetable stand a few times a week to buy what’s necessary for that night’s dinner fresh rather than stockpiling for the week. It’ll be a big change for us, but I think (hope) the simplicity of such a way of eating will do us some good.
(5) People are out and about. This may be due to the gorgeous weather we’ve had since we’ve been here (which we’re told is uncharacteristically warm and sunny). But, whatever the reason, people are out enjoying the fresh air. Walking, strolling, hiking, eating outdoors, shopping the fresh markets, biking (man, Nuremberg is FILLED with bicyclists!), sun-bathing, and romping on playgrounds.
(6) Farmer’s Markets and fresh food stands are a daily occurrence. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know this a big winner in my book. Right now, white asparagus are abundant and in season and they are everywhere and on almost every restaurant’s seasonal menu.
(7) We get to live amidst history. If you’ve spent any time outside the US, you quickly realize what a baby nation we are. Apparently, Nuremberg was first mentioned in historical records about 900 years ago. The city center, or the “Old Town”, in Nuremberg is marked by the castle and its walls. It’s an amazingly beautiful juxtaposition to see more modernized buildings next to ancient walls that have seen hundreds of years worth of stories and life.
And here’s a short list of some other little differences we’ve noticed:
You bring your own bags for most grocery shopping and you have to bag groceries yourself
You “pay” for your carts in stores here (it’s in quotes since we realized several days after paying each time that you actually get your money back if you return your cart and lock it back in!)
Standard “water” is mineral water (I LOVE this!) and you have to specifically order “still” if you want still
Scarfs (on men, women and kids alike) are a year-round thing (only the material changes), can be worn with tank tops just as well as sweaters and are very stylish!
Needless to say, we’re enjoying learning all the little quirks, the differences we love, as well as the things we miss about life in the US. We look forward experiencing even more!